Book Review – ‘Midnight Sun’ (#5 Twilight) by Stephenie Meyer

The book all the fans were begging for is finally here…

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 756

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

This book felt over-written. But saying this rings true to Edwards’s nature. His cognitive processes are much faster than that of a humans, hundreds of thoughts to a single human pondering. He is melodramatic, angst-ridden, an over-analyser. And that’s without his extrasensory perception. So I get that ‘Midnight Sun’ is long and has a lot of information stuffed into its pages for the same timeframe as ‘Twilight.’ I was hoping we’d get more new information than what we did. Granted it does help flesh out the universe of ‘Twilight,’ let us peek behind the curtain if you will. It’s like Stephenie Meyer took all the criticisms and plot holes for ‘Twilight’ and explained them away. However, even though the book is a hefty 756 pages long, I did not feel like the pacing suffered. I was interested in the many asides, flashbacks, strategic ponderings, and glimpses into probable futures (through reading Alice’s mind.)

But I was particularly taken with the baseball scene and the fight scene at the ending chapters of ‘Midnight Sun,’ here Edward’s perception really adds a new complexity to the scenes.

I still got that addiction to the story, compelled to read as much as I could in one sitting. Still laughed at the satire. Though a bit of the magic was lost for me. Edward comes off as much more insecure and melodramatic than the brooding mystery man which Bella paints him as in ‘Twilight.’ Also ‘Twilight’ felt like it had a much more involved plot, and I was hoping we would see a new introduced side plot with Edwards’s perspective, but alas we did not get that… I guess there is not too much you can introduce and not diverge from the original storyline.

It was nice to get into the heads of the Cullens, because the knowledge and assumptions Bella had in ‘Twilight’ felt flimsy at best and induced some eye-rolling on my behalf.

This didn’t feel as swoon-worthy as I thought it would be either. Maybe it was killed off by Edward’s constant lamenting, or the fact that too much saccrine expository of love would have killed the reader with a heavy dose of diabetes. But I felt like I wanted more emotion from Edward in relation to Bella, less explained stalkery behaviour. After all it is the romance that is the major drawcard to this novel.

It was pleasant to revisit the world of ‘Twilight’ again after reading it over a decade ago. Maybe my review wouldn’t have been so appraising if I’d read ‘Midnight Sun’ closer to the debuts release – like I mentioned, not a lot of new information from the original story. But it was like a high school reunion, flashing back to fond memories and glancing at old friends from a place of experience. ‘Midnight Sun’ really is a book for the fans, and comparatively, it is only going to be fans of the franchise that will bother picking this book up – you’d have to have enjoyed the previous four books and novella to reach this point; and not be intimidated by the 756 pages.

So I had a great time indulging in the fantasy again, though there did feel like there was something missing – something I can’t quite identify, but I’m putting it down to the abovementioned elements. I’d definitely recommend this to stans of the Twilight franchise… if you weren’t into the films or enjoyed any of the previous novels, this is not for you.

I’ve seen many criticize Stephenie Meyer for releasing this book – a third reiteration of the debut tale – but it’s obvious it’s for the fans. They’ve been screaming for this novel to be published for so long now. You can have your opinions that it was a cash-grab, and that the news of another two books may be coming to the franchise. If you enjoyed the novels, it’s most likely amazing news; but if you’re no fan and only full of hateful comments, well, my only response is a yawn. Some readers are genuinely invested in the story. Stephenie obviously loved writing these books. Even if you think she is capitalising on her one truly big hit, well, I say that is smart business sense. Look at any other franchise, they all do it because there is a willing audience. And honestly, the hate speech is a form of bullying in my books – if it was constructive criticism it would be a different matter.

Overall feeling: Indulgent.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Come Tumbling Down’ (#5 Wayward Children) by Seanan McGuire

A more integrated story for the Wayward Children as they go to rescue Jack and Jill.

Genre: YA, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 206

When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister–whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice–back to their home on the Moors.

But death in their adopted world isn’t always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.

Eleanor West’s “No Quests” rule is about to be broken.

