Most Anticipated May 2023 Releases

So many upcoming releases in May! There are two mystery/thrillers I’m definitely wanting to purchase. The rest of the list I’m still considering. Might wait until I’ve heard back from a few of my peers/friends before I add them to my wish list. But I’m still on a book buying ban, and trying to make my purchases count by completing series that I already own some books for. It’s all about #BeatTheBacklist and whittling down my TBR shelf! I really feel like I’m missing out this month L

Drowning – T.J. Newman (Thriller/Mystery)

Flight attendant turned New York Times bestselling author T. J. Newman—whose first book Falling was an instant #1 national bestseller and the biggest thriller debut of 2021—returns for her second book, an edge-of-your-seat thriller about a commercial jetliner that crashes into the ocean, and sinks to the bottom with passengers trapped inside, and the extraordinary rescue operation to save them.

Six minutes after takeoff, Flight 1421 crashes into the Pacific Ocean. During the evacuation, an engine explodes and the plane is flooded. Those still alive are forced to close the doors—but it’s too late. The plane sinks to the bottom with twelve passengers trapped inside.

More than two hundred feet below the surface, engineer Will Kent and his eleven-year-old daughter Shannon are waist-deep in water and fighting for their lives.

Their only chance at survival is an elite rescue team on the surface led by professional diver Chris Kent—Shannon’s mother and Will’s soon-to-be ex-wife—who must work together with Will to find a way to save their daughter and rescue the passengers from the sealed airplane, which is now teetering on the edge of an undersea cliff.

There’s not much time.

There’s even less air.

With devastating emotional power and heart-stopping suspense, Drowning is an unforgettable thriller about a family’s desperate fight to save themselves and the people trapped with them—against impossible odds.

This is the Way the World Ends – Jen Wilde (YA, Mystery/Thriller, Queer)

Fans of One of Us Is Lying and The Hazel Wood are cordially invited to spend one fateful night surviving an elite private school’s epic masquerade ball in Jen Wilde’s debut thriller, This Is the Way the World Ends.

As an autistic scholarship student at the prestigious Webber Academy in New York City, Waverly is used to masking to fit in—in more ways than one. While her classmates are the children of the one percent, Waverly is getting by on tutoring gigs and the generosity of the school’s charming and enigmatic dean. So when her tutoring student and resident “it girl” asks Waverly to attend the school’s annual fundraising Masquerade disguised as her, Waverly jumps at the chance—especially once she finds out that Ash, the dean’s daughter and her secret ex-girlfriend, will be there.

The Masquerade is everything Waverly dreamed of, complete with extravagant gowns, wealthy parents writing checks, and flowing champagne. Most importantly, there’s Ash. All Waverly wants to do is shed her mask and be with her, but the evening takes a sinister turn when Waverly stumbles into a secret meeting between the dean and the school’s top donors—and witnesses a brutal murder. This gala is harboring far more malevolent plots than just opening parents’ pocketbooks. Before she can escape or contact the authorities, a mysterious global blackout puts the entire party on lockdown. Waverly’s fairy tale has turned into a nightmare, and she, Ash, and her friends must navigate through a dizzying maze of freight elevators, secret passageways, and back rooms if they’re going to survive the night.

And even if they manage to escape the Masquerade, with technology wiped out all over the planet, what kind of world will they find waiting for them beyond the doors?

…and the following 10 novels I’m still undecided about:

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn – Mark Lawrence (Fantasy)

A boy has lived his whole life trapped within a vast library, older than empires and larger than cities.

A girl has spent hers in a tiny settlement out on the Dust where nightmares stalk and no one goes.

The world has never even noticed them. That’s about to change.

Their stories spiral around each other, across worlds and time. This is a tale of truth and lies and hearts, and the blurring of one into another. A journey on which knowledge erodes certainty, and on which, though the pen may be mightier than the sword, blood will be spilled and cities burned.

