Book Review – ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ by Casey McQuiston

A fairy-tale and ‘Madam Secretary’ mash-up.

Red, White & Royal Blue Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 236

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What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

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Red, White & Royal Blue’ is an amazing debut and definitely a sneak attack for me. I picked it up because of a number of friends raving about this book and jumped in with no prior knowledge other that the blurb.

I’ll get the downsides out of the way first. The main drawbacks for me as a reader was a little bit of the swearing, and some of the intimate scenes between the two main leads – I’m okay with these devices if they add something to drive the plot forward, or build an atmosphere. I don’t even mind a few graphic love scenes here and there just for titillation and fun (I’m no prude) but after a while it becomes tedious.

The second big thing was exposition and pacing. Primarily the pace of the novel was dragged down by frequent descriptions, history, or lengthy scene setting. They were kind of relevant to the story, but not essential, and left the book feeling longer than it needed to be.

McQuistion’s writing style is edgy and humorous, and she is at an expert level in building tension and angst. I devoured this book in two sittings and had tears in my eyes over half of the time. It is a tenderly sweet and emotional ride. I wasn’t sold too much on the third person point of view though, it didn’t feel like it had been honed in, there was a lot of unnecessary repetition of words in the sentence structure. So the flow wasn’t quite there for me.

As with contemporaries like this, we are rooting for the leads to end up together, so there is always that sense of predictability in this genre. But, not knowing much about the plot before I went it, and the cutesy, sweet cover art, I was expecting a Hallmarky type rom-com… I did not predict the amount of difficulty, tension, and long journey the characters had to navigate. Maybe that is less about predictability and more about my misguided assumptions from the cover alone.

Red, White & Royal Blue Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleMcQuistion builds great fleshed-out and realistic characters. I did not like all of them, a few I wanted to reach into the pages and punch in the face. And others I wanted to hug, (or steal all for myself,) which is a great testament to her craft of storytelling. I was so wrapped up in their lives that I forgot about the outside world. The only times I got pulled out of the story apart from the occasional exposition, was when my eyes were too blurry from tears, and I had to stop and calm myself down.

The hate-to-love trope is overdone, but I really enjoyed it in this story. Especially when we get diverse characters. Mixed race, mixed nationalities, and mixed sexual identities, all wrapped up in political machinations.

Alex our brash and workaholic son of the President of the United States reminds me of every young gun upstart we see in political and legal dramas. I didn’t particularly connect with him, but I appreciated him as a character and cared about his story. The growth and story arc of his is point of view, is what this tale follows. We begin to see a softer side slowly emerge from Alex as he begins to explore his options in life and love.

Henry is by far my favourite – he’s the prince charming fantasy. Regal, polite, a legacy steeped in family history. The kind of things I enjoy in a man. I would have like to have seen a bit more of a comical play on the clash of cultures; I feel there were a lot of missed opportunities that may have lightened the load in certain parts of the plot. Henry too evolves as a character and you get a real sense of how each of our two leads influence each other.

Definitely a much more serious and realistic story than I was expecting. Totally engrossed in the novel and will happily recommend it to anyone.

I thought the cover art was cute and on trend with the manga-styled format that is popular right now, the colour choice really grabbed my attention, though I’m uncertain it projects the tone of the novel.

Overall feeling: A wonderful (and emotional) surprise.

Red, White & Royal Blue Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Red, White & Royal Blue 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.

Book Review – ‘Sky on Fire’ (#2 Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

The kids from the school bus go on a rough ride.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 215

From Goodreads:

Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope.

Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . .

Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected. . . .

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Another quick, realistic, and gritty read from Emmy Laybourne.

I loved the circumstances and the everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong tone of this series so far. In this sequel we see the Greenway teens split into two groups, one on a journey to Denver International Airport for medical care of a gunshot wound and evacuation point; the other group, with blood type O – the beserker kind – remain behind waiting for rescue, scared to endanger the rest of the self-made family. They both go through the ringer.

I really appreciate Emmy Langborne’s writing style and how she can craft a story. The pacing kept me glued to the page from start to finish and I completed the novel within a day.

When you’re dealing with teens and children, they are selfish, naive and self-important at their worst… and seriously, I wanted to slap a bitch many times. A few of the characters were so narrow minded and stubborn I would have lost my patience and tossed them outside to fend for themselves, or like I said, clapped them about the ears. What a brilliant accolade for Langbourne’s writing and character development!

