Book Review – ‘Fire With Fire’ (#2 Burn for Burn) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

Payback is a bitch… make that three bitches.

Fire With Fire Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Paranormal

No. of pages: 517

From Goodreads:

Lillia, Kat, and Mary had the perfect plan. Work together in secret to take down the people who wronged them. But things didn’t exactly go the way they’d hoped at the Homecoming Dance.

Not even close.

For now, it looks like they got away with it. All they have to do is move on and pick up the pieces, forget there ever was a pact. But it’s not easy, not when Reeve is still a total jerk and Rennie’s meaner than she ever was before.

And then there’s sweet little Mary…she knows there’s something seriously wrong with her. If she can’t control her anger, she’s sure that someone will get hurt even worse than Reeve was. Mary understands now that it’s not just that Reeve bullied her—it’s that he made her love him.

Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, burn for a burn. A broken heart for a broken heart. The girls are up to the task. They’ll make Reeve fall in love with Lillia and then they will crush him. It’s the only way he’ll learn.

It seems once a fire is lit, the only thing you can do is let it burn…

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After enjoying the first book in this trilogy ‘Burn for Burn’ despite its immature narrative tone, I was eager to see where all the elements that were introduced in the debut were going… and well, ‘Fire With Fire’ took an unexpected turn – and I loved it! I felt this book was much better than the first. Having established all the characters in the first book, there was no confusion over who was who. We also got many of the plot elements developed further or answered in ‘Fire With Fire.’

There are a few turn-abouts with the characters which are executed deliciously‎. It follows suit of the first novel with the main trio of characters unveiling a different point of view to reveal an alternate opinion on their group of friends (and frenimies). I was a little frustrated with how the facts (and the reasons Lillia, Kat, and Mary began their little pact) were forgotten, or became blurry, the more convoluted their situation became.

We don’t get the numerous flashbacks like in the first novel either, which was a welcome change.

The paranormal element gets heavily explored here too – and I loved it. It was hands down my favourite part of the book. I can confidently say ‘Fire with Fire’ does not suffer middle-book-syndrome. It felt more complete to me than the debut.

Fire With Fire Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI’m getting really frustrated with Lillia, she got date raped in the past from drinking and hanging out with randy teenage boys – and then keeps repeating that behaviour. No-one deserves to be drugged and sexually assaulted, but it seems like she hasn’t learnt her lesson and intentionally putting herself in a position for it to happen again. Dumb.

Lillia is my uptight drama queen. And although she can annoy the crap out of me at times, her antics and personality really pad out the narrative.

Excited about the exploration of Mary’s character, but am still on the fence about her storyline – I wanted more face time with her – it was a little brief and left me feeling like I’d only scratched the surface.

Kat’s character still felt like she did in the first novel, even though she’s meant to be edgy, maybe a bit gothic, I found her a little vanilla.

The pacing was also much better – but in saying that, there were also a few spots that really dragged. The writing style felt like it had improved from the debut – it didn’t feel as flat. Though, we don’t get as much of the comedic elements as we did in ‘Burn for Burn.’ Neither did we see much of Nadia (Lillias little sister) and that familial dynamic Han writes so well.

It was nice to read towards the end how the main cast were acting a little more responsibly and having realistic reactions to things that had both happened, and we’re currently happening.

The cliff-hanger (and ending of the novel) threw me, and I did not see it coming in a million years! It has me gagging for the final book in the series ‘Ashes to Ashes‎.’ Packaged with beautiful cover art, a diverse cast, a contemporary story line with a paranormal edge, this series has spacious typesetting and large font aiding to its overall aesthetic and ease of completion.

Another quick read, despite its 517 pages. I spread it out over 2 sittings and 2 days, but could have easily completed it in one. I was dubious about this series at the start, but am coming to love it now. Let’s hope ‘Ashes for Ashes’ can bring it on home!

Overall reaction: had me clapping!

Fire With Fire Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Fire With Fire 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.

