Book Review – ‘Regretting You’ by Colleen Hoover

Part of this is every mother-daughter relationship ever, part is an over-dramatised trope.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 354

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.

This is a difficult one for me to review. I enjoy Colleen Hoover’s work so much; she always manages to pull out all the feels and notch up a great amount of angst.

Regretting You’ was a little off kilter for me. The pacing is slower, even though the alternate perspectives between mother and daughter Morgan and Clara switch with each chapter respectively and move the plot forward; there was a lot of misunderstanding, blustering off without getting the full picture, having a spat…. it felt all very over-dramatised. Plus – and this is my personal preference – I did not entirely like any of the characters.

Clara was doting one moment and irrational the next. Morgan was a people pleaser who drifted through life and felt washed-out as a character for me. The love interests were all-too-doting and secretly in love with the protagonists and felt like Hoover was painting the men with the same brush. Miller felt clingy and something about his characterisation made me feel very uncomfortable – like he was over-compensating for something. Johan is probably the one character I liked the most, but still, I wanted more dimension from him. Like I said, it’s just my personal impression of the cast.

The characters develop nicely, are complex and have different motivations. I think there was an element of emotional connection I wasn’t getting. Maybe I’m turning into a cold-hearted shrew? Maybe I’m tired of romance? Maybe I’m just dead inside? Only joking. Some books connect really well with certain readers, and ‘Regretting You’ didn’t do that for me. I still love Colleen Hoover’s writing and will continue to indulge in her books.

There are some nice reveals and a well written plot, I think it was somewhat simple, and the whole misunderstanding/misjudging trope in contemporary romance can be great if executed well, but it is so overused that may had added to some fatigue in my reading of ‘Regretting You.’

Overall a fun read, but one I did not enjoy fully. I’m on the fence recommending this one – probably for those who loved contemporaries and big fans of Colleen Hoover.

Overall feeling: just okay for me

© 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 – ‘Lock Every Door’ by Riley Sager

A modern-day thriller with gothic undertones…

Genre: Y/A, Thriller, Mystery,

No. of pages: 370

They’ve offered you a luxury apartment, rent free. THE CATCH: you may not live long enough to enjoy it…

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents.

These are the only rules for Jules Larson’s new job as apartment sitter for an elusive resident of the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile private buildings and home to the rich and famous.

Recently heartbroken and practically homeless, Jules readily accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

Out of place among the extremely wealthy, Jules finds herself pulled toward other apartment sitter Ingrid. But Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her. Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story – but the next day, her new friend has vanished.

And then Jules discovers that Ingrid is not the first temporary resident to go missing…

Welcome to the Bartholomew…You may never leave.

I’ve really enjoyed Riley Sager’s work in the past and ‘Lock Every Door’ promises to be another chilling tale of a twisty murder mystery for an outwitting final girl. This book did not disappoint.

Our protagonist, Jules as an apartment sitter with a checkered past and sets up this novel nicely – though with the rules and regulations around this job immediately had flashing lights and sirens going off in my head. They were literally screaming ‘Run Girl!’ So the believability was on shaky ground from the get-go. What sort of haunted house ish was this set up? I don’t know if it was tongue-in-cheek, playing on the horror trope intentionally, or just lazy plotting.

The mystery part and tense ambience was written really well. I was making my list of suspects even before there was a murder to think of – and believe me there are plenty of suspects. I will say I had hunched out the mystery of sorts but then second-guessed myself because I thought it was too obvious; though the details of said mystery were way off, so it kept me interested and the pay-off was well worth the journey to get there.

The world building is executed with aplomb. Marrying the New York City and gothic tone of the Bartholomew were just perfection – sprinkle in a little bit of isolation and powerlessness for Jules and it paints the perfect landscape for this thriller. There is a heavy element of trying to impose the supernatural in ‘Lock Every Door’ that I feel wasn’t dealt with properly – it could have been so much more than it was.

I think some of the ridiculousness of the plot, combined with a missed opportunity is what held me back from being fully immersed in the story, but Sager’s writing style really shines.

I’m on the fence about recommending this one – it’s an entertaining read for sure, but there was something about this that just didn’t sell the story for me… so I’ll say a soft recommendation. Maybe for the reader who wants a taste of the mystery/thriller demographic but who doesn’t read a lot in that genre.

Overall feeling: Spooky-oooky

© 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 – ‘I Wish You All The Best’ by Mason Deaver

Beautifully understated and gorgeously representing minorities.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 329

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

A beautiful queer romance that brings representation from a close-to-invisible group on the rainbow spectrum, told in an understated but cherished tone that touched my heart.

Loved the representation of a non-binary protagonist and the unique challenges they face. With a quiet-toned storyline and how it matches the tone of the narrative told from protagonist Ben’s perspective. The story did feel slow in pace and took a while to get places. I feel like I wanted more complexity, but in saying that, I don’t think it would have worked with ‘I Wish You All the Best.’