Imogen, Obviously – Becky Albertalli (Queer Contemporary)

With humor and insight, #1 New York Times bestseller Becky Albertalli explores the nuances of sexuality, identity, and friendship.

Imogen Scott may be hopelessly heterosexual, but she’s got the World’s Greatest Ally title locked down.

She’s never missed a Pride Alliance meeting. She knows more about queer media discourse than her very queer little sister. She even has two queer best friends. There’s Gretchen, a fellow high school senior, who helps keep Imogen’s biases in check. And then there’s Lili—newly out and newly thriving with a cool new squad of queer college friends.

Imogen’s thrilled for Lili. Any ally would be. And now that she’s finally visiting Lili on campus, she’s bringing her ally A game. Any support Lili needs, Imogen’s all in.

Even if that means bending the truth, just a little.

Like when Lili drops a tiny queer bombshell: she’s told all her college friends that Imogen and Lili used to date. And none of them know that Imogen is a raging hetero—not even Lili’s best friend, Tessa.

Of course, the more time Imogen spends with chaotic, freckle-faced Tessa, the more she starts to wonder if her truth was ever all that straight to begin with. . .

Lying in the Deep – Diana Urban (Mystery/Thriller)

A juicy mystery of jealousy, love, and betrayal set on a Semester at Sea-inspired cruise ship, with a diverse cast of delightfully suspicious characters who’ll leave you guessing with every jaw-dropping twist.

After being jilted by her ex-boyfriend and best friend, Jade couldn’t be more ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime—11 countries in 4 months, all from the luxurious Campus on Board ship—and to wedge an entire globe between her and the people who broke her heart.

But when Jade discovers the backstabbing couple are also setting sail, her obsession with them grows and festers, leading to a shocking murder. And as their friends begin to drop like flies, Jade and her new crush must race to clear her name and find the killer they’re trapped at sea with….before anyone else winds up in body bags.

They Hate Each Other – Amanda Woody (Queer Contemporary)

Jonah and Dylan get along like oil and water. Until a fake dating ploy gives them new perspective, and they realize that “falling for your enemy” isn’t as impossible as it seems.

There are plenty of words Jonah Collins could use to describe Dylan Ramírez. “Arrogant,” “spoiled,” and “golden boy” to name a few. Likewise, Dylan thinks he has Jonah accurately labeled as an attention-seeking asshat who never shuts his filthy mouth. Their friends are convinced Jonah’s and Dylan’s disdain for one another is just thinly veiled lust—a rumor that surges like wildfire when the two wake up in one bed after homecoming. Mutually horrified, Dylan and Jonah agree to use the faux pas to their advantage by fake dating. If they can stay convincing long enough to end their “relationship” in a massive staged fight, they can prove their incompatibility to their friends once and for all. But the more time they spend together, the more their plan begins to fall apart—and the closer they come to seeing each other clearly for the first time.

Fractal Noise – Christopher Paolini (Science Fiction)

July 25th, 2234: The crew of the Adamura discovers the Anomaly.

On the seemingly uninhabited planet Talos VII:a circular pit, 50 kilometers wide.

Its curve not of nature, but design.

Now, a small team must land and journey on foot across the surface to learn who built the hole and why.

But they all carry the burdens of lives carved out on disparate colonies in the cruel cold of space.

For some the mission is the dream of the lifetime, for others a risk not worth taking, and for one it is a desperate attempt to find meaning in an uncaring universe.

Each step they take toward the mysterious abyss is more punishing than the last.

And the ghosts of their past follow.

Planes, Trains, and all the Feels – Livy Hart (Contemporary)

Fans of Christina Lauren and Tessa Bailey will adore this witty and unforgettable rom-com about skyways, highways, and all the perfectly wrong ways to fall in love.

As the black sheep of the family, choreographer Cassidy Bliss vowed she’d do anything to get home in time to help with her sister’s wedding and avoid family disappointment…again. She just never expected “anything” would involve sharing the last rental car with the jerk who cut her off in line at the airport this morning. But horrible times apparently call for here-goes-nothing measures.