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Reading Stephen King always takes me back to my teen years, nestled up on my bed to escape the world outside and get a scare. The safe adrenaline junkie!

The main character in ‘The Dark Half’ is a writer, so it was doubly exciting to see the antagonist traits of a writers psyche come to life.

Book Review – ‘Darkness Under The Sun’ (#0.5 What The Night Knows) by Dean Koontz

You really shouldn’t talk to strangers.

Darkness Under The Sun Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Horror

No. of pages: 60

From Goodreads:

There once was a killer who knew the night, its secrets and rhythms. How to hide within its shadows. When to hunt. 

He roamed from town to town, city to city, choosing his prey for their beauty and innocence. His cruelties were infinite, his humanity long since forfeit. But still . . . he had not yet discovered how to make his special mark among monsters, how to come fully alive as Death. 

This is the story of how he learned those things, and of what we might do to ensure that he does not visit us. 

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Spotting a review for ‘Darkness Under the Sun’ just before I was about to pick up ‘What the Night Knows’ was kismet. I quickly added this novella to my e-reader ready to submerge into a scary and thrilling prelude, set the tone to whatever paranormal force is to feature in the main novel. And what I read was sufficiently spooky, it reminded me of Roald Dahl or Edgar Allen Poe. I got an unnerved sense straight away about how the protagonist, a thirteen year old Howey Dugley meets a mysterious adult drifter new friend (Alton Turner Blackwood) back in 1989. And I think it’s meant to be on purpose. Red flags start to wave and the reader is meant to notice them… all to set them up for the twist. A twist that gave me a shiver.

Darkness Under The Sun Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI’ve been scared by some of Koontz books, afraid to step out of bed in the dark, too chicken to investigate noises outside my window at night. This tale didn’t do that. It left me feeling creeped out. That prickling of hair at the back of your neck.

I appreciated how Howie develops as a character and commits to paying recompense for his actions (fingering fellow school student Ron Bleeker as a bully who deserves recompense to Alton, whom he knows is dangerous) – which in turn takes on a philosophical significance of the story. Not before jumping forward in time to Howies 32nd year, and events begin to re-emerge mirroring the past he’s tried to forget and pay penance for. Leaving us set up for the novel ‘What the Night Knows.’ There is definite dark and supernatural things at work here. And ‘Darkness Under the Sun’ is the perfect teaser.

It’s a quick easy novella to read, Koontz’s usual colourful descriptive style marrying both lush beautiful landscape and brutal gore of a murder scene. Another favourite to add to my collection, you can be assured it is as good as Koontz vintage best. I’m even more keen to read ‘What the Night Knows’ and find out where this all leads and get answers to the mythology. A compact plot with a spiritual message.

Overall feeling: I think I thought I heard someone whispering my name in the dark… eep!

Darkness Under The Sun 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.

Wrap up – The Leech Trilogy by James Crawford

A fun X-men type trilogy with a gay protagonist that I thoroughly enjoyed.
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James Crawford has been fearless when writing this trilogy, not fading away from carnage and devastation, and his writing has gotten better with each installment. With the final book prolific in the grandiose battle and wrapped up the trilogy expertly. This guy really knows how to write a climactic ending.

I did get a little disappointed with having precedence set up with ‘Caleo’ and ‘Jack’ being each from their perspectives respectively, to ‘Nolan’ told in multiple perspective. And I didn’t get to live inside Nolan’s head for as long as I wanted to. We got snippets of his backstory, but did not get to dwell in the present, fathom out motivations and feelings with him as we did the other main characters in the preludes. So I felt a little cheated. Plus he was my favorite character, so I was shipping him all the way.

The character development is subtle as each of the protagonists grow up facing their changed world and the looming threats – not to mention their sexuality and fears of love ans acceptance. There are a lot of tropes in this trilogy, but it falls into the guilty pleasure category for me. I found myself swooning in the romance, coming out stories, and elemental powers. So my enjoyment for this collection is based on entertainment value. It certainly fired up my imagination and left me to escape into a world reminiscent of X-Men characters.