Again.

I felt this novella was definitely ‘serialised’ in this instalment. While it had elements of a story – and introduced objectives that were resolved at the end after our protagonists faced many obstacles… on its own, there was so much missing context that a reader would have had to completed the previous sequels to fully appreciate ‘Come Tumbling Down.’ I guess were getting close to the series concluding, so the individual stories following different characters have to end; it’s time to interact, and solve overarching storylines.

The characters are fun, diverse, and wonderful; so too is Seanan McGuire’s writing style – it’s melodic and suits the fantasy genre. Though overall, I just didn’t get into it as much as I had previously in the series. I have always said I’m not that big into fantasy anymore, so maybe my interest is wanning?  Plus the first half of the novella fell a little flat for me, for an already established universe and characters, we should be able to jump into the fray much quicker. Though in having said that, I did enjoy the pacing to appreciate the world… it’s got me at a stand-off as to what was missing for me. Were the characters a little flat? Was it the fact we were revisiting a world we’ve been to before and a lot of the time spent of describing the ambience of the Moors repetitive? Possibly a little of both.

Come Tumbling Down’ sees Jack return to the home and ask the rest of the Wayward Children help her get her body back and stop Jill from tipping the power of balance in the Moors causing mass destruction. In previous volumes, when Jack and Jill were exploring their identities and redefining themselves in the world of the Moors, layer that over with action and discovering a new world and there is a complexity to keep me interested. I didn’t get that this time. Much has already been established and all that’s left is a plot based storyline. I think that’s why this felt lacklustre in comparison to other books in this series.

There weren’t any new personal inner turmoils to overcome to provide depth to the characters. There wasn’t anything new explored in the Moors – some was lightly introduced, but it was just a brief touch to collect Cora and get the gang together before facing down Jill and her Vampire father.

So while it was a quaint read, it did not offer what I’ve come to expect from Seanan McGuire and the Wayward Children series. I see book 7 (‘Where the Drowned Girls Go’) looks to be dealing with Cora and maybe we’ll get that expansion on the Moors, or will she return to her own door world? I’m getting the feeling that we will be resolving all the remaining Wayward’s children’s fates in the remaining books of the series… though ‘Across the Green Grass Fields,’ the next sequel, follows a new protagonist.

Now that we are over halfway through the collection, I’ll see it through to the end no matter what.

The storyline was very predictable, I didn’t get any surprises, which I guess is another factor in this feeling like a pretty ordinary read.

Overall feeling: She cute…

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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.

#bookporn #coverlove

Recently finished reading ‘Midnight Sun‘ and it was like a stroll down memory lane, it brought up all those feeling that re-ignited my passion for reading. And it also brought me to the news that there is possibly another two books coming for this collection. Before ‘Twilight‘ I was strictly reading horror and sci-fi, it opened doors to YA, contemporary, queer lit and reading more diversely… do you have a book that broke you out of a comfort genre?

Book Review – ‘Chosen’ (#2 Slayer) by Kiersten White

A red-headed slayer… count me in!

Genre: YA, Paranormal

No. of pages: 368

Nina continues to learn how to use her slayer powers against enemies old and new in this second novel in the New York Times bestselling series from Kiersten White, set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now that Nina has turned the Watcher’s Castle into a utopia for hurt and lonely demons, she’s still waiting for the utopia part to kick in. With her sister Artemis gone and only a few people remaining at the castle—including her still-distant mother—Nina has her hands full. Plus, though she gained back her Slayer powers from Leo, they’re not feeling quite right after being held by the seriously evil succubus Eve, a.k.a. fake Watcher’s Council member and Leo’s mom.

And while Nina is dealing with the darkness inside, there’s also a new threat on the outside, portended by an odd triangle symbol that seems to be popping up everywhere, in connection with Sean’s demon drug ring as well as someone a bit closer to home. Because one near-apocalypse just isn’t enough, right?

The darkness always finds you. And once again, it’s coming for the Slayer.

