Book Review – ‘The Merciless III : The Origins of Evil’ (#3 The Merciless) by Danielle Vega

Going back to the beginning…

The Merciless III The Origins of Evil (#3 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, Paranormal

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

Brooklyn knows that there’s no good without evil, no right without wrong. And when a helpless girl calls her teen helpline, whispering that someone is hurting her, Brooklyn knows that she needs to save her anonymous caller, even if it means doing something bad.

Her parents and friends assure her the call was probably a prank but Brooklyn has always had a tendency to take over, whether someone has asked for help or not.

She discovers the call came from Christ First Church and finds herself plunged into the cultish community of its youth group. She’s especially drawn to Gavin, the angelic yet tortured pastor’s son.

Torn between an unstoppable attraction to Gavin and her obsession with the truth, Brooklyn is forced to make a devastating choice to rid Christ Church of evil once and for all. . . . But the devil has plans for Brooklyn’s soul.  

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This is a prelude to the first two novels following the story of a new protagonist, Brooklyn, leading right up to the events in the debut novel. It has all the uncertainty that I find Danielle Vega does so well in her writing. You want gore – you got it. And again, ‘The Merciless III’ is a quick punchy read that you can visualise as a movie.

I loved following Brooklyn’s transformation, the increments that lead her from each action, escalating as the plot evolves. You are always questioning. Is this mental illness or different shades of crazy? Is this Evil? But it is all based in reality and justifiable, so it’s a grey area. The special effects (so to speak) are straight out of a Hollywood Blockbuster and I loved the descriptions of the evil Brooklyn faces. She is gritty with a rebellious streak, determined not to become a sheep or a clone like the popular girls, sans Mean Girls.

I’m on the fence about the rest of the characters in this novel, only because I found it all a tiny unsettling. You were either getting a culty-religious-zealot vibe, or possibly-possessed-by-a-demon vibe, so it was hard to relate to, or sympathise with the cast. But those elements helped in constructing Riley as a goody-two-shoes judgemental antagonist and leader of the popular girl gang.

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There is a bit of two guys fighting over Brooklyn’s affections. Gavin, the pastor’s son: angelic and tortured. And then there’s Elijah, the laid back dude. But there’s not instalove or anything, just like and lust, so it does not read as a love triangle.

The story is predictable – I mean it’s a prequel to the first two books, so you know in which direction it’s heading, but boy oh boy if it doesn’t still throw a cat at your face. I still get shocked at the *cough-torture-porn-cough* and it is still a fast paced read. It has got me even all the more excited to get to the fourth and final book for the series. At this point I don’t know how any of the characters are going to end up surviving. Maybe they’ll all take a big dirt nap in Hell? Who knows?

I’m really loving Danielle Vega’s writing style. She can throw misdirection and doubt like a master, her characters aren’t so cookie-cutter typical either, and most always have a hidden past that is intriguing. It’s fast-paced, interesting and very teen slasher movie. Another definite recommend from me for a light YA horror which is an easy read.

There was some disorientation upon first reading as I went into this novel without any prior knowledge – eager to continue in Sofia’s journey – and felt a little confronted by a different perspective and new characters. But I quickly got over myself when I worked out what was going on.

Overall feeling: Keeping the creep factor alive since 2014.

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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 – ‘The Merciless II : The Exorcism of Sofia Flores’ (#2 The Merciless) by Danielle Vega

Mean Girls meets The Exorcist…

The Merciless II The Exorcism of Sofia Flores (#2 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, Paranormal

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

Sofia is still processing the horrific truth of what happened when she and three friends performed an exorcism that spiraled horribly out of control. Ever since that night, Sofia has been haunted by bloody and demonic visions. Her therapist says they’re all in her head, but to Sofia they feel chillingly real. She just wants to get out of town, start fresh someplace else . . . until her mother dies suddenly, and Sofia gets her wish.

Sofia is sent to St. Mary’s, a creepy Catholic boarding school in Mississippi. There, seemingly everyone is doing penance for something, most of all the mysterious Jude, for whom Sofia can’t help feeling an unshakeable attraction. But when Sofia and Jude confide in each other about their pasts, something flips in him. He becomes convinced that Sofia is possessed by the devil. . . . Is an exorcism the only way to save her eternal soul?  

