Playing Dead

…the one where I kept getting stopped in the street by concerned neighbours thinking my dog has been run over by a car.

Playing Dead Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

Baillie, my little black and white Shi-Tzu loves going for walks. He is gun-ho all the way. We stop at every blade of grass to sniff and wizz on. We wave to people on the street and get lots of pats. Doting words of what a cute pooch he is. We may stop right in front of said people, or in the middle of driveways to do a big pooh that looks like Polywaffle chocolate bar – lucky I’m not embarrassed. Kids giggle. Adults pretend it’s not happening and move on. I come prepared with doggie bags and praise him for his ablutions… saves me getting interrupted while working with a warning bark at the back door – Toilet time Mummy!

And that’s how the afternoon walk progresses. Heavy panting and pulling on the lead this way and that. Smell. Wizz. Smell. Wizz. Squirrel!

Playing Dead Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgUsually we get home before he drinks half a bowl of water and collapses, blissful, satiated. Though on rare occasions, Baillie runs out of steam… and there he’ll sit. Decided he’s had enough. And he’s not movin’. No way. No how. (At which point I start having flashbacks to YouTube clips of owners dragging their dead-weight furbabies along the pavement by the lead.)

Lucky for his miniscule stature and teddy bear nature, I can carry him the rest of the way home with ease.

He loves to be carried. Like a little child at night time, Baillie will always pretend to be asleep so I have to carry him to his bed. Observant to when I start to turn off the lights, he’ll lie down, faking slumber, waiting to be scooped up and placed on his blankie.

But he doesn’t snuggle into you. He hangs there like a wet limp noodle.

So as I’m walking back home from our afternoon walk. There’s Bailie, flaccid in my arms, tongue lolling out to one side. Flopping with each pace. He really looks dead to the untrained eye.

People run up “Oh no! What happened?” Then Baillie’s head will lazily roll to cast a discerning eye – really, the most minimal effort he can muster to satisfy his mild curiosity; to which I have to explain that he is fine and simply tired. Or lazy. Or just wants to be carried. “Goodness I thought your dog got hit by a car or something.” And then he gets pats and scratches… it’s all a big sympathy ploy I’m sure.

Such a baby.

But I love him to bits. And I’d carry him with me anywhere.

Muttly Mania by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Goodbye Paradise’ by Sarina Bowen

It felt like that inappropriate conversation you had at your last dinner party.

Godbye Paradise Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Contemporary, Romance, GLBT

No. of pages: 266

From Goodreads:

In Paradise, there is no television. No fast food. Just long hours of farm work and prayer on a dusty Wyoming ranch, and nights in a crowded bunkhouse. The boys of the Compound are kept far from the sinners’ world. 

But Joshua doesn’t need temptation to sin. His whole life, he’s wanted his best friend, Caleb. By day they work side by side. Only when Josh closes his eyes at night can they be together the way he craves. 

It can never be. And his survival depends on keeping his terrible desires secret.

Caleb has always protected Josh against the worst of the bullying at the Compound. But he has secrets of his own, and a plan to get away — until it all backfires. 

Josh finds himself homeless in a world that doesn’t want him. Can Caleb find him in time? And will they find a place of safety, where he can admit to Josh how he really feels? 

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This book was difficult and uncomfortable for me. Which feels hard to say because the narrative style and writing was quite pleasant. My discomfort came from the subject matter – a polygamy cult. Most of the time, anything I’ve read with a strong religious element is written so badly, and the prejudices that go along with their belief systems really gets my shackles up – so much that I usually toss (or throw) the book aside in frustration. But my biggest issue with ‘Goodbye Paradise’ was plausibility.

There were so many issues with poorly researched facts that I was grating my teeth through the entire novel. Men at the age of twenty, with a third grade education, isolated from the outside world would have a vastly different mindset to those of Caleb and Joshua. The lexicon they used was way off base. So too were a lot of their behaviours. The structure of the cult was on point, but the psychological ramifications of growing up in that environment were for the most part, completely ignored. Let alone introducing characters struggling with their sexual identity. In reality they would be seriously messed up.

