Books I read in 2019

Here are some goodreads stats and book covers of everything I read over the course of last year…

Casey Carlisle Books Read in 2019

…and if I had to pick my favorite read for last year it would have to be ‘Contagion‘ by Erin Bowman.

What was your most enjoyable read from 2019? I’d love some great recommendations.

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 – ‘Ida’ by Alison Evans

‘Sliding Doors’ meets Blake Crouch’s ‘Dark Matter’ buy YA with diverse characters.

Ida Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 246

From Goodreads:

How do people decide on a path, and find the drive to pursue what they want?

Ida struggles more than other young people to work this out. She can shift between parallel universes, allowing her to follow alternative paths.

One day Ida sees a shadowy, see-through doppelganger of herself on the train. She starts to wonder if she’s actually in control of her ability, and whether there are effects far beyond what she’s considered.

How can she know, anyway, whether one universe is ultimately better than another? And what if the continual shifting causes her to lose what is most important to her, just as she’s discovering what that is, and she can never find her way back?

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The main plotline of ‘Ida’ is extraordinary. I love a good multiverse theory in my science fiction. The biggest drawback, however was the narrative. There are many characters/situations introduced that are not resolved: either in a way that they are meant to be left open, or something to give the story more gravitas. It left me feeling unsatisfied upon completion of the novel.

But what ‘Ida‘ has going for it, apart from its concept, is the diversity of characters and the depiction of the multiple universes – how one small decision can dramatically (or minutely) change your life. It is a great theme, but is never really explored to the fullest extent. I feel like the narrative was a stream of consciousness playing with the concept of the multiverse, but ignored the science and the implications. I really needed something to ground it in the narrative. The constant jumping around into different states did not help either. I was disorientating… which would have been fine if it served a purpose for the story, but ultimately, went nowhere like many of the plot points.

What ‘Ida‘ does is open the mind up to a great many possibilities. Starts a conversation for this universe. Almost like it is the pilot episode of a television series, or the start of anthology. Other versions of yourself with their own motivations, gaining the ability to switch between realities, working against you. Finding a near perfect version of your life. The promise of becoming an agent for a mysterious organisation policing those with the ability to travel time and space… all the seeds are planted, but many fail to get explored other than a cursory mention.

Ida Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The crux of ‘Ida‘ is about her journey to fill the missing void in her life by switching realities, instead of becoming the change she wants to see. That is itself, pretty poetic, but is lost amongst a jumbled narrative. It’s such a shame for a novel with such strong themes, fantastic science fiction concepts, and wonderfully diverse characters (though they need to be explored and developed more) that I didn’t get my wish fulfilment. However, this is Alison Evans first published novel, and given the potential and strength of her ideas, I can imagine amazing stories yet to come with experience.

I absolutely adored that this was set in Melbourne, Australia. A place I like to call home. There really isn’t enough Aussie representation in mainstream YA fiction on the international stage, and I can see Evans becoming a breakout author real soon.

I have already purchased another standalone ‘Highway Bodies‘ – a zombie tale, so we’ll see how that story impact me in a future review soon.

All in all, ‘Ida’ was not a bad debut, but there are so many more novels out there that have executed this concept much better. I’d recommend it for the character study, not as a science fiction novel.

Overall feeling: whaa-whaa

Ida Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Ida Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Sanctuary’ (#1 Sanctuary) by Caryn Lix

A slow start for Sanctuary.

Sanctuary (#1 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 480

From Goodreads:

Kenzie holds one truth above all: the company is everything.

As a citizen of Omnistellar Concepts, the most powerful corporation in the solar system, Kenzie has trained her entire life for one goal: to become an elite guard on Sanctuary, Omnistellar’s space prison for superpowered teens too dangerous for Earth. As a junior guard, she’s excited to prove herself to her company—and that means sacrificing anything that won’t propel her forward.

But then a routine drill goes sideways and Kenzie is taken hostage by rioting prisoners.

At first, she’s confident her commanding officer—who also happens to be her mother—will stop at nothing to secure her freedom. Yet it soon becomes clear that her mother is more concerned with sticking to Omnistellar protocol than she is with getting Kenzie out safely.

As Kenzie forms her own plan to escape, she doesn’t realize there’s a more sinister threat looming, something ancient and evil that has clawed its way into Sanctuary from the vacuum of space. And Kenzie might have to team up with her captors to survive—all while beginning to suspect there’s a darker side to the Omnistellar she knows.

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I was very excited for this novel – a space prison jail break mixed up in an alien invasion – all the hallmarks for a riot of a sci-fi read. Count me in.