I admit having some issues with the writing style and plot in each of the books, but if marathoned you’ll get a much better experience. There were also a few strings not tied up – the translation of “the book,” and more information on the creation, mythology and intention of Leeches. But I guess it leaves it open ended enough for more books to be written in this universe. And James Crawford has even offered to publish a book from another author if they are willing to take up the challenge. (see his website for details.)

It warms my heart to see diversity starting to become mainstream in the publishing universe. It offers up a greater opportunity for escapism, and education of the challenges other people face. Be it fictional or not, there is generally some adversity for the main characters to overcome which we can pull strength and real life lessons from. The Leech trilogy was no exception. It tackles bullying, ethnic cleansing, and being a refugee as undertones of the ‘being different trope.’

So while no literary masterpiece, its magnificent escapism to indulge in if your into superheroes and origin stories with a gay twist. A fun addition to my library.

Leech Trilogy Wrap Up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Caleo’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/book-review-caleo-leech-1-by-james-crawford/

Jack’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/book-review-jack-leech-2-by-james-crawford/

Nolan’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/book-review-nolan-leech-3-by-james-crawford/

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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.

No nudes at work.

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I swear a Google internet search is out to embarrass the heck out of me at times. Seriously, is there a little man at the other end of the line laughing his guts out as he slips inappropriate content into my search results? I like to hunt down images to include in my storyboards for works in progress. It helps flesh out the world building and characters for me.

Parental controls sometimes block content that I feel doesn’t need to be blocked. And, I’m not searching outright for adult material, so I am always surprised when confronting images pop up in my search results.

But recently I’ve been noticing a trend where pornographic content is increasingly slipping into the results. Yesterday I typed in “cow” and “farm” and about halfway down the page a number of full-frontal images of couples ‘doing it’ were on display. Even though I work in an office all alone, I quickly glanced behind me in shame. The same happened when I’ve typed in “romance” and “flowers.” What tha! I once got images of a girl performing fellatio after typing “buttons.” It was worse when I accidently typed in “drunk girl” into the search bar instead of in my document… my eyes just about fell out of my skull.

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I know I’m a little bit of a prude. But I can handle some titillation – I mean I’m an adult. I’ve seen things. But when you’re in the middle of typing out an article, or adding to that manuscript, and you’re getting a little graphic support and these explicit images jump out at you… well it’s unexpected. Shocking.

Needless to say, I’ve reviewed my parental controls a number of times, but something always manages to slip by every now and then.

It’s amusing at how the most random, unconnected phrase will result in some pornographic picture popping up in the search results.

I remember in one of my previous jobs in an open office plan. There were close to 80 of us on one floor at workstations, no walls. No partitions. It was easy to glance up at any given time and peruse many monitors. I used to get a lot of PowerPoint presentations to whip up, and doing image searches turned into a harrowing experience. Searching for images when the boss walks by and there’s a female presenting her rear like a baboon, pants down, facial expression like it was some kind of accident she was caught in such a compromising condition… yikes!

It is funny, almost slapstick, if you can roll with the punches and have a sense of humour. But there are some workplaces where something like this could have you hauled in front of Human Resources.

I dare not imagine what images would scroll up if I actually typed in something obviously graphic… I might have to wash out my eyeballs, or lose my lunch. I’m happy in my rainbows, unicorns and puppies bubble of positivity when I’m writing. Disturbing images give me a headache and have me wondering what kind of people are out there. Great ideas for horror or psychological thrillers when you’re building an antagonist. But I don’t need to be barraged by graphic content on a daily basis at work.

