Book Review – ‘Burn Bright’ (#2 Dark Star) by Bethany Frenette

A novel with the promise of a bright future.

Burn Bright (#2 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal

No. of pages: 339

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Audrey Whitticomb saved her entire city.

Well, kind of. The superhero Morning Star (who just happens to be Audrey’s mom) might have played a small part, and her sidekick, Leon—Audrey’s sort-of boyfriend, who is gorgeous… and frustrating—maybe helped, too.

But after two peaceful months, there is a vicious new threat in Minneapolis. Her name is Susannah, and she’s a Harrower, a demon hell-bent on destroying people like Morning Star, Leon, and Audrey—the Kin. Like others before her, she seeks the Remnant, a Kin girl who has the power to unleash the inhabitants of the Beneath. But to what end?

Audrey already has a ton on her plate: dealing with her best friend Tink’s boy drama, helping her other best friend Gideon figure out his nightmares, and exploring the highs and lows of “dating” Leon. But when she develops a powerful new ability, Audrey seizes on the chance to fight, despite her mother’s protests and Leon’s pleas.

As Audrey gets closer to figuring out Susannah’s motives and tracking down the Remnant, she’ll uncover more than she bargained for. The terrible truth is staring Audrey in the face. But knowing the truth and accepting it are very different things.

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This was a definitive improvement on the debut ‘Dark Star.’ Though the first half suffered many of the pitfalls I had with the debut: immature writing, fairly two dimensional characters, and a bumbling teen protagonist who kept getting in her own way. It can be very frustrating. But the pacing was much better in ‘Burn Bright.’ It still could have done with a decent editor to really tighten up the narrative and pacing, but this novel was a much better construction than what I was anticipating.

I won’t talk too much about the characters, they did not feel developed or explored enough for me. There are some character arcs for secondary cast members which were much more satisfying that those of the principal characters in this story. The potential is there, though ‘Burn Bright’ could have been so much bigger. Again, some lost potential subsequent of not having a decent developmental editor.

Burn Bright (#2 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Bethany Frenette did manage to surprise me with a few plot points and reveals that I did not see coming. What a joy. It has completely redeemed the trajectory of this series in my eyes. Still the concept of ‘superheroes’ and demon slayers juxtaposing is grating to me, but I found myself getting invested in the story towards the end.

I’m glad to see some improvement in storytelling and an elevated standard in Frenette’s writing; there is still a way to go before I would recommend this. It still feels more like juvenile fiction than young adult. Attitudes, reactions, and vision seem to fall in the scope of that demographic. I did not think I would continue with this series, but after reading ‘Burn Bright’ I am curious to see not only where the series will conclude, but also how much more improvement Frenette gains as her experience grows with each publication. The final book in this trilogy ‘Fire Fall’ was only available in e-book form on amazon.com when I first bought the novels, but when I went to purchase recently, found it is now cancelled and removed from the site. It was available on another website, but, unfortunately would not allow overseas purchases. I’ve even gone as far as contacting the author directly through email and social media, but Bethany Frenette has failed to respond to date. Disappointing that it has been pulled, and readers purchasing the first two novels cannot complete the series in any form – or that the author is engaged with her audience.

However, ‘Burn Bright’ does end on a resounding conclusion. There is only one plot thread that is potentially unresolved, so if you read these first two novels you will feel like you have reached an end… but from what I can garner from the book blurb and review on ‘Fire Fall’ we see the mythology concluded with a holistic approach – which may have answers and explanations to many of the issues I’ve had with the concept of this series from the start.

Still, I don’t think I would recommend this series without reading the final book in the trilogy – or the fact that it is no longer available. With it being cancelled, has Disney Hyperion given up the rights to the novel? Is Bethany Frenette able to self-publish for her fans? I haven’t seen any activity from her since the end of 2015…

Overall feeling: much betta!

Burn Bright (#2 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Burn Bright (#2 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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.

#bookporn

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My last book haul had me completing my collection of the Red Queen novels. I love it when you get to finish a series. What is your favourite collection of five books or more that have all been published? I’d have to say mine is a toss up between Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Picture vs Page – The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun is Also a Star Picture vs Page Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

The Sun Is Also a Star’ exceeded any expectations I had. When the book was first released there was a lot of hype, and I tend to wait and read later without any influence to sway my opinion. But I had to get a move on with the release of the film adaptation. I wanted to read the novel before its release to avoid another lengthy wait for the hype to go down… and avoid spoilers.