Another fantastic and nostalgic trip into the Buffyverse with the twins. I can’t properly explain my joy at how many characters from the original series made an appearance – I was flashed back to my bedroom at home, snuggled on the couch in the dark with a cup of tea. A time when I was surrounded by happiness and safety, when all of my family members were still alive. Buffy always brought me joy and wonder, and ‘Chosen’ managed to dredge all that back up again. It was bittersweet. Much like the journey the characters take in ‘Chosen’ and a little bit like my feelings upon completing the novel.

I really enjoyed ‘Chosen’ it has such a strong connection for me, but the pacing in the first half of the novel was a little slow. I kept putting down this book so many times. It was interesting, had fun characters, but didn’t necessarily move the plot forward too much. I think in paying so much lip service to characters from the television show, we sacrificed some of the pace… but I don’t think I would have connected with the novel as much without their occasional appearance. So it’s a catch twenty-two that you can’t really win. But Kiersten White managed to find the perfect balance and it is an accolade that she manages to keep the story interesting even when the plot was a little slower.

In comparing ‘Chosen’ to the debut of the series, ‘Slayer’ I have to say I enjoyed ‘Slayer’ better. There weren’t so many characters to keep track of, and it fit more into the serialised stories we got from the television show; whereas ‘Chosen’ felt more like a series arc… which is why I think the pacing felt slower in the first half, there was just so many plot points to set up. But it does end in apocalyptic fashion, the thing the television series is famous for.

We switch perspectives between Nora, the last slayer, and Artemis, her twin sister every few chapters. Given that they were separated for nearly the entirety of the novel the dual perspectives added a lot the narrative, though there were moments when an omnipotent consciousness slipped in, which I didn’t think was needed. Those small instances were explanatory or info-dumping in nature and you slipped out of the organic nature of the tone of the book.

Both our protagonists get great arcs and character development. The only niggling issue I have with this instalment is given we are at a Watcher stronghold we didn’t get as much Watcher lore (like we did in ‘Slayer.’) I felt it disconnected a bit in the reason for the characters being there… it was like they were morphing into a new version of The Scooby Gang instead of carving out their own identity and reviving the importance of the Watcher mythos. The waters all felt a bit muddy in that respect; but the connection between the cast forging a makeshift family and Slayer sanctuary rings through clear as a bell.

The notable appearances from the original television series include: Buffy, Faith, Clem, Sineya (the first slayer), and a Chaos Demon (Anya’s ex-boyfriend).

I really hope we get more instalments in this series and explore/evolve the Watcher lore. But I have not seen any evidence Kiersten White will be penning another installation to date. *sigh* I guess I’ll just have to keep hoping that the new Slayer television series moves forward in production.

Definitely recommend this one – for Buffy fans, and lovers of paranormal fantasy novels.

Overall feeling: Melancholic

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Wayward Son’ (#2 Simon Snow) by Rainbow Rowell

Entertaining re-visit to some fan-girly characters, but felt a little light on plot.

Genre: Y/A, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 356

The story is supposed to be over.

Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after…

So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?

What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.

They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…

I was really looking forward to jumping back into the Simon Snow universe.

Wayward Son’ did not have the same tone as ‘Carry On.’ There was less of that Potteresque magic and silliness. The angst between Simon and Baz is still there and fabulously kept my attention (if at times, a little juvenile.) Though, it was as if we rolled back Simon and Baz’s relationship for the sake of angst. I’m not mad at it, though I do feel a little cheated.

This felt more like a tale or anecdote rather than a novel. A road tip.

Where ‘Carry On’ felt rich in atmosphere and world building, ‘Wayward Son,’ was a little sparse in comparison. I’m guessing this novel is suffering a lot of that middle book syndrome, where it is about introducing new characters, and setting up a lot of things for the next instalment ‘Where the Wind Blows.’

There is something about Rainbow Rowell’s writing style in this franchise that feels so breezy and innocent. I’m not a massive fantasy reader anymore, but this series definitely gives me all the feels and I was very content to kick back and fall into the world of Simon and Baz with a cuppa on the balcony.