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Another homerun from Danielle Vega. Continuing  right where the debut left off we follow Sofia Flores as she tries to put into context the events that happened in ‘The Merciless.’ Are there really demons out there, or is she suffering delusion brought on by mental illness? I loved how Vega supports both of these hypothesis right up until the end so you never really know what is going on until an explosive ending that throws another twist into the works.

I actually had a nightmare after reading ‘The Merciless II’ waking up in the early hours of the morning, heart pounding, feeling like there was a presence in my room. I haven’t had a sensation like that since my high school days, so there is something about Vega’s writing that resonated with me enough to unsettle my psyche. What a brilliant testimony to this series.

A highly entertaining read with a creepy undertone that raises the hairs on the back of your neck. Protagonist Sofia is isolated from the safety and familiar and forced to question everything she has seen and heard. ‘The Merciless II’ is haunting. Something about the way this story unfolds has you on Sofia’s side all the way – fanatics look insane, demons a religious fantasy, it makes sense… but there is always that ‘what if.’ And it is something that Sofia cannot ignore lest she gives in to the impossible, or declares herself insane.

The Merciless II’ steps it up from the debut, it’s more visceral, more on the line, and Sofia is even more vulnerable. I was gripped from start to finish and eager for more. A quick read, and am glad I have ‘The Merciless III : Origins of Evil’ on hand to jump into directly, as this novel ends with a twist I did not see coming and am excited to find out what happens next. Vega is turning into one of my top-tier authors. I’ve yet to be disappointed in any of her novels.

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I can’t say I predicted what was going to happen – only a vague sense that she would battle something paranormal, but no specifics. And certainly not what came to eventuate. But I am learning Vegas’ twisted sense of humour and starting to get a taste for her delightfully wicked style of storytelling.

Merciless II’ introduces us to a new setting – a Catholic boarding school and a plethora of new characters. Even though this deals with religious beliefs, exorcisms, it reads more like a monster story. Religion is merely the mythology behind the tale, not a plot point for conversion. And that is another reason why I enjoyed this book so much. I didn’t have God bashed into my skull with a well-worn leather bible, I was left to revel in the tale of Sofia being stalked – be it by some twisted mentally ill girl, or a supernatural force.

It falls well in the realms of YA. There is no extreme gore and filth, or language. It’s written for mature audiences but not adults only. But that is what you’d expect from a horror story of this genre.

Definitely recommend. It was a wild ride – but be prepared to get your hands on all four books in the series because once you finish one, you’re going to want the rest of the collection around to get the rest of the story.

Overall feeling: Heart-pounding, hair-raising, spooky fun.

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The Merciless II The Exorcism of Sofia Flores (#2 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. 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 – ‘The Merciless’ (#1 The Merciless) by Danielle Vega

A spooky version of ‘Mean Girls.’

The Merciless (#1 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, Paranormal

No. of pages: 279

From Goodreads:

Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned.

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .

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The Merciless’ definitely creeped me out. In the last half of the book I was squirming at the tension and excitement. This book is definitely a well-written YA horror. After being introduced to Danielle Vega’s writing with ‘Survive the Night’ I expected great things and wasn’t disappointed.

Sofia was a great choice for a protagonist, new to the school with a hidden past. Her Latino heritage played into the religious aspect too. The narrative doesn’t get involved in the mythology of religion, possessions, and demons, just observes what is happening.

I hope we get more of Sofia’s mum and abuela (grandmother) in the sequel. They were such a strong presence in her identity and gave her a safe place from which to deal with all the craziness.

I wish the story would have been a little more complex, and sometimes the popular girl gang who welcomed Sofia to the new school, and the situation, felt immature and ridiculous – but I was certainly hooked. What possessed (see what I did there?) these girls to think they could perform a religious rite? Little girls playing, like at a séance – until it gets ugly.

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Would have loved to explore the groups self-appointed leader, Riley’s motives and back story some more – she seemed to be the driving force for the plot. Especially with Sofia’s other friend Brooklyn who has been ostracised from the group for some reason… Is this just a gaggle of mean girls or something more?

We do get some layers peeled back from the girls (sometimes literally… ew!) to reveal failings which was a masterstroke. I love a flawed character.

I had a hunch of what the ending was going to be, but there is a little twist that I was never quite sure of until I read the words. So it is somewhat predictable, but not entirely. Plus, this novel reads like an expert thriller/horror. I have the next two books in the series and am excited to continue on very soon.

Totally recommend this series for a fun scare!

Overall feeling: *hears a noise in the dark* “AHHHH What the heck was that!!”