The Sun is Also a Star’ novel is a contemporary narrated in alternating points of view between teens Natasha, a Jamaican native, grown up in New York about to be deported; and Daniel, a Korean-American with ‘tiger’ parents pushing him towards a Yale application and becoming a doctor, despite his passion for poetry. We also get the occasional factoid chapter around physics, science, or a side characters perspective/history/future. While all of these elements are present in the film, and because of the omnipresent nature of movies the story flowed much easier from scene to scene. And the cinematography was beautiful. One of the drawbacks of the film was that it eliminated a number of characters from the narrative which hindered the whole interconnectedness/universal fate theme that runs through ‘The Sun is Also a Star.’ Some of those secondary characters added something to the story too – and leaving them out of the film to focus solely on the two romantic leads (Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton) left the movie feeling like most other romances out there. Also the novel had enough time and space to develop a strong emotional connection with and between the characters – it did not feel as strong in the film.

The Sun is Also a Star FvN Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

We see social issues of interracial relationships, racism (and typecasting), immigration (both legal and illegal), mixed in with identity, and coming of age all at that tender age where the world flips on its head – graduation of high school. It was a hot-bed of themes and issues to create a passionate contemporary. I don’t know if it’s just me but many of these hot-button issues did not resonate as strongly with me from the film; which is strange considering a visual medium can usually drag out a lot more pain. I think maybe the producers wanted to keep a lighter tone and focus on the romance.

The pacing did not lag anywhere in this novel – which is high praise for contemporary. Usually they are introspective, symbolic, and take some time to build. ‘The Sun is Also a Star’ set the stakes high straight away and kept the pressure on until the end. The pacing in the film by comparison was good, but a little slower. Maybe because the angst did not translate as strongly. Maybe I connected with Nicola Yoon’s writing style better than the tone of the movie?

We also get a pizza slice of the New York landscape. Coffee shops, record stores, the tourist strip, the corporate buildings – it was an almost magical depiction of the city as seen through the eyes of our protagonists. It was just as vibrant in the film as it was in the novel. Rotating wide shots, beautiful colour grading, and sultry close ups added atmosphere. You get some muted tones throughout to make other colours pop, and many shots had unfocused edges to draw the eye to the principal part of the scene. Brilliantly done.

On a side note – the movie soundtrack is pretty cool too!

The family dynamics of both Daniel and Natasha are also a great peek into how POC are depicted, and how their culture shape their behaviour. I will say the novel depicted more of a stereotypical version in compared to the film. But it was intentional in the book to illustrate a socio-political view. It was softened in the film – and successfully – I feel it may have come off a bit mirco-aggression-y without that tweak.

The Sun is Also a Star FvN Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I did find the ending typical of contemporaries, that ‘what if’ moment, leaving the reader to make up their own mind as to what happens after the last page. But it does this with an unexpected flair and twist that I enjoyed. The film’s conclusion felt – cute- it lost the impact of the novel (again due to the cuts from characters/loss of angst.) I liked it, but nothing I would rave about. The film teased the novels ending but then went in a different direction.

One theme that is strongly resonating throughout is that we are made up of the same molecules as the universe, proving that everything is connected. It pushes this further by playing with fate, predetermination, and how universal forces follow an order about things. I found it poetic. Sometimes it can be cliché, but the novel ‘The Sun Is Also a Star’ managed to pull it off with sophistication. The film did have this undercurrent, but it felt more like a story of love and fate. Like the universe will always open a door for your to find your one true love. A great concept, but less grand in stature to the novels theme. At least it didn’t come off as cheesy.

The novel is definitely superior to the film, but I’d recommend both.

The Sun is Also a Star FvN 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.

The importance of scheduling your writing time.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

You want to finally write that novel? Here’s a great tip that has never failed me. I’ve spoken to many aspiring authors and published authors, and inevitably the discussion comes around to how do you write? The getting-stuff-done part, not the process.

Basically it has come down to a very simple rule for me (and nearly everyone I canvased for this article) – you need to make a dedicated window of time each day/week for your writing. I did this while I was working full-time, and when I started writing from home full-time.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI have a rule of absolutely no interruptions for me to get in the zone and write. Even if the words aren’t flowing so well, I have a number of techniques to coax the prose. So writer’s block isn’t a thing for me. I have many tools to keep me writing, and multiple projects to jump to if needed. The biggest hurdle is having time to write.

No running chores, no telephone conversations, no social media, just a comfortable place to sit and get the ideas formed into sentences and on to the page.

At the moment I dedicate the minimum of an hour a day. I set a timer. And beware my demon snarling wrath if you impede on my creative time.