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

This book does not pull any punches, the debut sets up that tone, and again we see death, blood and guts – many trigger warnings. Underage Drug and alcohol use, suggested sexual assault, underage sex, violence, shootings, murder and dismemberment by chainsaw. ‘Sky on Fire’ is not for the faint of heart.

But the strongest theme that shines through is that of family and survival. These kids band together and do whatever it takes to get the whole team to safety.

Because of the violent nature and constant plot twists I really had no idea of where this was going to end up. So I did not predict the ending at all. It ends on a good note and sets up the final book of the trilogy (‘Savage Drift’) nicely and I am eager to continue solely because of Langbourne’s writing.

This is one of the better dystopias I’ve read, and recommend of lovers of this genre.

The cover art isn’t that great for any of the novels in this trilogy, but I urge you not to judge these books by their dust jackets.

Overall feeling: ajklfmnato!.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) 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 – ‘Monument 14’ (#1 Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

Dipping back into dystopia with this raw and realistic series

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not-you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.

Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.

But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.

Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.

When Dean raced out the door to catch the school bus, he didn’t realize it would be the last time he’d ever see his mom. After a freak hailstorm sends the bus crashing into a superstore, Dean and a group of students of all ages are left to fend for themselves.

They soon realize the hailstorm and the crash are the least of their worries. After seeing a series of environmental and chemical disasters ravage the outside world, they realize they’re trapped inside the store.

Unable to communicate with the ones they love, the group attempts to cobble together a new existence. As they struggle to survive, Dean and the others must decide which risk is greater: leaving… or staying.

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This was a great dystopia with a heavy helping of reality. It reminded me of the tone in Mindy McGuinnis ‘Not A Drop To Drink.’ Raw, bleak, and doesn’t pull any punches. I would have rated it higher but there were a few logical issues that had me feeling that some of the characters motivations weren’t quite organic; the other issue revolves around the machismo (*cough toxic masculinity cough*) which dominates the plot. I can understand all this head-butting and chest puffing is realistic, but it’s not something I particularly enjoy reading.

There are a lot of characters in this novel for a YA, and it took me a time to knuckle down everyone in the cast. The story is told from a single perspective, that of Dean, a teen who sits mid-tier in the forming power hierarchy as the youngsters grapple with the world changing cataclysms and struggle to survive barricaded in a Greenway Shopping Megastore.

Emmy Laybourne can write complex characters, but I felt there was a resonance of something stereotypical about them, and I was hoping for an obvious arc or character growth from more of the cast. However, the reactions the players have in this tragedy are very realistic, and it took me a little bit of reflection to identify why I wasn’t completely sold on ‘Monument 14.’ But it may also be that I am well past the demographic this novel is marketed towards and have come to expect more from my reads as my tastes are growing wider and more sophisticated. Plus the dystopian genre has passed its used-by date in the current publishing landscape at the moment. But I love sprinkling in old, new, popular, unpopular, and random reads to spice up my reading ventures.

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I have to say that everything I predicted about ‘Monument 14’ came to pass. I didn’t get any surprises when it came to the storyline. Though it is a compelling quick read and I am interested in following this story in the next two sequels. Objectively though, I’m more keen to find out what is going on with the planet after so many disasters rather than invested in any of the characters stories.

Monument 14’ is very well paced. I read this in one sitting, in one day. There wasn’t one point where I skimmed forward or put it down for a break. There is always something happening to test the characters or drive the story forward.

The concept of a massive natural disaster, compounding and contributing to further complications was masterful. I really enjoyed the landscape of ‘Monument 14.’ All the props given to Emmy Laybourne here. She also has a great writing style, a touch masculine, but it may be because we are experiencing the story through the eyes of Dean. My interest in definitely peaked over her writing and will venture out into some other titles to see how her style changes and impacts me as a reader.

My opinion about ‘Monument 14’ may change after reading the sequels – the story is unfinished – so we don’t get resolution on many plot points.

I’d confidently recommend this to an older/more mature YA reader of this demographic mainly because of the stark landscape and the story deals with issues like pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, death, attempted rape, bullying, and slut shaming. Some I took issue with, and others I did not…

Overall feeling: Hold on to your knickers with this one.

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) 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 – ‘Made You Up’ by Francesca Zappia

What do you do when you don’t know what is real?