The Merciless (#1 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Merciless (#1 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. 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 – ‘Favorite’ by Karen McQuestion

Masterful plot for realistic fiction, but felt like I wanted more narrative.

Favorite Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: YA, Mystery

No. of pages: 174

From Goodreads:

Five years have passed since sixteen-year-old Angie Favorite’s mother disappeared without a trace. Since that day, Angie has managed to go through the motions of everyday life—until the summer morning when she’s abducted from a mall parking lot. Angie narrowly escapes, and her attacker is arrested, but he takes his life in jail before he can offer an explanation for his crime. When his mother contacts Angie, begging forgiveness on her son’s behalf, the girl agrees to meet with her in hopes of finding answers to the seemingly random attack. But when she arrives at the family’s massive estate, she is overcome by an unshakeable sense of foreboding…

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This read more like a middle-grade novel. While I enjoyed it, the tension built expertly, I found the pacing really slow. Also the protagonist Angie (Angel) felt immature most of the time. While she was ingenious and had a never-say-die attitude that was admirable, I failed to connect with her.

You get a sense very early on in the novel that there is a twist coming. And maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but I did not guess the actual twist. I had many scenarios lolling around in my head, some close to the mark, but none with the exactness of how this book unfolds. Which was a pleasant surprise. I like being out-manoeuvred by a well written novel.

Favorite Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgI was also wanting more complexity – the novel is very simple – in fact it felt a bit sparse… which considering its length is not a flattering attribute. But I can forgive that considering it was only Karen McQuestion’s second novel. I’ve really enjoyed her later releases and you can see how she had grown as an author. Persistence and practice really pay off.

I feel her writing style needed some embellishment – I wanted a richer painting of the surroundings, sights, smells, feelings. And I think that was why I did not connect with Angie and felt the pace was slow. With engaging prose, I would have whipped through this novel in a matter of hours.

The characters have single motivations and although you get a sense of how the past has shaped them, there was no growth from the events in the novel. It was great realistic fiction though.

I  don’t think I would have purchased this other than filling in McQuestion’s back catalogue from becoming a fan after reading ‘From a Distant Star’ and adding The Edgewood collection to my Library and TBR list.

Some strong story-telling elements, but tone and pacing could be improved. A great effort for this wonderful little novel.

Overall feeling: Interesting but needed more engagement…

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. 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 – ‘Dark Matter’ by Blake Crouch

Mind-bending and expanding. Sci-fi at it’s best.

dark-matter-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Science Fiction, Mystery

No. of pages: 340

From Goodreads:

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

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Dark Matter’ turned out to live up to all the hype I’ve been hearing. Although I was starting to doubt the great reviews I’d read because it takes half of the novel for things to get heated up, but when they do, it takes off in a fiery blast.

The protagonist, Jason, was the type of character that took me a while to warm up to. I guess because he flailed about so much. Reacting to the bizarre. But what else could he do? There was so much of it thrown at him in the first half that we didn’t get to know him. It wasn’t until his strength and hope started to get tested (along with his sanity) that I started to connect with him.

Amanda, fellow traveler, I felt could have been more poignant to the story – she added some psychologist wisdom as to the psyche and the multiverse, and even about the impact of facing infinity… I feel there was a missed opportunity to drive home a point at the heart of this novel – fear, inevitability and infinitesimally small nature of things. Mind blown. Instead she felt more or less like a non-event. With enjoying her take on the situation I wanted more of her in the story than we got.

Jason’s wife and son really make the narrative with their added perspective. And it’s needed because this novel gets hella cray-cray. You’ll understand when you read it.

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Dark Matter’ got waaay better after the half way mark, as I mentioned earlier, getting to know Jason, and setting up the premise of the science behind ‘Dark Matter’ takes a while. But once you get past that hump it is extremely engaging – I stayed up late to finish it. The tension and pacing were expertly crafted.

I had difficulty with any predictions on how it was going to turn out- the nature of the science and the bleak tone of the novel just leaves you with a feeling of despondency. Why? And it’s a marvellous experience to be kept on the edge of your seat. Bravo Blake Crouch!

It still only feels like we’ve scratched the surface too – that’s how massive the concept to this novel is. I think I sat there staring off into space for a while after finishing, trying to take it all in.

Dark Matter’ has a brilliant ending. Very satisfying. Highly entertaining. I’d been told it was great, and it certainly did not disappoint. There is even a little moral lesson from Jason’s wife that I thought added something extra.