However, the first half of the book was laboriously slow. I took me over a week just to reach the midway point, continuously putting ‘Sanctuary‘ down for a rest because I wasn’t compelled to read on. The subject matter was fine, it was the pacing. And a bit too much information off topic. I feel you could have edited out 100-150 pages from this first part and not lost a thing. It would have turned ‘Sanctuary‘ into a cracker of a read.

Comparatively, I completed the second half of this novel in an afternoon. The pacing and action were top notch, plenty going on to drive the plot forward, turning points for the characters… there was not much I could fault.

Our protagonist Kenzie didn’t seem all that interesting at the start, but certainly developed into a character I began to care about. She starts out very rule-following and vanilla; and I didn’t really get a strong sense of emotion and connection to other cast members of the novel. Even the growing romantic interest in prisoner Cage – motivations and situations felt tenuous at best. Not so realistic or justifiable. I’m wondering if it simply boiled down to the fact of the horrible pacing in the first half. A more compact, punchier introduction to the world of ‘Sanctuary‘ and getting to know the players in the field may have created the tension needed to create a strong bond?

Sanctuary (#1 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The plot and storytelling of ‘Sanctuary‘ was highly entertaining. I was gripped in action scenes, got all the feels from the right places, and even surprised at several plot twists. There was an element of predictability, but not enough to render this read unsurprising or boring. Pacing issues aside, I have to commend Caryn Lix for her debut. I am definitely engrossed enough to be picking up the next novel in this collection ‘Containment.’ Given that the world building is established, characters fleshed out, the sequel should have better pacing, and Caryn Lix’s writing experience improved from publishing ‘Sanctuary.’

I’m on the fence about recommending this one – it took a while for me to get into, and lovers of sci-fi may get bored quickly. But for YA readers who like a touch of science fiction, this may be thoroughly entertaining… so I’m torn. This was a slightly better than average read for me, so maybe it’s worth a shot?

Overall feeling: so-so

Sanctuary (#1 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Sanctuary (#1 Sanctuary) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Immunity’ (#2 Contagion) by Erin Bowman

Bacteria fuelled telepathic zombies (sort of).

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Horror.

No. of pages: 434

From Goodreads:

They thought their nightmare was over, but Thea, Coen, and Nova’s rescue was only the beginning. After being imprisoned on a ship they thought was their ticket to safety, it’s clear that the threat they left behind isn’t as distant as they’d hoped—and this time the entire galaxy is at risk.

Now that threat is about to be unleashed as an act of political warfare. To prevent an interstellar catastrophe, the survivors must harness the evil they faced on the planet Achlys and learn to wield the only weapon they have left: themselves.

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This was a great conclusion to the series. Plenty of action. Copious twists and turns. All the sci-fi things that I love!

We follow the three escapees from Achlys: Thea, Coen and Nova, and introduce Amber as well as Naree – all taking pivotal roles in not only a political war, but one against the spread of the deadly bacteria.

We get the omnipresent perspective and insights into all the characters, and I like how the sections of the novel were broken up into locations.

The only thing that didn’t quite ring true for me was the pacing. Thea and Coen spent half the novel locked up in a cell, so it sapped all the action and pacing out of the novel.

There is slightly more romance and some of it tied into the Psychrobater achli with bonding pairs, but that felt a little forced rather than borne from a biological imperative, so it felt a little corny – as too did the telepathy. But the latter was a major plot point for the story so I can forgive these interesting side effects of the contagion.

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

While ‘Immunity’ is heavily plot driven, we get some character development as well. With everything the teens have to overcome and sacrifice, they grow up real fast and start taking into account the safety of planets above their own. Also having a spectrum of cultural backgrounds and sexuality as something every day and matter of fact was refreshing.

I absolutely loved Erin Bowman’s writing style and am definitely picking up her taken trilogy next. Hopeful I have discovered my next auto-but sci-fi author.

I can’t say I predicted this series all too well, I was always surprised by the plot twists and loved how Erin Bowman can craft a reveal.

Totally recommend this to sci-fi geeks like me everywhere, but the pacing wasn’t as good as the debut.

Overall feeling: Oh My SpaceOpera!

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wreck Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Wreck’ by Fleur Ferris

Uncovering secrets is a dangerous job.

Wreck Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 288

From Goodreads:

Tamara Bennett is going to be the first journalist to strictly report only good news. Finished with high school, Tamara is ready to say goodbye to her sleepy little town and part-time job at the local paper. O-weeks awaits, which means parties, cute boys and settling into student res with her best friend Relle. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when she arrives home to find her house ransacked and her life in danger. What is this mysterious note? And why does it mean so much to one of Australia’s most powerful media moguls? Caught between a bitter rivalry and dangerous family secret, who can Tamara trust? Or should she trust herself?