I wasn’t too sure about the plot of ‘Wayward Son,’ there is a lot of time spent with the characters ambling and re-orientating themselves. Trying to find their purpose. I think that is what lost me a bit too. Yes, I love the characters, and the angst, and the magical world they live in… but that meandering purpose dragged a little too long into the novel.

A cute twist at the end involving the new character to the gang was a pleasant surprise and definitely has me intrigued with release of the final book in this trilogy.

In terms of story, ‘Wayward Son’ is interesting, but not one that had me chomping at the bit to read the sequel. It’s more about the characters for me, and I’m hoping that Rowell ups the ante in the third book in the franchise. While I enjoyed ‘Wayward Son,’ it was more of a so-so read. Another novel I’ll hang back on recommending until I read the next in the series: it will make or break my love of the franchise.

Overall feeling: a bit of a wobble…

© 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 – ‘Slayer’ (#1 Slayer) by Kiersten White

Re-visiting my ultimate fandom.

Slayer (#1 Slayer) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Genre: YA, Paranormal

No. of pages: 404

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Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

It was fun to get reacquainted with the Buffyverse through ‘Slayer.’ While it is technically cannon and references many familiar characters, it didn’t quite match the tone of the television series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ Though it has elements of teen drama, horror, and dark comedy, it managed to carve out its own identity.

I found parts of the narrative repetitive – especially in the first half – and it became somewhat annoying, but once past the midway point ‘Slayer’ really starts to amp up. The pacing is pretty good, but in what we’ve come to expect from Whedon’s brainchild, ‘Slayer’ is the poorer cousin. There should have been much more drama and angst, much more action, and a heavy, more pronounced theme of good versus evil… and some core moral centre that the protagonist deals with.

The concept of twins and prophecy was a fun twist and great to explore. Stepping into the world post-Sunnydale where hundreds of potential slayers have realised their power, Watcher/medic in training Nina (‘Artemis’) has joined the ranks of newly awakened slayers. I feel like having Nina isolated and in hiding with the remainder of the Watcher brethren was a great storytelling perspective, but did little to create a lot of relatable content for the reader. Buffy was a typical teen who just wanted to be normal – Nina is a naive teen who doesn’t know what she wants… so for the first half of the novel I didn’t really care for her as a main character because she lacked the strength and interest. Though as she stretches her newly slayer abilities Nina grows into the role.

Slayer (#1 Slayer) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There was this whole kept-in-the-dark-for-your-own-protection trope and miscommunications which was okay as a plot device, but I’ve seen it executed much better; and not only did it feel obvious, but frustrating that I was able to not only predict the outcome of the novel, but pretty much all but one of the smaller story arcs. I feel like Kiersten White could have cut 100-150 pages out, only hinting at plot reveals, and this would have not only been a better paced read, but married true to the tone of the source material. But it was so nostalgic and squee-worthy to be back in the Buffyverse. Plus, a red-headed protagonist – fellow gingers unite!

So I may have rated this lower if not for the connection to my early years through the Whedonverse, and just the simple enjoyment of spending a few days back in that place. This was an emotional connection, and I felt like the story was really getting its legs in the second half. So I’m assuming the sequel ‘Chosen’ is going to be much better and I am definitely fangirling over these books.

I’d love to freely recommend this to everyone, but some hard-core Buffy fans may not take to ‘Slayer’ so easily. While this has elements of the franchise, it’s not delivered as tightly as the source material. Even the DarkHorse comics that continued the story after the television series ended with a team of the original writers (helmed by Jos Whedon himself) still retain that ‘it’ factor we’ve come to love in the Buffyverse that I felt wasn’t quite reached with Kiersten Whites take on the franchise. But hey, I’d would LOVE to be proven wrong.

Overall feeling: A fun frolic in a favorite fandom

Slayer (#1 Slayer) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Slayer (#1 Slayer) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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

Delectable Detective and Punchy Paranormals but some Morbid Machismo….

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

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the narrative improved after the half way mark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall feeling: Trying to ignore the flaws…

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

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

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.