There is something distinctly masculine and dry about Blake’s writing style – I found myself frequently putting this book down for a rest. The story is certainly amazing, action packed, and science nerd porn. Chock full of all the elements I love in a story, but there was something about the narrative which didn’t grab me straight away when I started reading ‘Dark Matter.’ Definitely recommend it though, especially if you like your more obtuse science fiction references.

Overall feeling: my brain! My brain!

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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.

LONERS : themes behind the sci-fi series

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A look behind the curtain into the creative process.

I was asked by a friend last week, when discussing my progress on the science fiction series I’m writing, what the significance of the titles were? So I thought I’d share my answer to the inspiration here as well…

The main novels in this collection all bare names of a deity from ancient Earth mythology. The books themselves do not involve Gods, or their mythology. It’s merely symbolic. Although we could view aliens and their technology as god-like: and that’s as far as the collusion goes.

Each book in this series, with exception of the first (‘Prelude’) follows a theme that the name incites. Asherah in Semitic mythology is the God of the oceans. Or Mother Goddess. She is also purported to be God’s wife. What better idea for the conception for a series of books? So, when Taylor finds herself on a strange planet entirely covered in water, the only human in an alien world, I felt a kinship with the name.

At the beginning of each novel there is also a quote around the mythology of the deity pertaining to the theme of the novel. It’s from some imaginary tome in the LONERS universe. I’m a big fan of literary quotes at the start of books – they help set the tone.

Hestia is the goddess of the home and hearth. Which this next book in the series deals with Taylor surviving on a harsh desert-like planet with three suns. It appears to be inhabited by… something adept in advanced technology. But there’s a heavy theme of surviving in the outback on her quest to get back home with this installment.

Gemini is the most recognisable name, which needs little explanation, as both the stories of Asherah and Hestia collide in an unexpected way.

The final book in the collection (for the time being) is Isimud. Drawn from Sumerian mythology, who is a messenger of sorts, delivering news of consequences to other Gods. Isimud is usually depicted with two faces, one staring into the past, the other into the future. With the nature of space travel and the space-time continuum this deity was the perfect choice for venturing out into space answering a message… but that’s about the most insight you’ll get for this novel 😉 Not about to spoil you on any plot points.

Themes aside, I’m really proud of the mix of adventure and science fiction that follow our protagonist heroine Taylor. Who, after being caught in a weird explosion of light, finds herself having to fight for survival in a myriad of alien situations. A story of hope and humanities will to keep on keeping on.

Taylor is a mix of a nerdy biologist and a girl who loves hiking and the outdoors. She’s going to have to use all her intelligence, wits, and will to make it through another day to survive.

Aiming for a late 2017/early 2018 release date.

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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 – ‘The Countdown’ by Kimberly Derting

Alien abduction, hybrids, and government conspiracies… wrapped up in a teen romance.

the-countdown-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 368

From Goodreads:

She may no longer be human…but she’s their only hope.

In the concluding book in the otherworldly Taking trilogy, Kyra struggles to understand who she is as she races to save the world from complete destruction.

Ever since Kyra was abducted by aliens and then returned to earth, she has known there was something different about her. Now she knows the truth: she is an alien too. Her alien captors replaced all her human DNA with their own—gifting her with supernatural powers like incredible healing, enhanced eyesight, and telekinesis. But when she’s captured by an unexpected enemy, Kyra begins to wonder if her abilities are also a curse. And is she, as her enemies believe, meant to play some key role in helping an impending alien invasion? Is it programmed into her, something inescapable? Or can she fight that destiny?

No matter what the truth is, Kyra is sure of one thing: She just rescued the love of her life, Tyler, and she is not going to stand by and let anyone hurt him or her friends. Whatever it takes, Kyra will do everything in her power to save the world…even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice. 

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clipart-music-notes-zxtg75xiaIt’s the Final Countdoooowwn! clipart-music-notes-zxtg75xia – sorry couldn’t resist. With this final instalment in The Taking trilogy, I was looking forward to a mammoth dramatic end to what has been a fun sci-fi read. But there was a lot going on. A lot of characters and points of view in the narrative. It was confusing and made me dizzy. It took me half the novel to catch up and work out what was going on.

I’ve said it so many times before: I’m not a fan of multiple perspectives.