Driving across the country with Luke “life can be solved with a spreadsheet” Carlisle must be a penance for some crime she committed. Because the second he opens his mouth, it’s all she can do to not maim him with her carry-on. But somewhere between his surprisingly thoughtful snack sharing and his uncanny ability to see straight to the core of her, her feelings go unchecked.

Suddenly, their crackling chemistry is just one more thing they have to navigate—and it couldn’t come at a worse time. But after a lifetime of letting the expectations and needs of others drive her life, Cassidy must decide if she’s ready to take the wheel once and for all.

Best Men – Sidney Karger (Queer Contemporary)

When two best men in a wedding party fall for each other, they realize love isn’t a piece of cake in this hilarious and heartfelt romantic comedy debut by screenwriter Sidney Karger.

Max Moody thought he had everything figured out. He’s trying to live his best life in New York City and has the best friend a gay guy could ask for: Paige. She and Max grew up next door to each other in the suburbs of Chicago. She can light up any party. She finishes his sentences. She’s always a reliable splunch (they don’t like to use the word brunch) partner. But then Max’s whole world is turned upside down when Paige suddenly announces some huge news: she’s engaged and wants Max to be her man of honor. Max was always the romantic one who imagined he would get married before the unpredictable Paige and is shocked to hear she’s ready to settle down. But it turns out there’s not just one new man in Paige’s life–there are two.

There’s the groom, Austin, who’s a perfectly nice guy. Then there’s his charming, fun and ridiculously handsome gay younger brother, Chasten, who is Austin’s best man. As Paige’s wedding draws closer, Max, the introverted Midwesterner, and Chasten, the social butterfly East Coaster, realize they’re like oil and water. Yet they still have to figure out how to coexist in Paige’s life while not making her wedding festivities all about them. But can the tiny romantic spark between these two very different guys transform their best man supporting roles into the leading best men in each other’s lives?

The Last One to Fall – Gabriella Lepore (YA, Mystery, Queer)

Six friends. Five suspects. One murder.

Savana Caruso and Jesse Melo have known each other since they were kids, so when Jesse texts Savana in the middle of the night and asks her to meet him at Cray’s Warehouse, she doesn’t hesitate. But before Savana can find Jesse, she bears witness to a horrifying murder, standing helpless on the ground as a mysterious figure is pushed out of the fourth floor of the warehouse. 

Six teens were there that night, and five of them are now potential suspects. With the police circling, Savana knows what will happen if the wrong person is charged, particularly once she starts getting threatening anonymous text messages.

As she attempts to uncover the truth, Savana learns that everyone is keeping secrets—and someone is willing to do whatever it takes to keep those secrets from coming to light.

Summer Reading – Jenn McKinlay (Contemporary)

When a woman who’d rather do anything than read meets a swoon-worthy bookworm, sparks fly, making for one hot-summer fling in New York Times bestselling author Jenn McKinlay’s new rom-com.

For Samantha Gale, a summer on Martha’s Vineyard at her family’s tiny cottage was supposed to be about resurrecting her career as a chef, until she’s tasked with chaperoning her half-brother, Tyler. The teenage brainiac is spending his summer at the local library in a robotics competition, and there’s no place Sam, who’s dyslexic, likes less than the library. And because the universe hates her, the library’s interim director turns out to be the hot-reader guy whose book she accidentally destroyed on the ferry ride to the island.

Bennett Reynolds is on a quest to find his father, whose identity he’s never known. He’s taken the temporary job on the island to research the summer his mother spent there when she got pregnant with him. Ben tells himself he isn’t interested in a relationship right now. Yet as soon as Sam knocks his book into the ocean, he can’t stop thinking about her.

An irresistible attraction blossoms when Ben inspires Sam to create the cookbook she’s always dreamed about and she jumps all in on helping him find his father, and soon they realize their summer fling may heat up into a happily ever after.