It’s not the search engines fault – if you do a bit of I.T. sleuthing, these images are being tagged with more and more mundane words in ways to trap a browser into visiting their website. It’s all about directing internet traffic. An unfortunate side of the internet – sprukers for dark net. I guess it’s to be expected. At your computer you can be exposed to the entire planet, both good and bad. It’s up to us to tailor what gets to pop up on our screen. And like story writing, those computer skills develop over time – or you simply develop a thick skin. Become desensitized and no longer ‘see’ that type of content.

I get a little worried about what our children get exposed to, and it reminds me to always be vigilant and monitor kids internet activity. Educate them about right and wrong and how to navigate those tricky situations online.  It’s better to be informed than ignorant I say.

Because isn’t it better to laugh about some random picture of a man dressed in leather with a gasmask on in the results when you type in “puppies” than start freaking out about the state of the worlds social morals?

 

What kind of random results have you gotten from an internet search that cause you to turn red?

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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 – ‘End of the Innocence’ (#4 Tales from Foster High) by John Goode

A drama filled gay contemporary we can all learn from.

End of Innocence (TFFH #4) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 300

From Goodreads:

Kyle Stilleno is no longer the invisible boy, and he doesn’t quite know how he feels about it. On one hand, he now has a great boyfriend, Brad Greymark, and a handful of new friends, and even a new job. On the other hand, no one screamed obscenities at him in public when he was invisible.

No one expected him to become a poster boy for gay rights, either—at least not until Kyle stepped out of the closet and into the limelight. But there are only a few months of high school left, and Kyle doubts he can make a difference.

With Christmas break drawing closer, Kyle and Brad are changing their lives to include each other. While the trials are far from over, they have their relationship to lean on. Others are not so lucky. One of their classmates needs their help—but Kyle and Brad’s relationship may be too new to survive the strain.

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After falling in love with the angsty bind-up or the first three books in this series, all the drama that the two protagonists Kyle and Brad face, I went out and purchased the rest of the books in this collection. I’m anticipating more challenges and a strong foundation to grow with this couple. I look forward to a collection of contemporary stories following a gay couple, as I’ve pretty much only read standalones. Usually series fall into the fantasy genre. I wanted real-life issues and a positive long-lasting relationship. And that is what Tales From Foster High has continued to deliver with this fourth instalment ‘End of the Innocence.’

I must admit, I was very disappointed with the first half of this book. The characters seemed to have gone backward and acting in unexpected ways. It was also blindingly obvious that the authors hand was guiding the story in the direction he wanted it to go. Nothing felt organic and I felt crushed.

End of the Innocence Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlilseThen in the last half things got better, Kyle and Brad got their old spark back, and I found some chemistry with the narrative. It still had a forced tone about it, like author was using the story to highlight a cause and opinions around it.

There was a lot of repetition of ‘I love you’s’ and ‘it gets better,’ which became mildly annoying. But the couple were endearingly clueless and cute at the same time. The continual switching of perspective between Kyle and Brad didn’t really add much – I felt it disarmed some great storytelling devices to build up tension and drive the story forward. As a reader I like to be kept guessing – having the answers laid out for me, of what was going on in each of their heads all the time deflated some of the angst I’ve come to expect from this series.

I like how it wasn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows. Mainly because it revolved around a cause – and this therein lies my difficulty with ‘End of the Innocence.’ On the one hand, it came off as preachy and totally did not fit the Kyle and Brad story so far. Characters out of context. But on the other, once I got over that hurdle and the story got going, it was bloody brilliant. There are some important things brought up in the narrative facing gay youth and I liked the way it’s introduced, discussed, and handled.

It brought up things like bullying and suicide, and how to approach these in a way other than violence – which was amazing to read. There is even a little more in the author’s note at the back of the book as to why these topics were discussed.

So while I commend this book for the issues it tackles, and applaud actually spelling out ways to combat it; I felt the story as a whole was a little disjointed. So far it is my least favourite of the series, but gives the best support for issues faced by some gay youth.

I’d only recommend this for those who strongly connect with the material, or fans of the series.

Overall feeling: mmmmokay…

End of the Innocence Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

End of the Innocence Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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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.