However, after a disappointing and slow first half, the storyline began to pick up. I could barely put the novel down as I neared the finish line. We got some great pacing and tension. For the last book in a trilogy it should be this way throughout – there are so many ends to tie up, questions to answer. It should be explosive.

the-countdown-book-review-pic-04-by-casey-carlisleThere’s still a tone of immaturity about Kyra and her friends, though I can see how she has grown as a character, I didn’t get all that invested in her or the story. Which is disappointing. The attention the first book of the series really captured my imagination, but things went awry here.

Tyler, our love interest and cute in the-boy-next-door way, only had that going for him. I kept wanting to get more substance. For him to pony up. I hate to say it, but Tyler was a little… forgettable.

Simon, another of the returned and member of their ‘Scooby Gang’ started to grow on me. He was showing some moxy and putting a spanner in the works. This boy had back bone, and then at the end of the novel, I was like – where did all that go. Feelings like that aren’t resolved in an instant…. The resolution felt like little bit of a cop out.

Adam (the alien), the only other character of note didn’t give me that desperation to survive and be reunited with his race I was hoping for. There wasn’t even thankfulness at Kyra and Tyler’s sacrifice to help him escape… It really felt like all the nuance of characters we got earlier on wasn’t carried through right to the end of the trilogy. Characters are the lifeblood of your story, and you need to pay them a lot of attention.

As far as plot goes, it was still light on the explanations; though we get all the relevant answers. Something about the explanation still doesn’t sit right with me. I liked the ending, and considering the romanticism of it all, was surprised there wasn’t an alternate conclusion – I think it would have been a much more impactful ending if it opened up this trilogy to a new world of possibilities. We love to dream about the what-if’s in sci-fi!

Maybe it was the attitudes of the scientists – oversimplified and some forced to fit into the role of a villain… or not. It had me wondering where the complexity was…

As much as I enjoyed the experience reading this, the characters were pretty interchangeable and bland. Their personalities could have shined in obtuse, quirky ways to add a larger dynamic to the narrative. All in all, it was “just nice.”

Great escapism for YA readers. I’d only recommend it to those who have been engrossed by the series, but don’t get your hopes up. A light, easy to read narrative, even though a little scattered. I wanted much more from this final book, but it was still a satisfying conclusion.

Overall feeling: well that didn’t go as planned…

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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 – Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

Equal parts mystery and spookiness in this uniquely haunting tale.

 Cryers Cross Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery

No. of pages: 233

From Goodreads:

Kendall loves her life in small town Cryer’s Cross, Montana, but she also longs for something more. She knows the chances of going to school in New York are small, but she’s not the type to give up easily. Even though it will mean leaving Nico, the world’s sweetest boyfriend, behind.

But when Cryer’s Cross is rocked by unspeakable tragedy, Kendall shoves her dreams aside and focuses on just one goal: help find her missing friends. Even if it means spending time with the one boy she shouldn’t get close to… the one boy who makes her question everything she feels for Nico.

Determined to help and to stay true to the boy she’s always loved, Kendall keeps up the search—and stumbles upon some frightening local history. She knows she can’t stop digging, but Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried….

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After enjoying ‘Dead to You’ and it completely restoring my faith in Lisa McMann, I decided to give ‘Cryer’s Cross’ a go – the only other title of hers remaining unread on my shelves. No disappointment here. While it did not blow me away, ‘Cryer’s Cross’ is a pleasantly spooky supernatural tale.

What I’ve found as typical with Lisa McMann, some sort of mental illness comes into play within the plot – in this case, OCD affecting our protagonist, Kendall. McMann’s descriptions of how this disorder affects behaviour and thought patterns is bang on, and despite this affliction, I found Kendall to be a compelling character. Growing up in a small town surrounded by boys, she’s a bit sporty, a bit country, but still a girl. She is a quite hero. Cherishing her town, her friends and her family. It is endearing.

Nico, her kind-of boyfriend is equally as endearing, and it was beautiful to read how they interacted with each other. He is so devoted to her.

The new student in Kendall’s tiny school, Jacián was a mixed bag for me: although cliché, I did end up liking him. Kendall’s narrative can lead opinion swinging from left to right. Though, upon reflection I’m not sure I was sold on their ‘ship.

I liked how the mystery is built around a missing girl, feared kidnapped and quite possibly murdered.

The story line also develops organically with a slow burn. Such a constant intriguing pace with an easy to read narrative that kept me glued to the page and I completed this novel in one sitting.

The plot is mostly predictable. I didn’t get any surprises. But the conclusion is something else. It was very satisfying and equally creepy.