Lose You to Find Me – Erik J. Brown (YA, Queer Contemporary)

A romantic, heartfelt, and hilarious queer coming-of-age story from All That’s Left in the World author Erik J. Brown, perfect for fans of What If It’s Us and If This Gets Out.

Tommy Dees is in the weeds—restaurant speak for beyond overwhelmed. He’s been working as a server at Sunset Estates retirement community to get the experience he needs to attend one of the best culinary schools in the world. And to make his application shine, he also needs a letter of recommendation from his sadistic manager. But in exchange for the letter, Tommy has to meet three conditions—including training the new hire.

What he doesn’t expect is for the newbie to be an old crush: Gabe, with the dimples and kind heart, who Tommy fell for during summer camp at age ten and then never saw again. Unfortunately, Gabe doesn’t remember Tommy at all. The training proves distracting as old feelings resurface, and the universe seems to be conspiring against them.

With the application deadline looming and Gabe on his mind, Tommy is determined to keep it all together—but what if life isn’t meant to follow a recipe?

A massive list – are there any May releases that you to add? Let me know in the comments.

© 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.


Loving this series of panels comparing the graphic novels to the television show and how the mood is identical. Such a triumph!

Couldn’t resist slipping this last one in… Kit Connor has undergone such a transformation for the character.

Book Review – ‘The Fell of Dark’ by Caleb Roehrig

A paranormal romance with vampires that totally breaks the mould… it surprised me!

Genre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance, LGBT+

No. of pages: 384

The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town. Located at a nexus of mystical energy fields, Fulton Heights is practically an electromagnet for supernatural drama. And when a mysterious (and annoyingly hot) vampire boy arrives with a cryptic warning, Auggie suddenly finds himself at the center of it. An ancient and terrible power is returning to the earthly realm, and somehow Auggie seems to be the only one who can stop it.

I was dubious going into this novel. Another vampire novel… I cringed a bit, but my friends had told me it was good. And ‘The Fell of Dark’ definitely surprised me. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It delivers the same tone as Buffy the Vampire Slayer with sassy characters, twisty plots, scary bad guys: and the only way to get through is for the protagonist to trust their instincts.

Auggie was such an endearing character, I fell in love with the protagonist in the first chapter. And the writing style, combined with the plot reveals lead you in one direction and then flip you upside down. I really enjoyed this so much, I was kept on my toes the entire novel. We get bits of info dumping which I can excuse, because we needed context and back story – but maybe a different approach could have been more effective. But given how long this novel is, maybe it was for the best. Even though the story is only 384 pages long, the font is smaller than your average YA, and I think if the typesetting and formatting matched that of an average YA, the page count would have easily doubled.

The Fell of Dark’ is one reveal after another leaving Auggie scrambling to keep his feet on the ground. There is character development galore here, and character motivations coming to light – it is truly a delicious read – cute boy angst aside.

This is my first read from Caleb Roehrig, but it has made me an instant fan. I love his writing style and quirky sense of humour (and how he can craft a story) I’m already eyeing off his back catalogue to see what I can tackle next.

I’d like to say the story is predictable – I mean the notion of it is – but the specifics and the constant re-orientating of the plot made it nearly impossible for me to figure things out. It’s the kind of read I like – one that keeps me on my toes.

There is a little bit of stupidity coming from Auggie, like he is just stumbling through the story at times, but it fits with the character and his age. (And his lustiness for cute boys) Until he starts seeing the ramifications of this thoughtlessness… A really strong recommendation from me.

                                                                            Overall feeling: An unexpected delight!  

© 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

I’ve been waiting ages to complete this trilogy – the fantasy series that is the inspiration of the fan fiction the protagonist writes about in ‘Fangirl.’ It’s like a queer Harry Potter. Not big into fantasy, but this is deliciously ridiculous and has funny and sarcastic characters.

Has anyone finished this trilogy? Did you like it (no spoilers please.)