This had a bit of a feeling of educating the reader and not making things too difficult for Ben – even though what they go through is pretty rough… a more realistic approach would’ve been messier and lost the tone ‘I Wish You All the Best’ has. It’s cute, quiet, but resounding. 

Because of this quiet tone – be it from Ben being an introvert, having to protect themselves from hurt and rejection, as well as dealing with mental illness; it made it difficult to relate to them. There was always a distance between Ben and other characters. And a distance with the reader. I think this element was why I wasn’t sold on the romance between Ben and Nathan. I enjoy romances which aren’t afraid to get messy and get down to the bones of character development. This in comparison felt as though it was whispered through a tin can telephone.

There was a bit of repetition that I felt an editor should have addressed which pulled me from the narrative a handful of times. While this is a beautiful story, I did not get that emotional connection I was hoping for.

Overall feeling: Not too shabby

© 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 – ‘Tweet Cute’ by Emma Lord

Roast your pizza and your tweets all in one tasty read.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 368

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

An adorable tale of modern technology and the love of pizza! The title is a pun on ‘meet cute’ and is exactly that. This was cute.

The characters are all likeable and well rounded. There is a sense of angst, anxiety, and pressure to be perfect and know your direction in life. ‘Tweet Cute’ is told in alternating perspectives each chapter from our protagonists and love interests Pepper and Jack. Pepper is a high achiever in school and runs her mother’s pizza chain’s social media account with a heavy dash of sardonic wit. Think how Wendy’s roasts its competitors on twitter. I had a bit of an issue in how Pepper’s mother laid a lot of pressure on her daughters head in basically heading the marketing department for a major fast food franchise… it felt unrealistic and irresponsible. But it was a great set up for an environment ready to launch so many tropes in contemporary romance.

Jack is a hard-working student and employee in the family pizzeria, shouldering a lot that is essential for their family’s well-being. Again, a lot of inappropriate pressure placed on the head of a teen who should be focusing on school and their future, not managing his parent’s affairs. He struck me as that always positive type, goody-two-shoes, underdog.

Though it took a while to go anywhere. The first half of the novels pacing is on the slower side, but after that the book gets a lot better. The plot is very predictable, but there were a few surprises that popped up which delighted me. The storyline unravelled very cleverly in the last quarter of the novel.

Overall feeling: The title says it all.

© 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 – ‘Mayday!’ (#2 Dirk Pitt) a.k.a The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler

An action adventure of epic proportions (and epic failure).

Genre: Action, Adventure

No. of pages: 362

Major Dirk Pitt picked up the frantic distress call as he cruised his lumbering amphibious plane over the islands of the Aegean. Brady Air Force base was under fire, its entire force of jets destroyed on the ground . . . by just one First World War bi-plane!

A psychotic ex-Nazi, a bloodthirsty Greek strongman and a beautiful double agent set Pitt on the trail of the warped mastermind behind a devastating sabotage plot. And on that trail, danger and death are never far behind . . .

I am a huge fan of the Dirk Pitt series, and started reading them in the early ‘90’s and was hooked straight away. Lately I’ve started to read more of the back catalog of this series, as I came into this about mid-way. It’s also allowed me to uncover a bit of history in what started off the Dirk Pitt legacy. ‘Mayday!’ (written first, but a second release in this franchise) did not live up to my childhood images, carrying an undertone of arrogance, white male privilege, and microagressions.

Dirk Pitt is a sexist pig. The characters are very two dimensional and it is apparent that the characters in this novel only exist to service Pitt’s self importance. This is the worst book from the series that I have read. If I had started reading this collection from this debut, I would have tossed the first few books into the fire and dismissed Cussler as a writer completely.

Dirk Pitt slaps a woman across the face because she is grieving for her dearly departed father and doesn’t want to deal with her emotions, reduces her to her looks and sexualises her. Like if she can’t look pretty for him, what use is she. The tone of ‘Mayday!’ is terribly sexist and left me with the worst taste in my mouth. And that about sums up the novels attitude towards women, and the number of women present in the plot.

Pitt is coming off as a bit of a pompous asshole.  The physical descriptions in this novel don’t entirely match those I’ve read in the many subsequent novels. I think this franchise went through a major re-vamp at some point (thank goodness.)

I found this offensive on so many levels.

The language structure of American cast – the syntax reads like London English… if indeed Cussler was trying to write a Bond type novel as cited, he must of had that in his head, then but failed to craft dialogue for his characters properly. It read with insincerity and clumsiness.

