Book Review – ’Boundless’ (#3 Unearthly) by Cynthia Hand

The wrap-up to a trilogy that truly surprised me.

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 448

From Goodreads:

The past few years have held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner could ever have anticipated. Yet from the dizzying highs of first love, to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she can no longer deny is that she was never meant to live a normal life.

Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seems like the best option, so she’s headed back to California – and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.

As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfill her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal.

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A great way to wrap up the trilogy, if somewhat spoony – but that comes with the territory for paranormal romances.

I’d like to say it was predictable – and in some ways it is obviously so – however there were so many smaller reveals, and the plot structured in a way with many red herrings that I seriously doubted my first assumptions. Which is a tremendously good thing. I was taken off into a fantasy world of angels and angel bloods and put the book down only once to go to sleep.

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleClara becomes a quiet determined hero. Yes she gets some kick-butt fighting skills, but bucks the trend when it comes to YA heroines. It’s not all about the fist and sword. It’s also about family and friends. About love. About your own convictions and the decisions you make. There was an undercurrent that hints at a grand design, working in tandem with free will. That you still shape your own destiny… but that destiny is already out there waiting to be realised. A lovely tone to shine through.

Christian, although a character I found impossible, arrogant, and annoying, redeems himself in my eyes. A bit of selflessness shines through that didn’t marry up to his own desires. It was great to see him finally put to the test.

You don’t get a lot of Tucker, but he’s there still the beautiful righteous cowboy as much as ever.

I was not a big fan of the love triangle thing in this novel. It felt tired and dragged out unnecessarily. But thankfully there is a lot more going on in ‘Boundless’ to entertain. Dark Wings, Hell, University, unexpected surprises, and discovering even more angelic powers. Hand has done a great job of building on the mythology and keeping the tension growing from start to finish.

I was of two minds about the strain that went through Angela and Clara’s friendship; some of it seemed forced for the plot, as did the relationship with Jeffrey, Clara’s brother. I remember wondering why somethings were ignored or forgotten at convenient times, so it lost a touch of realism for me there.

Hand has a fun light touch for her writing style. ‘Boundless’ didn’t have the wit and humor from the first two as much, but we were dealing with some serious stuff and wrapping up the trilogy. I still stand by how engrossed I was with this series, I’m not in to angels or religion with my reading, but the Unearthly trilogy surprised me on all fronts and is a collection I’d happily recommend to lovers of YA.

Overall feeling: Go angels!

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) 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.

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Book Review – ‘Hallowed’ (#2 Unearthly) by Cynthia Hand

An enjoyable quick escapist read – with some middle book syndrome.

Hallowed (#2 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 403

From Goodreads:

For months Clara Gardner trained to face the fire from her visions, but she wasn’t prepared for the choice she had to make that day. And in the aftermath, she discovered that nothing about being part angel is as straightforward as she thought.

Now, torn between her love for Tucker and her complicated feelings about the roles she and Christian seem destined to play in a world that is both dangerous and beautiful, Clara struggles with a shocking revelation: Someone she loves will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

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I enjoyed ‘Hallowed,’ though I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand it is full of tropes that dominate YA, the writing sometimes felt lazy, and well… the whole angel thing has been done to death, and quite frankly, not my cup of tea. The other side to this is that I love a good soppy escapist book every now and then. They’re short, angsty, and generally end on a positive note. Cynthia Hand’s ability to plot and weave a great story is inspiring. I admire how she was able to surprise me even in this mostly predictable genre.

But for some reason, I wasn’t as engaged as I was in the first novel ‘Unearthly.’ The love triangle trope blazes in all its glory and almost made me yack. For some reason I don’t particularly like Christian as a love interest. He’s so presumptuous it grates on my last nerve. I found myself beginning to grind my teeth when he appeared in the second half of ‘Hallowed.’

Hallowed (#2 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlislePlus religion, and losing a family member are triggers for me, so ‘Hallowed‘ became an awkward read at times.

Our protagonist Clara also feels so wrapped up in her own dramas, and as much as I like her, I am starting to get a little bored with her. It didn’t feel like there was any character development for her in ‘Hallowed.’

Tucker, the love interest I’m cheering for, felt wonderful until halfway through when he started acting a bit douchey… granted he was led into it, but I was expecting more from him. It probably stems from my eye-rolling at the positions Clara lets herself get backed into. I wish she was a bit more pro-active with her love life.

The whole “secret” thing felt tired here too. It was dragged out too much. No need to continually repeat something solidly established in the debut.

I’m looking forward to reading the final book ‘Boundless’ and seeing how it all wraps up for Clara and co. ‘Hallowed‘ is a middle book, so there is an expected lull in interest and engagement; let’s hope ‘Boundless‘ brings the fireworks.