Book Review – ‘The Sky Blues’ by Robbie Couch

A story about resilience and first love…

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 328

Sky Baker may be openly gay, but in his small, insular town, making sure he was invisible has always been easier than being himself. Determined not to let anything ruin his senior year, Sky decides to make a splash at his high school’s annual beach bum party by asking his crush, Ali, to prom—and he has thirty days to do it.

What better way to start living loud and proud than by pulling off the gayest promposal Rock Ledge, Michigan, has ever seen?

Then, Sky’s plans are leaked by an anonymous hacker in a deeply homophobic e-blast that quickly goes viral. He’s fully prepared to drop out and skip town altogether—until his classmates give him a reason to fight back by turning his thirty-day promposal countdown into a school-wide hunt to expose the e-blast perpetrator.

But what happens at the end of the thirty days? Will Sky get to keep his hard-won visibility? Or will his small-town blues stop him from being his true self?

I read this in one sitting. It was emotionally compelling… I had tears falling from my eyes so frequently because I was all torn up in the challenges our protagonist Sky was facing. There are moments of hopelessness, of powerlessness, and moments bringing back all of that teenage angst and anxiety. I forgot how that age of high school was living like a guitar string pulled too tight.

We are introduced to Sky as he is reeling from the fact his religious mother has kicked him out of home for being gay while Sky is still grieving for the loss of his father. But luckily he’s landed in a safe place with his bff’s family. Now he’s navigating the rest of high school to a looming graduation, an uncertain future, dodging bullies, and growing the courage to prom-pose to his crush. The build up to the inciting incident was a little long, but I barely noticed it because Robbie Couch’s writing style makes everything so compelling. Sky is all of those teen insecurities we have all felt at one time or another, but with the support of his chosen family and friends, Sky manages to push through all the turmoil.

This is a positive story about endurance, and the realisation that it does get better. Not to be afraid to ask for help from those who truly love and accept you for who you are – because that love is given freely and without conditions. It shows how a chosen family is stronger that some of those blood ties. And the reality of the challenges LGBTQIA+ youth faces when coming to terms with their identity. I loved ‘The Sky Blues,’ it was like the cutest, warmest hug imaginable.

There are a lot of characters in ‘The Sky Blues’ but it was easy to distinguish them all and I never lost track of who was who. Some authors cannot do this so effectively. The stand out aspect of this novel was the friendships. Even though most of the story is discussing Sky and his crush, the friendships are what impacted me the most. Bree and Marshall are the besties I wish I had in my life. But the friendship circle grows as the narrative unfolds to include so many more interesting individuals.

It also challenges perceptions, or preconceived notions we have about people – you never know what someone is about, or going through until you get close to them. You better check those assumptions. And another aspect of behaviour and respect… always be aware of how your words and actions can affect someone else. Be kind, reserve judgement. I know all this sounds preachy, but ‘The Sky Blues’ is anything but, it’s a compassionate snapshot about all of these themes.

I felt I wanted a stronger threat with the romance stakes with Sky, but that’s just a personal preference for my taste in contemporaries. Though, I feel the narrative made sense for the character. And although the book concluded on a positive note and all the plot threads were tied up, I felt it needed a more romantic punch. Again, just the angst-ridden teen in me begging for more. Insatiable and insufferable she it at times.

The overall plot is fairly predictable, but the nuances are surprising, the strength of moral character in the subtext and the strong connection I had with the protagonist are what drives this story more than anything else. It’s a book I’d enthusiastically recommend to all who enjoy this genre.

Overall feeling: Really packed a punch to my heart

© 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 – ‘Starfall’ (#2 Starflight) by Melissa Landers

Princesses, Pirates, Poison, and Patriarchy!

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 368

When Princess Cassia Rose fled her home world of Eturia to escape an arranged marriage, she had no idea her sudden departure would spark a war. Now after two years hiding as a ship hand, she is finally returning to her beloved home, but not in the way she imagined. Shackled by bounty hunters, she is violently dragged back to account for her crimes. Her only solace is that the Banshee crew managed to evade capture, including Kane Arric, her best friend…with occasional benefits.

