Book Review – ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ by Maurene Goo

Food truck fighting.

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

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An adorable little contemporary. This book made me hungry with all its talk about food. At first I thought the characters were going to be annoying, but I ended up loving them with their individual charisma.

Yes, there are tropes and stereotypes in ‘The Way You Make Me Feel,’ but in a good way (well, for me.) The rebel, the nerd, the prissy one; but Maurene Goo does not shy away from quickly dismantling these stereotypes. This novel fell into my favourite wheelhouse of a light contemporary. Perfect for a lazy afternoon’s reading..

The humour was great in Goo’s writing style and had me laughing out loud, I even put the book down because I was laughing so hard, my eyes blurred up with tears. I can’t remember the last time a contemporary did that for me.

Great landscape and world building. I got a real feel for the LA climate and the food truck culture. Not to mention spattering of references to both Asian and Latino culture and language.

We get some great character arcs, and not your usual self-acceptance thing typical to this genre. We see a real transformation in our protagonist.

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleOur protagonist Clara is the big prankster – such a great hook – not the usual type of protagonist you get in this genre. I found her endearing from the get-go and loved reading her journey.

The frenemy/antagonist, Rose is the character I liked her the most. I know girls like this, heck, I was a girl like this. Striving to be perfect, scared of doing anything wrong or being perceived as colouring outside the lines. Stress, anxiety, all rolled up tightly and hidden away from all eyes as you prepare, study, and perform. It’s isolating and all-consuming. Leaving you constantly all-too-serious, uptight, and with a short fuse. A great place to start from and a fantastic character to counter Clara.

Hamlet, Clara’s love interest is a little straight-laced, and the most stereotypical of all the characters, but I had boy envy and was wishing for a Hamlet of my very own.

Have to say, I love the role of a present and involved parent. Adrain, Clara’a father is a tattooed hot D.I.L.F… ‘nuf said. But it was endearing how he cared for Clara, and juggled a small business with being an outstanding parent.

It is predictable, I pretty much guessed every plot point in advance – and even thought of one that never happened. But that is pretty much how it goes in most contemporaries I read. Its why I read them. The happy ending, the promise.

Definitely see what all the hype was all about and keen to check out a few more of Goo’s titles. A solid recommendation from me.

Overall feeling: Tickled my funny bone!

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Way You Make Me Feel 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 – ’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.

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.