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Wreck’ roped me in straight away. Told in dual perspectives, alternating chapters between present day 18 year old Tamara, about to commence O-Week at a Melbourne University; and five years in the past from the 13 year old son of a media mogul William. It starts off with a bang – Tamara being burgled, attacked, held at gunpoint; and William navigating away from an abusive older brother and a ship unsuccessfully navigating a violent storm, about to succumb to the dark ocean. From that point it was hard to put this novel down. I read it in one sitting. It felt like it went fast. The pacing was fantastic, action and mystery at every turn.

I think this is the best Fleur Ferris novel I’ve read to date. And it gets even more props for being set mostly in Melbourne, Australia. A place I like to call home. We get a real sense of Australian life and culture without it feeling stereotyped in Ferris’ writing style. Tamara likes to surf and cares about our beaches, clearing rubbish when she can. Thongs are a big thing: that’s flip flops for my American readers. And we get the some local colloquialisms too. It helped me strongly identify with the main characters.

Tamara is an aspiring journalist, determined, righteous, and full of optimism. We get a strong sense that her character development is all about overcoming fear and uncovering the truth, something strongly tied to her journalistic integrity. William comes across as desperate and scattered, a victim. But there is a softer, more rational side to him. This novel is more about his redemption.

Wreck Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

One thing that really stood out to me with ‘Wreck,’ is that instead of the trend in YA where the characters isolate themselves from people of authority whose job it is to police, investigate, protect with flimsy rationale or convoluted circumstances, ‘Wreck’ embraces the adults and brings them into the story. It was truly refreshing and added a layer of realism to the narrative. And gave the protagonists a major helping of intelligence in my opinion.

There was instant hate and frustration at the antagonist of the story from the get-go. Knox makes the perfect villain, though I would have liked to have seen him a more rounded character instead of his only motivation being jealousy and greed.

Wreck’ is easily predictable for me, not like the uncertainty of ‘Found.’ Though it is a great ride right to the end. There was one thread left hanging that I felt was essential to the story. While it is resolved in principal, I felt it needed a stronger resolution and a more emotional ending to really pack a punch. That said, Fleur Ferris as cemented herself as one of my favorite authors. I really hope she keeps writing YA thriller/mysteries.

Definitely recommend this one to all!

Overall feeling: Ay Chihuahua!

Wreck Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wreck Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The flip side of Obsidian.

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Romance

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

I knew the moment Katy Swartz moved in next door, there was going to be trouble. Lots of it.

And trouble’s the last thing I need, since I’m not exactly from around here. My people arrived on Earth from Lux, a planet thirteen billion light years away. Plus, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that humans can’t be trusted. We scare them. We can do things they only dream about, and honestly, we make them look weak as hell. ‘Cuz they are.

But Kat is getting to me in ways no one else has, and I can’t stop myself from wanting her–or wanting to use my powers to protect her. She makes me weak, and I’m the strongest of our kind, tasked with protecting us all. So this one simple girl…she can mean the end for us. Because the Luxen have an even bigger enemy–the Arum, and I need to stay on my game.

Falling for Katy–a human–won’t just place her in danger. It could get us all killed, and that’s one thing I’ll never let happen…

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This was a nostalgic read. It felt like I was reading ‘Obsidian’ all over again. I enjoyed living in the Daemon-Katy world once more. Plus, I really enjoy Jennifer L. Armentrout’s writing.

Though, there wasn’t anything new brought to the story told from Daemon’s point of view. I would have liked the opportunity to learn more about Luxen history, more about Daemon’s relationships with others of his clan. It was all repetitive. If there hadn’t been so many years between when I had read the debut of this collection, and this read, I may have gotten bored. In fact I did a lot of speed reading because it was all so familiar.

The other thing is that ‘Oblivion’ felt dated. My reading habits have grown and evolved, the market has changed. The old tropes just don’t hook me so much anymore. A brooding, rude, on-again, off-again love interest is more frustrating than titillating. I found myself poking at character behaviour… but at least there was no eye rolling involved.

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For all of the aspects that detracted from my enjoyment, the nostalgia, great writing, humour, and guilty pleasure all helped keep this novel in the wheelhouse of indulgent fun.

There’s not much I can add to the characters than what has already been said in reviews of the previous books in this collection, so this is a very short review. I’m relieved that Jennifer L Armentrout is moving on from this series, because it was starting to feel like flogging a dead horse.

I am interested in reading ‘Obsession’ a book told from an Arum’s perspective, and there is a new trilogy set in this universe following different characters which I will tackle next. We do get more of Katy and Daemon, but they are not the protagonists. Hopefully this will grow the universe and breathe new life into something that was getting slightly repetitive and drawn out.

Overall feeling: Nostalgia

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.