Book Review – ‘This Is How You Lose The Time War’ by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

A trippy love story through the ages…

Genre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 224

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.

This was beautiful and quaint. Packed with story and subtext. Told in alternating perspectives, Blue and Red are epyphonous creatures and hard to pin down, as is the mulit-verse and multi-dimensional landscape in which they travel. While romantic and full of colourful, this ethereal tone did make it hard for me to truly connect with the characters and the world. Everything is so changeable, malleable. While brilliant and a masterstroke in storytelling it did leave me feeling like I wasn’t quite grounded in the story. I struggled at the start to find my footing. To make sense of it all. But war is messy (not to mention jumping around in different points of time) so I guess the chaotic nature of battle marries the format of the novella.

Some may find this hard to get into. It is a dense read. There’s a lot to decipher in story and subtext. Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mothar’s writing style is embellished, melodic, and a little pretentious. It didn’t flow easily for me… I had to really concentrate to work out who each character was and who they are in relevance to the world at large – I think this may isolate some readers (depending on your reading level.)

The romance at the heart of the book is gorgeous, visceral, and all encompassing. I really enjoyed it, but at times the flowery language had me skipping forward. And I felt like I wanted more story. More exploration of strange new world’s that held symbolism or secondary storylines. 

There is a lot to unpack ‘This is How You Lose the Time War’ is a weighted read. I loved the allegory of the Mobius strip, the symbolism of the seed… but I still grapple with questions of who/what are red and blue? Who/what are Garden and Commandant and why are they at war? What is there to gain? I understand it’s to control the time line, but to what end? So many questions but all we get is a snapshot (a millennia long) of a part of Blue and Red’s budding relationship and covert measures. 

I love the concept more than the writing style. I can see this isolating some readers. It’s like reading mid-century poetry… hidden meanings and symbolism, subtext, and needing to look up the definition of words. For some this will be a roadblock, but for more experienced readers this will feel melodic and whimsical.

Overall feeling: kaleidoscopic

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Wildcard’ (#2 Warcross) by Marie Lu

This takes gaming to a whole new level.

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 402

From Goodreads:

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?


There was certainly more action and espionage in ‘Wildcard’ than in ‘Warcross.’ Where ‘Warcross’ is about Emika fitting in, ‘Wildcard’ is about how isolated she really is. The only person she can trust is herself. Her world is deconstructed and it’s up to her to piece it back together.

Even though I enjoyed the story, and there is plenty going on in the plot, I wasn’t as engaged with Emika’s plight as I was in ‘Warcross.’ Which is unusual considering it’s in my favourite genre and Marie Lu managed to up the stakes on all counts with this sequel. I’m thinking it has something to do with Lu’s writing style… a more succinct and descriptive construction may have kept my interest? I put this novel down a number of times… or maybe I was just having a “moment?” I will re-read this duology at a later date and investigate this issue further. But for now I’m attributing this phenomena to Lu’s writing style. Which is nothing in judgement of ‘Wildcard’ as it’s subjective and down to personal tastes.

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleEmika was a fun protagonist. She is resourceful and street savvy. Though we don’t get as much of the secondary characters from the debut, this novel deals with only a few core characters in her orbit.

There are a lot of unexpected twists in the plot, and maybe a few of them did not have the gravitas I was expecting. It is certainly unique but did not entirely resonate with me. But I could definitely see this working really well on the small screen as a television series. The pacing is great, there is a lot of action and interesting characters.

The overall tone of this duology is predictable – we want to see Emika triumph over Hideo and an evil corporation… though this is deconstructed fairly quickly – and though the theme is resolved – it is achieved in an unexpected way. So while we get the closure we need, it eventuates in a different form.

I’d recommend this for those who like light science fiction and YA, it is similar to novels like ‘Ready Player One’ and ‘Armada’ with the use of virtual reality, technology, evil corporations vying for control, and the protagonist as a part of a rebellion to even the status quo.

A fun read with a mix of futuristic technology and the implications of their presence on society, but I think I wanted a little more sophistication with the writing. A good solid read for the genre and demographic it is targeted towards.

Overall feeling: Good, but… meh

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle


© 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 – ‘Warcross’ (#1 Warcross) by Marie Lu

A VR battle royale.

Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlsile.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 402

From Goodreads:

When a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game – it’s a way of life. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. When Emika hacks into the game illegally, she’s convinced she’ll be arrested, and is shocked when she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job.

There was the hype, the gorgeous cover, and rave reviews from Marie Lu’s past titles that had me snapping up ‘Warcross’ as soon as I was able, finding a comfortable corner to escape and read.

I was pleasantly surprised by this title, and it is the first novel of Lu’s that I’ve read. It came on the heels of a similar title ‘Ready Player One’ (and the movie release,) so I was ready to get sucked into a digital fantasy world.

Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlsileAlthough ‘Warcross’ was a little too ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…’ Even though our protagonist Emika was hesitant at times, she was lead throughout the story. I was wanting her to show some more grit and independence.

I was not sure about the Hideko-Emika pairing… what is the age gap? Did anyone else feel a bit creeped out by this?

Definitely my favourite parts were the VR game battles. I could feel the tension; and the pace and writing style kept me gripped to the page.

Nice to see the inclusion of non-abled bodied characters in the team, (yay diversity) and their presence as a matter of no consequence, and even the character (Asher) is considered cute. I‘m bored of disabilities used as a plot device or an identifier; and ‘Warcross’ definitely leaves all that ish behind.

Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlsile.gifThe VR world was built thoroughly, and I loved reading about the digital landscapes and conflicts; but the real world had some missing pieces. I wish the landscape was built more thoroughly as the virtual one was.

Some other drawbacks I had with the narrative was the low key, slow to build in the first half. I wanted it to build quicker, or drop some interesting cookies to keep me interested. ‘Warcross’ was mostly predictable, and did not feel altogether original. I think since ‘The Last Starfighter’ and ‘Tron’ movies back in the 1980’s anything using this plot device will feel ‘done’ unless the author can put a new twist on it.

Marie Lu has a great writing style, but was hoping for some more witty banter. I like me some witty banter. Or sarcasm.

Did I mention the cover art? OMG the cover! Drooling.

Warcross’ ends on a cliff-hanger – doh! Miss Lu executes a mic drop and leaves the room. Yeah thanks for that. Now I have the agony of waiting for the sequels release. Not to mention reviews of ‘Wildcard’ ARCs making rounds of the blogs – it’s torture.

Overall feeling: I want to be a hacker too!

Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlsile.gif

Warcross (#1 Warcross) Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlsile.jpg

© 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.

When is a lemon not a lemon?

lemon wars 05My childhood home had a multitude of citrus trees around our pool, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and mandarins. It’s no wonder we were always outside swimming in the Centralian heat, desert temperatures perfect for aquatic adventures and food within arm’s reach. The neighbourhood kids would come over and we’d all be bombing into the water and playing Marco Polo. Quite often some of the fruit would make its way into the pool, and, as you do when you are a child, you’d throw it out of the water… usually directed at someone standing along its edge.

And so was born the Great Age of the Lemon Wars!

Lemon Wars 01

Before my parents came home from work, we’d chuck all evidence over the back fence. I was sure to get any play privileges revoked with the back yard littered with yellow bombs. Though, as luck would have it, our neighbours took unkindly to our dumping of copious fruit over the fence and proceeded to toss them back over – and whola! It’s raining lemons.

Lemon Wars on Steroids!

I’m positive it was not our neighbour’s intention for us to enjoy the barrage of flying citrus. We danced and giggled dodging projectiles and pitching them back over to continue the game. It goes without saying we were not popular with those who dwelled over the back fence. But nonetheless they provided us with hours of entertainment in the summer months.

I don’t think ever met these tumultuous neighbours in the ten years I lived there, or even bothered to learn their names. They were just ‘the enemy.’ It’s funny how childhood perception is so limited… It never occurred to us that what we were doing was wrong, that is could land my parents into trouble. We lived in a fantasy world of exploding mortars and mermaids and sharks, living off the land on an alien planet.

I must thank those unnamed people who dwelled over my back fence, you fed my imagination, kept me entertained and were a constant companion through gangly limbs, braces and sunny weekends. (Who knows maybe you actually enjoyed throwing lemons backward and forward?)