I am unsure if another reader would get more of the feels from this, and while there is definitely a lot of emotion wrapped between the book covers, it did not have me tearing up, or the hair raising along my arms – though there were hints of it.

Really enjoy McMann’s stand alones much more than I do her series. And would recommend this for a cozy afternoon on the front porch 🙂

Overall feeling: Just as good as an episode of Doctor Who

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 Cryers Cross Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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 – Dead to You by Lisa McMann

An echo from the past can haunt you in unimaginable ways.

 Dead to You Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery

No. of pages: 243

From Goodreads:

Some memories are better left untouched.

Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family.

It’s a miracle… at first.

Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn’t going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he’d be able to put the pieces back together.

But there’s something that’s keeping his memory blocked.

Something unspeakable… 

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This is now officially my favourite Lisa McMann title to date. ‘Dead to You’ had a more mature voice and such a simple yet strong vibe throughout that it totally sucked me in.

Ethan’s narrative is authentic and completely drew me into his world. His family also exuded realism, dysfunction and all.

Dead to You Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleEveryone escapes into a fantasy world, and when Ethan returns to his family after nine years of being abducted, foster care and living on the streets, at first that fantasy becomes real… before the struggles of memory, relationships and high school begin to weigh in.

This is very clever, in hindsight, clues to working out the mystery are glaringly obvious. But initially I hadn’t paid them much attention. Also there is a psychological element underlying this story. Lis McMann has always had some sort of challenge around metal illness in her books, but none done as well as this.

Although it’s kind of predictable in the sense that I knew what was coming, but not in how it was delivered. And I love surprises! ‘Dead to You’ has managed to redeem McMann for me, as my interest was starting to wane in her writing.

Apart from our protagonist, Ethan, the rest of the cast has much to offer: his little sister Gracie is adorable; the brother Blake is cautious and stubborn; and Mum and Dad are so gentle about Ethan’s re-introduction to the family it was heartbreaking. A love interest in Cami was amazing too. There was so much love and support around Ethan I was really cheering for him to resolve the tension and get his happily ever after.

Dead to You’ has an easy flow and distinctly adolescent male narrative that I flew through in a day. It gave me plenty of feels and was a refreshing reading experience. Recommended for lovers of McMann’s work or those looking for a quick mystery to while away the afternoon with.

Overall feeling: Like watching a car crash – you can’t help but stare

Dead to You Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Dead to You Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

 

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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 – Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

If you have hope, you have everything.

 Where Things Come Back Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 228

From Goodreads:

Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .

In the summer before Cullen’s senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone’s eating “Lazarus burgers.” But as absurd as the town’s carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.

While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax. 

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Admittedly, I picked up this book solely due to buzz on some blogs and the awards it had received with little idea what it was about before turning the first page. It did take me a while to get into, but once I got hooked, I loved it. I guess because I’m not a huge fan of the mystery genre – I do like mystery, but not detective and sleuth novels. If it’s entwined in a larger plot I tend to enjoy it more – and that is what happened with ‘Where Things Come Back.’

Where Things Come Back Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleThe symbolism in this book is massive – and if you read them right, there is a depth in meaning reflecting society, attitude and the mystical. But the narrative also feels lazy, indicative of the slow paced townsfolk, and I have to believe that was on purpose to bring an ambience around this tale.

There is a certain dry, dark undertone, just as there is a resilience, maturity and sense of fate. All of which make this novel literature, as opposed to a mass market paperback. I enjoyed the elements of sophistication, but appreciated that on the surface it’s a story about a boy hoping to find his kidnapped brother, frustrated at the towns distracted mentality around the celebrity of the Lazarus Woodpecker.

I did enjoy the ending – and it kept me guessing right up until the end. With a contemporary you can never be completely confident of the outcome. But the conclusion wraps everything up succinctly in a way that echoes in your head for a while afterward.

It could be a little busy for a younger audience, not necessarily understanding the nuances of the story. Plus that dryness I mentioned, slowed the pace somewhat, where on occasion I wanted to skip forward. I was also frustrated in some parts – masterfully elicited by the narrative – which diminished my enjoyment level because I like to escape with uplifting stories through my reading.

This is a great book, something I would recommend to read. There is boatloads of meaning hidden beneath its words, a quaint story, but not the most enjoyable read. But I’m glad to have added it to my collection. I can see why it has won the awards it has.

Overall feeling: Unexpected brain expansion in progress….

Where Things Come Back Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Where Things Come Back Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.