Usually I will write longer than this self-imposed minimum, but I found setting the bar too high stresses me out, leaves me feeling like I’m falling behind. It also allows me to plan my day, whether I have appointments, chores, or other life stuff to do; knowing I get at least an hour of dedicated writing time puts my anxiety in a box, buried deep in a dark hole, never to raise its bothersome head again.

Now this 1 hour minimum takes many forms in its delivery: I could be in my office, completely quiet; I could be in my pj’s lounging on the couch, the dog asleep on me feet; I could be at the library, noise-cancelling earbuds in playing chill-out tunes; maybe at the University library feeling studious amongst all those people filling their brains with knowledge; or even at a café where I can indulge in the atmosphere and the occasional pastry. Heck, I’ve even written on a blanket in the rainforest to the soundtrack of birds chirping, or under the shade of palm trees at the beach. Whatever is working for me at the time. I need to mix it up so I don’t feel complacent or stale. And as long as I get in a minimum of an hour a day to write.

The importance of scheduling your writing time Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Depending on your process, and your situation, you’ll have to adapt this concept to work for you. I know authors who write 10 hours a day in silence (in a stylishly converted shed); some 4-5 hours in a bustling coffee shop; I know a mom who has 1 hour of quiet time from her four children, locks herself away in the attic/office to get stuff done while her husband takes his turn of the child-rearing business. Heck, when I was working in the city and had an hours commute either way, I’d write while listening to music – that meant 2 hours a day to scribble out a narrative. Score!

Work out a reasonable goal for you, be it daily or weekly, and stick to it. Maybe you only write for a few hours on the weekend? You might feel the flow just before bed and spend some time before calling it a day?

It’s all about commitment and perseverance because writing a novel is a big, long-term project. There’s writing the thing, re-writing the thing, editing the thing, maybe doing all those things several times over, and getting the thing published. So creating a regular habit around your writing can only assist you tremendously in your journey.

Get to it fellow scribes.

 

Do you have any writing rituals that help keep you on track and motivated? I’d love to hear what tricks and tips you use.

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss’ by Kasie West

Acting, school and boys – typical teen stuff. But sabotage – yikes!

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 384

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Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

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It looks like Kasie West is back on her winning formula. Another enjoyable escapist romance with ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss.’

Set in the same universe as ‘Love, Life, and the List’ we follow protagonist Lacey, and aspiring teen actor in her first big movie role as a zombie. Only she has a helicopter/hover father and schoolwork to contend with as well as her acting job. Enter the cute tutor Lacey’s father hires to ensure she at least gets a passing grade, because, you know this whole acting thing may just be a whim no matter how serious, and how long Lacey has taken on being an actor. Tutor Donavan is straight-laced and all business. The business of learning. Only adding to Lacey’s daily pressures. Then little things start to go wrong on set… nothing like piling on the stress.

Again this is a cute contemporary, a quick read, as West has established as her brand. It didn’t quite have the quirky field of characters as her earlier works, but ‘Fame, Fate and then First Kiss’ still managed to captivate my attention and keep me engaged until the end. Lacey is cute and sassy but with a mostly level head. I almost wanted her to be a bit more headstrong to create some more tension. Or at least something so she wasn’t so… vanilla. So to with her love interest Donavan. He was very much a perfect wish-fulfilment type of guy. I’m used to a bit more character from West’s leading men.

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Contrasting that we have some of Lacey’s co-stars who are very sure of themselves (or very full of themselves) which added some colour to the mix.

I did love the small mystery plot line as well; it helped keep the pace and tension right to the end, rather than this being an angst-fest. So a slightly different tone to West’s usual fare, but a welcome change. Though, please bring back those interesting characters…

There is not necessarily a lot of character development, rather more of a burgeoning understanding and better lines of communication being established. So while the plot is mostly predictable (small mystery aside) and because of the ‘vanilla’ characters and less angsty storyline, the pay-off wasn’t as great as I was hoping. Though still entertaining and definitely a step in the right direction after a lull in late 2018 to early 2019.

I liked the connection to Abby  and Cooper and am looking forward to the final book set in this universe ‘Moment of Truth’ to be released in March 2020.

A solid entry into my guilty pleasure collection, though I wanted a bit more complexity of plot and a dash more interest in the cast. Recommend to lovers of teen YA romances, it was a pleasant way to wile an afternoon on the lounge with a hot cup of tea.

Overall feeling: *sips tea*

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss 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.

#bookquotes

#BQ In An Absent Dream by Casey Carlisle

I’ve been trying to get into fantasy again… there are sooo many books of this genre on my TBR shelves, but I can’t seem to last long before switching back to different genres. I used to consume fantasy novels. How tastes change as you grow and develop as a reader.

What genre has fallen out of favor for you?