Plus we have spies and agents blurting out their operations, exposing their agents and identities all over the place. So not plausible. This book is ridiculous. The blurting of facts and identities from government officials about clandestine operations and agents in the last few chapters is mind-boggling. It was so unrealistic and harkens back to the days of simple plots and stereotypes… lest be said there was actually a moustache twirling character in this story. It was so bad I was actually having a ball poking holes in the plot and the terribly written characters. Lucky I didn’t turn it into a drinking game – I would have ended up with liver disease.

The only redeeming quality to this was the imagination to come up with the plot, the mixing in of maritime culture and a dash of marine biology.

The pacing was medium… it could have been a tad faster in the middle considering this is an action adventure spy thriller.

A big, huge, massive, NO for recommending this one. I’d be happy to chuck it out the window while driving along the Great Australian Bite and watch it sail into the ocean for a great white to swallow it whole and poop it out in the depths of some dark oceanic trench.

Overall feeling: Kill it with fire!

© 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.

#bookporn #coverlove

Finally finished this quartet early last year after constantly getting distracted by shiny new books. I’ve got the latest release ‘The Darkest Legacy’ following Zu on my TBR shelf ready to conquer soon… a dystopian world where kids have X-men type powers and labelled outcasts and threats. Such a great concept; pity the film adaptation didn’t get past the first book.

Book Review – ‘Heartstopper : Volume Four’ (#4 Heartstopper) by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper practically stopped my heart with endearing cuteness.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA+, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 353

 Nick’s journal:

I think I’m in love with Charlie. This summer with him and our friend has been amazing, and I want to say ‘I love you’, but… I guess I’ve had other things to worry about lately…

This series just keeps getting better and better. Another installment with cuteness overload. I love how expressive the characters faces are in the artwork. We are getting more and more story with the secondary cast, really rounding out the story.

We see Charlie begin to assert himself a bit more – standing up against over-bearing parents that are pressuring him about school (and exaserbating his eating disorder) and confessing his love for Nick.

We also see Nick loving and supporting Charlie, and broaching the topic about taking serious steps to deal with his eating disorder.

It’s great to see such character development, to be honest, I don’t expect much in graphic novels, but Alice Oseman manages to pack so much story into her novels with such a flair of innocence and endearment that I am in awe of her talents.

There is not a lot to predict – mainly because it is just a volume in an ongoing story – but what there is is obviously predictable, but that is the reason I am picking up this book – to see Charlie and Nick get together and navigate their lives as a couple.

Still highly recommend this series and am excited to see where the following sequesl take us. Not to mention that the television adaptation is not far away from hitting the air: and I’m all here for that!

Overall feeling: Just a little bit adorable… okay a lot adorable!

© 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 – ‘Monsters of Men’ (#3 Chaos Walking) by Patrick Ness

Power struggles, an alien race, and a boy and a girl trying to make peace for everyone.

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 643

As a world-ending war surges to life around them, Todd and Viola face monstrous decisions. The indigenous Spackle, thinking and acting as one, have mobilized to avenge their murdered people. Ruthless human leaders prepare to defend their factions at all costs, even as a convoy of new settlers approaches. And as the ceaseless Noise lays all thoughts bare, the projected will of the few threatens to overwhelm the desperate desire of the many. The consequences of each action, each word, are unspeakably vast: To follow a tyrant or a terrorist? To save the life of the one you love most or thousands of strangers? To believe in redemption or assume it is lost? Becoming adults amid the turmoil, Todd and Viola question all they have known, racing through horror and outrage toward a shocking finale.

Monsters of Men’ sees the stakes for both Todd and Viola raise to a global scale. Told in alternating perspectives between the love-stuck teens (and that of one of the Spackle) as they try to influence opposing factions to a peaceful resolution as a colony ship comes close to land… but land to what? A controlling faction ruling with fear and lies, or the utopia humanity has always dreamed of? But how can any of that be achieved when the settlers have enslaved the native alien species and committed genocide against the race and other human settlements. It makes it hard to organise the population when all the men’s thoughts are laid bare in the Noise, even if some of the men have mastered how to hide their Noise. ‘Monsters of Men’ brings the trilogy to an epic conclusion.

There are a lot of elements in this trilogy, and all of the themes mix and become an important distinction for our two protagonists in ‘Monsters of Men.’ Political control through fear, murder, terrorism, genocide is at the forefront. It mirrors the colonisation of Earth where we saw the murder and erasure of aboriginal peoples like in America, Australia, and New Zealand. The native residents of New World, the Spackle, are either killed off or enslaved, their culture ignored by the human settlers; prompting an additional war between groups of people.

We are also faced with the duplicitous nature of thought and action – how does that add up to honesty? And if our thoughts are not on display for all to read, is that dishonesty? We see how the faction of men have split, some accepting this new state of being, and others viewing it a women having something to hide. And women, alternatively, seeing the shameful thoughts of men on display. The whole culture of shame, guilt, and fear plays out in dividing the population. Some using if for power, some for religion, some for manipulation.