Made You Up Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 428

From Goodreads:

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal. 

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This was a brilliant little story that gripped me from beginning to end.

I don’t know if my deductive skills were on point, but I had sleuthed out all but one minor plot reveal well in advance. But even though the book felt predictable in that sense, it has a weird charm that enticed me.

Protagonist Alex’s schizophrenia is scary and comical, and kept me as a reader on my toes – eyes always sharpened to try and discern what was fact and what was delusion. ‘Made You Up’ has a certain style and charisma. A romantic heart. And all the characters are flawed in some way. Even though Alex sees things that aren’t there, they operate on an instinctual level, making sense of the world and confirming hunches, about what might be going on under the façade we all put up.

Made You Up Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere is a lot of subtext going on with ‘Made You Up.’ And I had to sit and think for a while after finishing the novel to form some realisations. I won’t go into any detail because I wouldn’t want to ruin anyone’s reading experience if you are yet to pick up ‘Made You Up.’ But suffice to say, there is very little in this novel that doesn’t have some sort of meaning to the plot.

I loved the positive message it sends to those afflicted with some sort of mental illness. It’s treatable, and doesn’t morph the sufferer into a criminal, a molester, or a monster. They are simply people who deal with the world in a different manner and should be afforded the rights and dignity of any human being.

I really wanted to see the bullying tackled in a more head-on way and dealt with responsibly. There was so much unchecked behaviour in this novel that had me, a former high school teacher, grinding my teeth. Totally unacceptable. And a large part in why events escalated as far as they did in ‘Made You Up.’

It was a wonderful depiction of schizophrenia – not that I have any experience or professional knowledge of the condition – merely just an observation on how Alex really could not distinguish reality from episodes. How that affected her relation to the world at large. How would any of us deal with not being able to trust what we see and hear without context? It was beautiful in a way.

Made You Up Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Miles was an interesting love interest. Quite possibly on the autism scale, but never confirmed. It was as if his way of viewing the world countered Alex’s. In their weird banter and practical jokes were a different form of witty conversation that we see a lot of in YA. This felt truly authentic and unique.

Even though the parents weren’t absent, it felt like they were. It was almost abusive. It is a shame they did not get involved in Alex’s life more – or maybe it was easier to keep that distance? Maybe Alex would have pushed them away? It’s hard to get a beat on it, other than their behaviour did not sit well with me from the outset.

For some reason I thought it would be a shorter book – but it was still a quick read. Completed in a few sittings. Though the pacing got a lot better after the halfway mark, and the narrative interesting, I did feel like there was something missing to really push it up for a perfect rating. On reflection, I want to say emotion. Romantic angst. Something to drag more of the feels out of me. ‘Made You Up’ was intellectually interesting but emotionally so-so.

Definitely recommend this to everyone. It’s a standout for subject matter, style, and individuality.

Overall feeling: Superb!

Made You Up Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Made You Up Book Review Pic 05 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 – ‘The Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson

A quirky tale with an important message. Some fun, but don’t forget your tissues!

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long , and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means. 

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It has been quite a while since I’ve read a novel in the GLBT genre – so I thought it was about time to mix it up with ‘The Art of Being Normal.’ What it brought to the table was a level of realism that transgendered youth face depicted really well. Identity and coming out, along with a plethora of other aspects were handled gracefully within the narrative. It was such an enjoyable read for me.

Told with alternating P.O.V’s, it begins with David, the bullied outsider. I like how this character dealt with gender identity intelligently. Research. Though this is only the beginning of David’s journey. It should have been noted somewhere that not all trans know they were born in the wrong body at an early age – sometimes it’s an evolution from something not feeling quite right before arriving at the at conclusion of being transgendered (and involved diagnosis from a professional). I felt like it glazed over some important mechanics in the transgendered experience for the sake of story. Though David was a little frustrating for me at times, I was able to relate and enjoyed a different view of the world at large.

Our second narrator, Leo is an all-around good guy. I enjoyed his strength and found his stand-offishness true to character. However, I guessed the plot twist involving his story from the beginning. Kind of deflated my enjoyment a little. Loved Leo. His story, his mannerisms. And it was great to see a separation in narrative styles with the switching POV’s – Lis Williamson did a fantastic job with each of their voices.

Begrudgingly I admit it lacked a personal engagement from me, something intangible about the characters of David and Leo held me back from truly believing in them. I also had an issue with how they were obliged to get along – it felt forced and artificial.