Meanwhile, Kane and the rest of the crew of the Banshee plan a desperate rescue mission. But when they arrive on Eturia, Cassia isn’t exactly in need of heroics—she’s claimed her birthright as Eturia’s queen, but has inherited a war-torn planet simmering with rebellion. Cassia must make alliances, and Kane, the bastard son of a merchant, isn’t a choice that will earn her any friends. Kane knows he will never find someone to replace Cassia—and is certain she returns his feelings—but how can he throw away his own promising future waiting on a queen?

When the outer realm is threatened by the dangerous Zhang mafia, Cassia, Kane and the rest of the Banshee crew uncover a horrifying conspiracy that endangers the entire universe. In the face of unspeakable evil, Cassia must confront her own family’s complicated legacy on Eturia and decide once and for all who her real family is.

A space opera with princesses and pirates, with a group of rabble-rousing rebels, kidnappings, poisoning, fight clubs, and factions vying for control over a part of the galaxy, ‘Starfall’ has elements of Star Wars and Firefly jumbled in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants space adventure. In this instalment we follow another pair of the Banshee crew: Cassia and Kane told in alternating perspectives.

I didn’t enjoy this as much as ‘Starflight,’ there seemed to be a lot of flapping about in the middle – going here and there – trying to sleuth out the political machinations and uncover the culprit poisoning the folks on the planet Eturia. As Cassia is the Princess of the planet, and has a claim to rule, her compassion for the people lead the crew of the Banshee looking for a cure.

I feel ‘Starfall’ could have been half its length with much of the middle part happening off-page to keep the pace going and not get bogged down in the minutiae. My eyes glazed over a number of times, this sequel really lacked the pace and punch of ‘Starflight.’

Where the debut had roadblocks thrown at our protagonists nearly every other chapter, ‘Starfall’ sees either of our protagonists kidnapped or transported to another planet in an almost comedic pass-the-parcel across the solar system. The tone of this novel also feel a bit more mature as we deal with themes of drug addiction, murder, violence, and casual sexual intimacy.

I don’t think I was as invested in the Cassia/Kane pairing. There wasn’t the emotional intensity I enjoy in a romance. Plus, they spent just about all of the novel apart or acting as friends with benefits. It didn’t really pull on my heartstrings.

The pirate angle was so fun to read, but it felt like this book got a bit messy with so many plot devices/story elements introduced in addition to the characters jumping from place to place. Like we spend a lot of time world-building and then the characters go somewhere else… felt like a lot of wasted exposition. That was the crux of what slowed the pace in this story. We get a precedent set in ‘Starflight’ of action and dastardly deeds; and then here we get planet-hopping and political manoeuvrings. I wasn’t hooked as much.

The characters are fun and we get a little more on Solara and Doran from the first book – see them in their lovey-dovey bliss. And the found family of the Banshee remains strong.

I won’t say that ‘Starfall’ is all that predictable, I was kept guessing much of the time: but then again, I wasn’t as engaged in the story. You can’t read ‘Starfall’ without reading ‘Starflight’ because there is too many plot points established in the debut so this novel is more for die-hard fans of the first book in the series. Otherwise I would say you could give this one a miss. It didn’t add a lot to the universe.

Overall feeling: So much going on…

© 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.


I’m not a big fan of fantasy novels with angels, but I do like the idea of being able to fly and the freedom it evokes.

What has been your favourite depictions of angels in a novel? So far mine has been The Mortal Instruments.

Book Review – ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ by Maurene Goo

K-Drama goodness!

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 336

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends.

So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds guidance in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study.

Armed with her “K Drama Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

A nerdy insecure girl creates a list of things she’s seen on K-Dramas in order to entice her crush to fall in love with her. Our rom-com protagonist Desi is a list-maker after my own heart in all her flirt-failures.