Overall feeling: Sitting on the fence

Hallowed (#2 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Hallowed (#2 Unearthly) 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 – ‘Unearthly’ (#1 Unearthly) by Cynthia Hand

The start of a surprisingly fun trilogy…

Unearthly (#1 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 435

From Goodreads:

In the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees…

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny? 

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I’m definitely not one to read books about angels – especially in YA. It’s been done to death. But ‘Unearthly’ surprised me. The mechanics of our protagonist Clara exploring her angel abilities was unique. As too was the mythology. It wasn’t so much religious based, or fire and brimstone. It read like an origin story of someone discovering their superpowers.

It was a slow read however, which is not the best thing, especially for a short novel. I found myself putting it down regularly for a break. Partly because, as I’ve mentioned, angels just aint my bag, and partly because the pacing was pretty slow.

Clara felt innocuous for the majority of the novel, she didn’t show much personality and seemed to swing in her light affection between love interests Christian (her charge) and Tucker, her besties brother.

I found Clara a bit bland.

Christian still feels like an unknown and we don’t really get a chance to get to know him before the novel ends.

Tucker becomes endearing, and I think the relationship growing between him and Clara is cute, but again, the story concludes before it gets a chance to really get going. I feel like we’re being set up for some love triangle angst over the course of this trilogy.

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

The second half started to ramp up the complexity a little, and there were a few interesting scenes – but they didn’t really seem to go anywhere – I’m guessing these are hints of story lines to be continued in the sequels.

The conclusion felt somewhat anticlimactic. It did resolve much of the plot, but didn’t really give me the big pay-off I was hoping for.

There’s not much else that happens besides that.

I’ve actually been enjoying uncovering all the angelic powers as they unfold in the novel – and you get a sense that it is only the tip of the iceberg – that there is so much more to come in ‘Hallowed’ and ‘Boundless.’ So ‘Unearthly’ read like a great teaser.

Cynthia Hand’s writing style is easy enough to read. I actually liked the way she shaped her prose and wove a story. I did think the pacing was slow, like we needed an arc or two to create some more interest to drive the story forward.

All in all not a bad novel, much better than expected. Colour me impressed.

Overall feeling: Dude…

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

Unearthly (#1 Unearthly) 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.

Wrap up – The Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead

Got better and better, masterful platting and pacing.

Vampire Academy Series Covers by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I was a little late to the show when it came the Vampire Academy Series, I purchased a box set and spread out the Rose and Dimitri goodness for about a year. I have to admit that it was the film adaptation that inspired me to pick up this collection of books. The tongue-in-cheek witty one liners and kick-ass heroine had me sold instantly.

The film didn’t get that much praise, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the silliness and mythology of the world, though it was easy to see where it failed. There is so much information in every book in this series, that the movie could not include it all in order to help drive the plot forward. I also did not get the chemistry from the couple on screen that I did in the novels.

Richelle Mead is a master of plot. The novels just kept getting better the further I got into the series. My favourite being ‘Blood Promise.’ What starts as a typical smart-mouthed teen, Rose really develops into a selfless warrior.

Vampire Academy Series Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

I did want a little more from the end of the series though; there were many questions I did not get answers to, but I’m wondering if it will get explored further in the Bloodlines series.

An attractive boxed set that gave me many, many hours of fun entertainment and solidified Rose as one of my favourite heroines. Glad to have it in my library collection.

Vampire Academy Series Titles 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 – ‘Last Sacrifice’ (Vampire Academy Book 6) by Richelle Mead

A sad goodbye to a YA favorite.

Last Sacrifice Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery

No. of pages: 608

From Goodreads:

They come first.

My vision was growing dimmer, the blackness and ghosts closing in. I swore it was like I could hear Robert whispering in my ear: The world of the dead won’t give you up a second time. Just before the light completely vanished, I saw Dimitri’s face join Lissa’s. I wanted to smile. I decided then that if the two people I loved most were safe, I could leave this world.

The dead could finally have me.

Rose Hathaway has always played by her own rules. She broke the law when she ran away from St. Vladimir’s Academy with her best friend and last surviving Dragomir princess, Lissa. She broke the law when she fell in love with her gorgeous, off-limits instructor, Dimitri. And she dared to defy Queen Tatiana, leader of the Moroi world, risking her life and reputation to protect generations of dhampir guardians to come.

Now the law has finally caught up with Rose – for a crime she didn’t even commit. She’s in prison for the highest offense imaginable: the assassination of a monarch. She’ll need help from both Dimitri and Adrian to find the one living person who can stall her execution and force the Moroi elite to acknowledge a shocking new candidate for the royal throne: Vasilisa Dragomir.

But the clock on Rose’s life is running out. Rose knows in her heart the world of the dead wants her back…and this time she is truly out of second chances. The big question is, when your whole life is about saving others, who will save you?