Caleb and Joshua seemed to have everything so easy given their circumstances. So many missed opportunities to develop the characters and have them connect through these difficulties. I mean, the angst could have been off the charts. Instead, there was some fascination (in secret) followed by full on man-groping sex. The way it was written and presented made me lose all interest in seeing this couple together in an intimate way whatsoever. The language was rough and confronting. No romance. Though there were some occasional cuddly moments afterwards… but all that does not a memorable romance make.

Goodbye Paradise Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Another pet hate – especially in romance novels with erotic content, is partners calling each other ‘baby.’ It’s just a thing which is a personal trigger of gagging noises… so it was just another thing working against me liking ‘Goodbye Paradise.’

Caleb and Joshua didn’t even have troubles to overcome in the real world all too much. Not over having grown up in a cult, not over having practically no education, and not over their self-tortured homosexuality. Even their attraction with each other was met with little self-flagellation.

I picked this book up after a rave review from a book reviewer I follow, and even after I bought it and read the blurb warning lights went off *trigger warning* this sounds like religious zealots, oppressed homosexuality and explicit sex scenes. This trope has been overdone. A little. But on the faith of a fellow lover of this genre I dived in. It’s a short book anyway, so it wouldn’t take up too much of my time.

The sex scenes did not feel titillating at all. It was all swearing and wham-bam-thank-you-man. Little build up, practically zero foreplay, a brief description of all the important bits, then a short dalliance in the afterglow. For a couple of bible bashed repressed young men, it felt totally out of character. I like my sex scenes to mean something to the plot, and to the characters. I need an emotional connection to find the scene rich and engrossing. Otherwise it comes off as insincere and smutty. ‘Goodbye Paradise’ was just on the wrong side of the line between the two.

So, I couldn’t get past the plausibility of the story to enjoy much else. Salina’s writing is lovely, but am hesitant to try any other one of her titles given the lack of character development, build-up of tension, and the abrupt, couth sex scenes. I don’t think I’d recommend this to anyone – there are so many better written novellas out there. Maybe I’d revisit this author again after she has cut her teeth on many more releases.

I didn’t get the complexity of plot or storyline either that I was hoping for – the blurb of the novel just about summarises the entire book. This was highly predictable with no surprises.

The last 20% of the book was fantastic – the pacing spot on, the plot twist and tension practically created a mini novel within this one. This last section is ‘Goodbye Paradise’s’ saving grace. I’d love to rate it higher, but looking at it as a whole, and what is already on the market, I’m sticking to my guns.

One little factoid – Sarina had previously released this book in 2015 under the pen name Nealy Wagner and it was titled ‘In Front of God and Everyone.’

Overall feeling: I wanted to love this, but I just can’t

Goodbye Paradise Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Goodbye Paradise Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ by Ally Carter

A perfect political mystery to kick off a CW tv series, or a Disney movie…

Take the Key and Lock Her Up Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery

No. of pages: 327

From Goodreads:

The princess is dead. Long live the princess.

Centuries ago, the royal family of Adria was killed…or so everyone thought.

Now Grace Blakely knows the truth: There was one survivor, and that survivor’s blood runs through her veins. This simple fact could cause a revolution—which is why some people will stop at nothing to keep it from coming to light.

There is only one way for Grace to save herself, save her family, and save the boy she loves. She must outmaneuver her foes, cut through the web of lies that has surrounded her for years, and go back to the source of all her troubles, despite the risk.

If she wins, she will inherit a throne.

And if she loses, she will inherit the fate of all the dead princesses who came before her. 

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A trilogy that culminated in spectacular form! It still reminds me of ‘The Goonies,’ a bunch of teenagers pulling together against all odds, risking peril for their noble quest, ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ captured my youthful excitement with its drama, subterfuge and a European setting.

The narrative dragged a bit for me – continual repetition of clues, rehashing of the past, and Grace’s “episodes’ – all recounted in such efficacy that I ended up putting this book down numerous times because I just wasn’t that into it. But that’s the worst of it.

Take the Key and Lock Her Up Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI really liked Grace’s strength in this final installation of the Embassy Row trilogy. She was bad-ass. Though I found her continually slipping into PTSD mode : her episodes, were becoming tiring. I’d much rather see her come to terms with her demons earlier on in the piece. The whole wounded damsel thing was wearing thin. Especially when she was able to dismiss it and launch into terrifying situations in other moments. A little inconsistent from someone suffering the mental issues Grace was tackling.