I see the list Desi makes as a tool for her to deal with her grief and loss over her mother. She doesn’t have a female role model to refer to these things about. It’s also a way for her to distance herself from reality (and escape grief and/or embarrassment) as a means to step out of her comfort zone in a controlled way – because her life has always been about control and rule following – the list is another set of rules.

The level of importance, drama, and stress around things like boys, friends, grades, graduation, and university is major. It’s like I want to pull all the characters of this book aside for a moment so they can take a breath and chill – do they have to make life so difficult for themselves? Everything has world-ending consequences. For example, bFF June has a tendency to overreact to situations leading Desi right down the garden path. You don’t have to do everything at once. Having a boyfriend is not the answer to everything. I love the drama, but at the same time hate the drama. This book is like an episode of messy TikTok.

With small arcs for both main characters around not making assumptions – could have been avoided with some patience and long frank discussions… things teens are NOT known for. But this trope always urks me because it negates the plot – makes the story irrelevant in a sense, and I did not invest all that time for them to do something they should have done 100 pages previously.

There is a sweetness and innocence to ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ and it definitely has a heart. I really enjoyed my time reading this book – a nice little escape from real life. I just wanted it to be a bit less tropey and overdramatic to really let the tone of the narrative and writing style shine.

 ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ is a fast paced contemporary that I read in one sitting, with a breezy writing style and plenty of comedic moments that counter-balance the drama. A soft recommendation from me. A light romance great for a quiet afternoon of reading.

Overall feeling: teen angst x 100!

© 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 – ‘Starflight’ (#1 Starflight) by Melissa Landers

‘Firefly’ meets ‘Overboard’ in this found family romp across space.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 362

Life in the outer realm is a lawless, dirty, hard existence, and Solara Brooks is hungry for it. Just out of the orphanage, she needs a fresh start in a place where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. She’s so desperate to reach the realm that she’s willing to indenture herself to Doran Spaulding, the rich and popular quarterback who made her life miserable all through high school, in exchange for passage aboard the spaceliner Zenith.

When a twist of fate lands them instead on the Banshee, a vessel of dubious repute, Doran learns he’s been framed on Earth for conspiracy. As he pursues a set of mysterious coordinates rumored to hold the key to clearing his name, he and Solara must get past their enmity to work together and evade those out for their arrest. Life on the Banshee may be tumultuous, but as Solara and Doran are forced to question everything they once believed about their world—and each other—the ship becomes home, and the eccentric crew family. But what Solara and Doran discover on the mysterious Planet X has the power to not only alter their lives, but the existence of everyone in the universe…

Starflight’ gripped me from the start to the finish. Brilliant pacing. There was always a twist, and obstacle to overcome for our protagonist Solara ‘Lara’ a convicted criminal trying to get to the outer rims where she can start a new life for herself away from ridicule and judgement.

Told entirely from Solara’s perspective ‘Starflight’ sees a hate to love relationship grow with an old entitled classmate Doran. He takes pompous and stuck-up to new heights. But when Doran threatens to maroon Solara she injects him with a serum that causes him to lose his memory. With security breathing down her neck she is forced to board another ship pretending to be someone else and Doran as her indentured slave. Little did she know that would start a chain of events that would bring even more trouble.

Starflight’ was a delightful read – literally everything gets thrown at the crew of the spaceship ‘Banshee’ which Solara thought to be her ticket out of a tight spot. This story has the perfect balance of plot, pacing, and character development.

I would’ve liked to see the crew of ‘Banshee’ take a more prominent role in the story – it felt like their backstories were more for plot points (even though the reveals were magic.) That and with so many obstacles for our protagonist to overcome, at times with so much thrown at her, I felt the hand of the author having fun dramatizing the challenges. This really feels like a kids action adventure movie set in space. With that in mind, for the tone is solidly in the YA bracket, there are some adult themes like mention of sexual relationships, and some of the violence that pops up could be a little confronting or graphic for some… but it was also comical in parts and helped raise the stakes in others. I think it is more a case of judging the reading level/maturity of the reader in tackling these themes.