Effie and Alex – David’s best friends. Love the support and unadulterated no-holes barred relationship they shared. So rare. At times their silliness destroyed the authenticity for me. But loved their sense of humour – had me laughing quite a lot. My favourite scene is when David points Effie and Alex out to Leo, and they pull faces – priceless!

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

This story brings to light much of the pain and turmoil transgendered teens face in coming to terms with their condition/identity, some of it had tears falling from my eyes. (the feels! The feels!) The relationships in ‘The Art of Being Normal’ are beautiful.

I did want to read something other than issues regarding their gender identity. This book was all about that, and didn’t have much otherwise. I’m starting to find books are using GLBTQIA issues as a plot point or the big reveal annoying: when these are issues that are dealt with for a lifetime… along with everything else. So, more everything else please.

It’s all a very “nice’ depiction of a transgendered experience – and I use that term hesitantly – because some youth experience so much more darkness and hardship. But that is too serious for what is meant to be a supportive, uplifting, and positive story about trying to live your truth.

Great pacing, I completed this novel in two sittings and never found places where my attention was wandering. Great subject matter, but I found it very predictable, though, I would highly recommend this to all my friends.

Proud to have ‘The Art of Being Normal’ in my library, it has been the most grounded story that has dealt with sexual identity in such a point-blank style to date. Refreshing.

Overall feeling – Simple, impressive even if it was predictable

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Losing Lila’ by Sarah Alderson

Felt like it was straight from the scripts of a CW show…

Losing Lila Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 346

From Goodreads:

Alex and Lila are on the run, desperately trying to stay one step ahead of the Unit, which is somehow tracking their every move. While Alex is determined to keep Lila safe and her ability secret at any cost, Lila’s only thought is of finding a way back to California so she can rescue her brother and mother from the military base where they’re being held.

Struggling to control both her growing power and her deepening feelings for Alex, Lila decides the time has finally come to stop running and start fighting. Together with Alex, Demos, and the others she’s come to think of as family, Lila plans not only to save her brother and mum, but also to completely destroy the Unit and everything it stands for. But the plan requires Lila to return to California alone, andto make friends with the enemy – and in doing so, she risks losing everything: Alex, her family… even her life.  

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I really liked this follow up to ‘Hunting Lila.’ A group of teens with special abilities on the run from a maniacal Military Contract Organisation. Winner, winner chicken dinner.

It was great to see our protagonist Lila get a little more independence; although that was counteracted by her swooning and needing Alex (her love interest and brothers best friend) all the time. It felt a little weak. It was compounded by the narrative tone and actions of Lila (and Suki) which came of as childish far too often. But I had less problems stopping me from enjoying the novel than I did in the first book of the series ‘Hunting Lila.’

Losing Lila’ is very much like a Disney or NickTeen movie of the week. Saccharine sweet, moments of stereotypical teen behaviour mixed with an action infused plot. I do class it as a guilty pleasure though, I got caught up in the subterfuge, the development of their psychic abilities, and was floored by a few of the plot twists I didn’t see coming.

The story itself is engaging. I think if the comical notes of the story were approached differently, they could have pulled the story along in that Buffy-like pun in the middle of action style.

The element of family, and how it was woven into the storyline was fun; and I appreciated how bonds are tested and reshaped. Though there was some moments where I thought it was too premeditated by the author.

I think I like the relationship between Lila and Alex the least, even if they are the main characters in ‘Losing Lila.’ There was no tension and build up, it moved right into this desperate place that felt like it lacked substance – it was the 10 year old girl’s version of love.

Great follow up and conclusion to the series, probably better suited to a younger tween audience, but still an interesting way to spend a winter’s day tucked up on the couch with a light action-filled book.

Overall feeling: *eating popcorn*
Losing Lila Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Losing Lila Book Review Pic 03 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 – Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

A paranormal cat and mouse with great potential.

Hunting Lila Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 318

From Goodreads:

17-year-old Lila has two secrets she’s prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she’s been in love with her brother’s best friend, Alex, since forever.

After a mugging exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust—her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organization called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they’ve found them.

In a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realizes that she is not alone—there are others out there just like her—people with special powers—and her mother’s killer is one of them…  

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Hunting Lila’ is a fun adventure with a group of individuals possessing psy(chic) abilities pitted against a military group – and Lila is caught in-between. Certainly a great premise, and a very enjoyable novel, but it fell a little flat for me.