The mystery side of things is expert level 10! I loved all of the plot twists, how facts were revealed, it is truly the best part of this series. Carter really knows how to plot and pace a story.

The rest of the Scooby Gang that featured so prominently in the first book, their relevance, and presence has slowly dwindled with each installment. To the point where I wasn’t really believing their friendship by the conclusion of ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up.’ Grace manages to push people away and get so tied up in her predicament, she comes across as being a friend only when she needs their help for something. And don’t get me started on her brother Jamie – he felt like a prop, rather than a key person to the storyline and her motivation.

The same can be said for the love interest, Alexei, I got so invested in them over the second book (‘See How They Run’) of the trilogy, but didn’t feel the magic here.

I liked the twists and turns, but ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ felt like some of the antagonists were practically cartoonish. The novel, and series, feels more like a Saturday cartoon serial than realistic YA fiction. It lacked a certain maturity in the writing style. I think it could have been streamlined and something extra injected into the narrative to give it some oomph without isolating its demographic.

It was fun, and I enjoyed ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up,‘ but as you can gather from my review there is a tone of disappointment. It’s like the complexity and character development has been decreasing with each instalment. I really wanted things to go out in a mammoth climax. And while it was spectacular as far as plot goes, I did not connect so much with the characters this time. I didn’t get that buzz when I finished the last page like I normally do.

I won’t say it was predictable – because what I assumed was going to happen, totally didn’t. I really think if I had been able to get emotionally invested in the cast more, I would have given this a full five stars/kisses because the writing is marvelous, the story outstanding… it was just slightly juvenile… (which *cough* is totally is marketed demographic, so maybe I should just leave the room)

Definitely recommend this for younger YA audiences who love a mystery, lost princesses, action, and a bit of political intrigue.

Overall feeling: Bring me more popcorn!

Take the Key and Lock Her Up Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Take the Key and Lock Her Up Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘No Ordinary Star’ by M.C. Frank

Did not shine brightly for me.

No Ordinary Star Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 150

From Goodreads:

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do. 

A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive. 

A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack. 

The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.
The year is 2525. 

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‘No Ordinary Star’ hit me hard from the get-go. With little world building and jumping straight into the action; I was clamouring to makes sense of what the book is about. The writing style feels clunky and I haven’t quite worked out what the subtext of the narrative is yet. Unfortunately this confusion stayed with me right to the end.

It’s hard to give this a good review because the story didn’t go anywhere and left everything hanging. Not even a cliff hanger as such. It felt like someone left half way through the conversation. Upon further research, I discovered that it’s one book released in three parts. I’m uncertain if this is meant to be a marketing ploy, or a way to get around contractual obligations to a publishing company (similar to Colleen Hoover and the Never Never trilogy.) But I wasn’t left with a feeling of completion once reaching the end.

So with the clambering to work out what was going on in the world of the novel, the cumbersome writing style, which is beautiful and intelligent, but does not match the genre or tone of the plot, and then concluding with-

It literally felt like it stopped mid-sentence.

I did like how the main characters, Felix and Astra are experiencing so many things for the first time. Things of nostalgia set in our present. Their reactions are delicious. But it only added to the dysphoria I had. It needed more context. Another aspect I found cool was the polar bear – he had more personality than the main characters. Even if he felt like a guest star – there one moment, gone the next without explanation.

Yeah, I can’t give this a nod of approval at all. My opinion may change drastically after the next instalment ‘No Plain Rebel’ but if I go to the point of buying a book, I want to slip easily into its fantasy world, relate to the main characters, understand what is going on, and feel like I get some pay-off, some resolution of an issue faced at the beginning of the story. I don’t feel like I got any of that with ‘No Ordinary Star.’

It was too metaphysical for my tastes, painting a landscape that took until the end of the novel for me to grasp, and so many underlying philosophical musings to enjoy how ‘a boy rescues girl and then…’ storyline. Additional to my issues with the way it has been published, characters and story. I found a number of grammatical errors that could have been picked up from a basic proof read which also added to my disappointment.

With a concept that is highly intriguing, I will give this trilogy one more chance to hook me in. Fingers crossed M.C. Frank can serve me some humble pie!

Overall feeling: one big poop emoji

No Ordinary Star Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

No Ordinary Star Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.