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I’m not sure how I feel about the conclusion to this epic series – on the one hand it was a lovely round-up and concluded in what, to be frank, is the most realistic way. But I wanted and ending that was legendary. After I had put the book down, I was struggling to remember how it all wrapped up… and that’s why I’m so on the fence with the culmination to the Vampire Academy books – I invested a lot of time in these big six books, so I wanted the conclusion to be the ultimate.

Lissa’s position I pretty much pegged in the first book of VA, and that was very satisfying. But Rose… well… she’s a warrior and I wanted a big bang – or promise of more to come. We kind of left her in a way that it trailed off.
But that is about the biggest aspect to ‘Last Sacrifice’ and the VA that bothered me. The rest was damphir goodness! I got the little plot twists that I’ve not come to expect, and that I rarely predict. The overall plot is pretty much easy to guess, but Richelle Mead always makes the journey there so interesting.

I also wanted some more questions answered a little better. More investigation into Spirit users. The fate of the remaining Strigoi. A solid direction for the reign of the new Queen. We get hints, but it felt too uncertain.

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I know their journey is still not over, as the spin-off Bloodlines will delve into more of the VA world, and most likely give me some more answers. But I feel VA deserved an ending that resonated with me.

The writing is easy to read and a pleasure to while away an afternoon as always. And considering that ‘Last Sacrifice’ is 608 pages long, it was still a relatively fast read. It did drag a bit at some points, and the pacing isn’t as good as its predecessors – I think mainly because there was so much going on and Rose was in and out of her head as well as Lissa’s, it was difficult to get into one stream of consciousness where the action was ramping up, before you are yanked into another head space.

I think we also lost some of that mystery that we get throughout VA – it was pushed to the side with all the action in ‘Last Sacrifice.’ I wanted to there be a stronger presence of Spirit and it’s mythology/origins. And a bit more on the origin of the species of Moroi and Strigoi. With the introduction of the rebel group who were Traditionalists, it opened the door for this – but Richelle didn’t do anything with that. As too with the mythology/origins of the Alchemists.

So I’m going to have to read the Bloodlines series now to see if Mead will drop me some more breadcrumbs.

A wonderful book, slightly underwhelming ending, but a sad goodbye to our kick ass heroine Rose (by that I mean an end to the series – not that she dies).

Overall reaction: a sweet and sad goodbye

Last Sacrifice Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Spirit Bound’ (Vampire Academy Book 5) by Richelle Mead

I didn’t expect this kind of aftertaste from another bite out of the Vampire Academy series.

Spirit Bound Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery

No. of pages: 489

From Goodreads:

Dimitri gave Rose the ultimate choice. But she chose wrong…

After a long and heartbreaking journey to Dimitri’s birthplace in Siberia, Rose Hathaway has finally returned to St. Vladimir’s and to her best friend, Lissa. It is at long last graduation, and the girls can’t wait for their real lives beyond the Academy’s iron gates to begin. But Rose’s heart still aches for Dimitri, and she knows he’s out there, somewhere.

She failed to kill him when she had the chance. And now her worst fears are about to come true. Dimitri has tasted her blood, and now he is hunting her. And this time he won’t rest until Rose joins him . . . forever.

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I’ve really been enjoying my journey through the Vampire Academy series and was eager to complete the collection early this year, so I went into book five, ‘Spirit Bound’ with some high expectations.

For some reason I did not enjoy this as much as the others – maybe it was the lack of action? But there was still a lot going on in this novel… I was forced to put it down a number of times because of life commitments, but it is still has an easy flow and allowed me to pick up from where I left off with ease.

I think the biggest thing that stood out to me in this instalment was Roses indecisiveness, that and her continual flighty nature – it was getting old. We’ve seen so much development of her character throughout the series, ‘Spirit Bound’ felt like a big step backward.

Spirit Bound Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

I enjoyed the typical Rose/Lissa goodness in the first half, but it started to take a back seat by the end and had me asking what was going on – was everyone taking crazy pills? Richelle Mead what are you doing to me?

Besides that, I loved the intrigue and politics with the royals – you really have to keep an eye over your shoulder.

Spirit Bound Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleMy affection for Adrian, Rose’s new boyfriend, really grew in Spirit Bound – previously I felt he was more of an annoyance, but by the end of this novel my heart went out to him. He is really a lost puppy in a barfly’s clothing.

In true Mead form, there was another plot twist at the end which floored me – I was not expecting that at all. As was the tension between Rose and Dimitri – I’ve invested a lot in the Vampire Academy books and wanted more of a win at the conclusion of this novel – but given it’s the second to last, I’m sure we needed to up the stakes for a fantastic end to the saga.

The romance with the world of dhampir, strigoi and moroi is still resounding strong in my blood, but this story was a little weaker, but I am expecting ‘Last Sacrifice’ to slay me. Looking forward to completing the series and then maybe start to tackle the Bloodlines series.

Overall reaction: Why you gotta do me like that?

Spirit Bound Book Review Pic 05 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.