But as in all wars, there are causalities… It’s all fun and games until someone gets pelted in the face with a lemon – and leaves in tears. Which happened to be my best friend. She had reached that age when you start to discover boys – and instead of standing guard, was ogling the boy from down the street diving into the pool and did not see the incoming projectile. It was of the slightly over-ripe variety. A little mushy. So when it connected with her cheek it exploded in magnanimous glory, covering her entire head in sticky goo. We thought it was awesome, my friend not so much. She was totally humiliated in front of the boy she liked and stormed out in a trail of language to put a truck driver to shame.

And that caused a cease-fire. At least until the next weekend…

Make love not lemon wars… or at least, if you have to, make lemonade.

lemon wars 06

Casey's Childhood Banner 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.

Things that go bump in the night… by Casey Carlisle

Have you ever been woken in the shroud of night, instantly alert, but couldn’t recall what had stirred you from the depths of slumber? 


This happened to me a few nights in a row, until one evening when I was just about to doze off there was an eerie scratching coming from somewhere in my bedroom. Instant scenarios of wicked little troll-demons hiding in shadows and under the bed worried at my grey matter until I realised I was, in fact, and adult, and such things did not exist.

Upon careful and tentative investigation I discovered the clawing came from inside the roof.

The next night I managed to catch a glimpse of the culprit clambering across the power line to the other side of the street at dusk… a possum – more than likely out for its nocturnal scavenge for food. Good, I thought, problem solved!

Not likely…


Later, in the early hours of that morning I was again roused from tap dancing, scratching, and wild shrieking. Standing on the bed I pummeled the roof in a declaration of war – now it’s on!

Recruiting my best mate to chase the little critter out, find and patch it’s entry point, I was assured that a good night’s sleep was imminent… and then two weeks went by. Every night accompanied with the frolicking and hissing of possum–play above my head. The problem was we had to wait until the possum went out before we could climb up and fix the roof.

I was at my wits end, about to check into a hotel just to get some peace when I spied my fury nemesis, now with baby clinging to its back, scuttling along the power line once more.

Immediately phoning my ‘go-to’ guy to race over, humming delightfully to myself with satisfaction. I couldn’t wait to get a full nights undisturbed rest.

After the work was completed and a congratulatory dinner, I retired for the night. Before an hour had passed, just as slumber was about to take me, the faint drag and scrape of marsupial claws alluded to the fact that we had sealed the delinquent rodent in, instead of locking it out! The hissing, chittering and banging against the roof was even louder as my housemate attempted miserably to breakout.

The next day we removed a few roof tiles to let it escape, and I took up surveillance at the window as soon as I got home from work. The day had turned dark, cold and churning clouds rumbling with thunder threatened to not only flood rain water into the open hole, but deter the mangy critter from sneaking outside for another nights foraging. Just as I was busting for a toilet break, I spotted my rambunctious neighbor scuttling across the power line once more. Now in the full blackness of night, rain sheeting down heavily, I couldn’t see to know if, or when the possum would return. Anxious that I wouldn’t get another shot at boarding out the stubborn squatter, I prayed that my ‘fix-it’ man would arrive soon and be able to help in my battle.

Minutes later a familiar blue car pulled into the driveway, and geared up with ropes, harnesses and wet weather gear, my knight in shining armor was clambering along a slippery roof. I should have felt guilty for sending my friend up to the second story rooftop, risking life and limb on slimy roof tiles, braving gale force wind and rain, lightning crackling across the sky filling the air with ozone… but I didn’t. I wanted – no, needed – that possum gone at all costs. My sanity was at stake!


Half an hour later, completely saturated and task complete, no crispy fried humans welded to the roof tiles from a stray lightning bolt, we tentatively celebrated again. No possum, no rain damage, and no broken bones!

You think that I’d get the good night’s sleep I so desperately craved for now, right? Not quite – every morning for the following week I was startled awake by desperate attempts between 5 and 7am as the possum endeavored to breach the roof. I actually heard it crack a tanty – hissing and jumping and stomping along the roof in a frustrated rage. Thankfully now, though, I’m sleeping soundly, my noisy little friend evicted and probably dancing away on someone else’s roof. And the only noise going bump in the night  is the sound of my rummaging through the refrigerator for a midnight snack.

© Casey Carlisle 2013. 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.