This book gave me a lot of surprises kept me engaged throughout and had endearing characters. Plus I’m a sucker for enemies to lovers and found family tropes. Melissa Landers is also great with her world building but I would have liked to get a touch more maturity in the tone of the narrative given the themes and topics tackled in ‘Starflight.’

Definitely a strong recommendation from me – and there’s a sequel! ‘Starfall’ so keep an eye out for a review coming soon.

Overall feeling: Out of this world!

© 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 – ‘Wilder Girls’ by Rory Power

Boarding school girls under quarantine from a virus that changes your body into something else.

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, LGBQTIA+, horror

No. of pages: 357

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

I was glad to hear there is a possibility of a sequel forthcoming, because we don’t get a lot of answers surrounding the myth and history of the world of Raxter, just a small personal history of one of our protagonists – Hetty. Hetty comes across as the ‘born yesterday’ trope, so she is a great protagonist as an introduction to elements the girls at the Raxter boarding school face with some sort of biological outbreak putting the school into isolation. It’s only in the last third of the novel that we start to see her gather her wits and courage to follow her instincts rather that going with the flow. Her questioning the status quo is what really sees the plot revealing itself.

The second POV is from Hetty’s best friend Byatt. Byatt is more gutsy, more head strong, and I feel the narrative only followed her to reveal some plot points because once that job was done, there really wasn’t much use for her perspective. Though she was a great motivator for Hetty.

Reese is Hetty’s love interest and the third member that rounds out this trio of a friendship group. Hetty’s father was the groundskeeper of the Raxter boarding school and a permanent resident of the island. So Reese has intimate knowledge of the islands ins and outs (and secrets.) Reese is the lens that Hetty starts to come to terms with her feelings and burgeoning sexuality. The voice of reason.

The biological outbreak on the island is called the Tox and seems to morph the biology of whatever it infects with elements of other biological organisms – hence the body horror. Parts of the residents of the Raxter School for Girls are taking on characteristics of other things – that is if the Tox doesn’t kill them outright. The Army and CDC are working for a cure offsite and dropping in supplies to help the school survive. The remaining teachers and girls have to gate themselves in the grounds of the school because infected wildlife on the island have now become aggressive and dangerous. Every day is a fight for survival waiting for a cure… or for the Tox to take them down in an agonising death.

I’m conflicted about the girls reaction to death: on the one hand they are dealing with so much they are in shock or suffering a form of PTSD, of the fact of what they have gone through has desensitised them to death, loss, and grief. It’s a hard one to judge – I think a sequel will help me form a better opinion on this and how the author sees the character handling such heavy events.

Rory Power’s writing style is alluring, succinct, and resonant, echoing the horrific and beautiful tone of ‘Wilder Girls.’ I wouldn’t say this is a horror per se, but it has elements of body horror that make your skin crawl.

I really enjoyed my time reading ‘Wilder Girls,’ though the story line is fairly simple and it took a long time for the plot to move forward. There is a lot of space setting up tone, character relationships, character development, and ambience… which I felt slowed down the pace more than necessary. ‘Wilder Girls’ has the feel of a Gothic horror, without being a gothic horror – just in the cadence it is written.

There are a number of seeds planted in the plot that weren’t resolved, that I’m hoping we’ll get to in the sequel(s) – I feel like the story only just got going when ‘Wilder Girls’ ended. I feel I would have rated this higher if I got more of that satisfaction at the end. There were just too many unanswered questions.

I won’t say the story was all that predictable, I mean I had my hunches and they sort of came about, but there was plenty of surprise and mystery to impress me and draw me further into the narrative.

I strong recommendation from me – the writing style alone is enough for me to be shoving this into my friends hands.

Overall feeling: An atmospheric read with elements of body horror

© 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.