It’s hard to place why it felt unremarkable – quite possibly it was a little too busy – with so much going on in plot and sub-plot, where character development became secondary.

There was also an element of instalove between Lila and Alex – I found that kind of infuriating. But he was a nice piece of eye candy to read about.

The story had an air of the superficial as well – everyone was gorgeous, everyone was a hero – whether they had special abilities or military training and gadgets, a lot of the ordinary and the relatable just wasn’t there.

Plus, half of the cast intrinsic to the story line were introduced in the second act.

Now that the yucky stuff is done and dusted, let me share what I appreciated about ‘Hunting Lila:’

I loved the different types of psychic abilities – telepaths, astral projectors, a psychokenosist, telekinetics, sifters, all reminding me of the graphic novel (and subsequent film adaptation) ‘Push.’ This had a very strong X-Men Origins vibe.

Lila, our protagonist is very relatable in the beginning and I felt all of her choices during the actions scenes made complete sense. It was the decisions pertaining to her love interest that had my hackles up. Lila is cute, spunky, somewhat naive and has the potential to be a great character and force of nature. She does tend to flounder a bit and I’m excited to see where Sarah Alderson takes Lila in this trilogy.

Jack, Lila’s brother added a fun dynamic into the romance between her and Alex, as well to the bait-and-switch scenario.

But I think ultimately, the military aspect felt unrealistic, as did the change of heart Lila comes to – I hungered for more angst and tribulation for her predicament.

The twist at the end was a great surprise amongst a sea of predictability. This would fall more into my ‘guilty pleasure’ category, and something I’m on the fence about recommending to others. While I enjoyed ‘Hunting Lila,’ and there is certainly a lot to revel in, it didn’t have that spark.

I have a hunch what is going to happen in the second book for this series, and I will pick it up as I am still interested to see where this story will go. Let’s hope that it is even better than ‘Hunting Lila’ and redeems the author in my eyes. Bring on ‘Losing Lila!’

Overall feeling: A bit of a love/hate relationship for me.

 Hunting Lila Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Hunting Lila 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 – What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson

You can’t run away from life, your problems, or puberty….

What the always tell us Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 293

From Goodreads:

JAMES AND ALEX have barely anything in common anymore—least of all their experiences in high school, where James is a popular senior and Alex is suddenly an outcast. But at home, there is Henry, the precocious 10-year-old across the street, who eagerly befriends them both. And when Alex takes up running, there is James’s friend Nathen, who unites the brothers in moving and unexpected ways. 

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What They Always Tell Us” is a scrappy dark horse of a novel with a strong sense on how those gossipy conversations that take place behind closed doors can impact a life. How the struggle to keep up appearances can weigh down and debilitate. That living one’s truth is the only way to find happiness. And although this books deals with issues of coming out as gay, these same points apply to the rest of the cast in varying degrees. Being so invested in what other people think is crippling.

Having said that, this book is not heavy, it’s light and comical with a serious undertone. The characters are realistic and likable; I felt like I could walk down my street and run into any one of the cast.

Brothers Alex and James’ journey epitomises issues we all face, and the narrative is clever. The dilemmas they tackle encompass many questions we face coming into adulthood and discovering what we are made of. The point which is cleverly made, is that coming out is universal, not just for individuals grappling with sexual identity. Their relationships feel organic and rings true to many friendships that I had in high school. Sometimes you simply see things differently and your perspective on life changes.

I too grew up in a small town and could not wait to get out.

The growing relationship between Alex and Nathen is so indicative of discovering love and coming out in high school, I found it poetically beautiful.

Henry, the ten-year-old neighbour is a breath of fresh air, and a voice of reason. Even though you can see his cogs turning during moments of quiet stoicism, his blatant honesty cuts right to the heart of so many issues.

I really liked the dual perspective in this novel – and the fact there is more than one story line. With so much going on, I was surprised that it felt a little flat. Even the ending was somewhat anticlimactic. I wanted something poignant or symbolic of their growth (other than graduation).

I have a lot of praise for this contemporary for its realism. But I guess with realism, you lose that fantastical happy ending – because, well, life goes on…

A fast melancholic read. Understated.

Overall feeling: quietly cool

What the always tell us Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

What the always tell us Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

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