There is even more character development for Todd and Viola as they are forced to make decisions for the good of the colony, or should I say the planet New World at great risk and sacrifice. I think by this point in the story, even though events throughout the series have forced them to grow up quickly, they are still in their early teens, and I struggled a bit with their level of responsibility, their reactions and courage. They are meant to be 13-14 years of age… I mean it felt a little unrealistic. That aside, I did get carried away with the story and this small fact did not impact too heavily on my enjoyment of the trilogy.

It was great to see the Spackle represented, take a forefront sharing the narrative along with Todd and Viola after being in the background of the story for so long. We learn about their culture, their community dynamics, and connection to the land. With all the conflict though, I felt a full picture wasn’t able to get painted as we only see them through the eyes of one member as they lead a rebellion.

Monsters of Men’ is better than any of the previous novels, the pacing was a lot faster, though the story still felt far too long. But there is a lot to unpack in the 643 pages, still, it could have been edited down to make it more accessible to the YA demographic. I can see why the film adaptation of the debut novel of this series did not perform well in the box office, because there are so many elements packaged into this story it can be involved and busy – it doesn’t translate well for the big screen.

There were many plot twists that I did not see coming which overjoyed me to now end. I love surprises and stories taking unexpected turns. I’d definitely recommend this to all my reader friends, but I know some may be put off because of its length and complexity – as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of themes, layers, and subtext jammed into this story. It’s like comparing people who love playing games that are point and shoot to those who spend weeks or months on campaigns. You need to invest time to get the pay-off. And boy does this pay-off! All the little plot threads are tied off and leave the reader with a sense of completion and hope.

Overall feeling: Long, but a delicately detailed tale!

© 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 – ‘Ruin and Rising’ (#3 The Shadow and Bone Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo

Culture, magic, and political infighting make this epic fantasy shine bright.

Genre: YA, Fantasy

No. of pages: 422

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

The finale for a trilogy set in a fantastical Russia where protagonist Alina is going to have to test all that she is capable of to defeat the evil power-hungry Darkling and his supernatural army. I’m not a huge fantasy reader, and it has taken me a while to get to read these novels, but I have to admit, the debut, ‘Shadow and Bone’ drew me in to the world of the Sun Summoner (Alina) and an army of preternaturally gifted soldiers (Grisha.) The world building in this series, from the landscape, to the magic system, and the political manoeuvring was done so expertly it’s easy to see why so many readers rave about this series.

I have to admit, I purchased all the books in this trilogy as they were released, but it took the airing of the television adaptation for me to quickly pick up the books and explore the world in written form before allowing myself to watch the show. And the television series is definitely one of my top five adaptations of all time. I hope subsequent seasons continue to live up to the high standard it has set for itself and don’t stray too far from the original source material. (As there has been some departure from the original concept, but it seems to be for the better.)

Admittedly ‘Rage and Ruin’ felt like it took a bit to warm up and get the story moving forward. It also felt a bit busy. There were a lot of elements and arcs, political movements that bogged down the pacing. It wasn’t until the last third of the book before the plot really took its stride.

There is a lot of carnage… but there did not feel like there were a lot of repercussions and dealing with the loss, instead pushing it aside to wrap up the trilogy nicely. I see this quite regularly in YA and fantasy, and I understand why – you don’t want to get side-tracked with heavy emotion and change the tone of the story; but, I think valuable character development and motivation can be overlooked because of this. And endings can be bittersweet, impactful, when you celebrate both victory and loss at the same time.

There was a good twist in the concluding pages, but besides that I didn’t get any surprises from the plot. The previous two novels were so good with swaying predictability in a way ‘Ruin and Rising’ didn’t. I also wanted some more exploration about the theme of power and corruption – it felt like it got built up and then magically went away. It has been such a strong theme throughout the trilogy, and I was left wanting a more resounding conclusion. As a result, the ending felt slightly (teensy-weensy) anticlimactic.

I don’t feel like Alina or love interest Mal had a lot of character development for ‘Ruin and Rising,’ but rather faced bigger challenges to pit against their morals, their connection, and their love for the country Ravka. All of the character development was done in the prequels, in this finale it was about putting all they have learned on the line – for themselves, and the rest of the country.

Leigh Bardugo can paint such a rich tapestry in world building and culture, creating political factions and armies, and builds a diverse cast of characters. Even though the novel is told in first-person narrative from Alina’s point of view, it is not hard to pick the voice of other characters without a label to identify them. I think that is a pretty amazing feat and shows just how honed Bardugo’s writing style and craft is.

I’d definitely recommend this trilogy and have already purchased the rest of the series set in this universe – Six of Crows  duology and the King of Scars series – as I have fallen in love with the mythology, the country, and the way Bardugo can craft a character driven story.

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.