Book Review – ‘Willful Machines’ by Tim Floreen

Gizmos, gadgets, androids and an Academy… a cybernetic, futuristic Harry Potter that is a blast to read.

wilful-machines-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, GLBT

No. of pages: 370

From Goodreads:

In the near future, scientists create what may be a new form of life: an artificial human named Charlotte. All goes well until Charlotte escapes, transfers her consciousness to the Internet, and begins terrorizing the American public.

Charlotte’s attacks have everyone on high alert—everyone except Lee Fisher, the closeted son of the US president. Lee has other things to worry about, like keeping his Secret Service detail from finding out about his crush on Nico, the eccentric, Shakespeare-obsessed new boy at school. And keeping Nico from finding out about his recent suicide attempt. And keeping himself from freaking out about all his secrets.

But when the attacks start happening at his school, Lee realizes he’s Charlotte’s next target. Even worse, Nico may be part of Charlotte’s plan too.

As Lee races to save himself, uncover Charlotte’s plan, and figure out if he can trust Nico, he comes to a whole new understanding of what it means to be alive … and what makes life worth living.

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Willful Machines’ was thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve had a long run of average-ish reads and was hoping for something to pull me out of that rut, and ‘Willful Machines’ was it. In a sci-fi future at a boarding school (reminding me a little of Harry Potter) with robots and conspiracies – totally had me engrossed.

wilful-machines-book-review-pic-03-by-casey-carlisleLee, our “Walk-In” protagonist (well closeted gay teen,) coming to terms with living up to his family’s expectations, watched everywhere he goes by cameras or security, it’s no wonder he’s attempted suicide… but that’s all in the past. He’s just trying to get by. I was interested from the first page and read this book in one sitting. We see Lee’s character develop slowly throughout the storyline and I identified with his insecurities, having to live up to an image and the pressures of responsibility.

When a new student starts at Inverness Prep, Nico, the dreamboat all the girls swoon over – so does Lee. And luck would have it, Nico seems interested in Lee too. If only Lee weren’t a “Walk-in.” Nico is a little wacky, messy, and loves to sprout lines from Shakespeare, so it’s not like he fits into any model jock trope. I liked how their friendship develops and how each of their trust is tested in the story.

Lee’s best friend Bex is part goth, part journalist, part rebel, and is our story’s straight shooter. She was probably the most stereotypical – which is saying something because she is anything but boring.

There is a fair amount of predictability for the novel, but I think it’s on purpose, because the main point of the novel isn’t what happens, but the questions it raises. I’d guessed the major plot points early on, but still got a lot of surprises along the way.

Tim Floreen’s writing style is delightful. It’s colourful without being overly descriptive. It lets your imagination fill in the blanks without slowing the pace of the novel.

I’ve read on his website that this is a standalone, which saddens me because I was so hooked on the story I wanted more. Begging for more! *HINT Tim Floreen if you ever read this* Highly recommend this to all my friends, it has the ability to be philosophical, nostalgic, entertaining and diverse all at the same time without coming off as intellectual. I think I’ve just become a superfan.

Overall feeling: Amazing!

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Fatal Abduction’ by Julia Crane

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse…

Fatal Abduction Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 262

From Goodreads:

There’s a serial killer at large. His victims just happen to resemble Kaitlyn—dark haired, pale skin and athletic build. Kaitlyn goes undercover, attending a prestigious high school to try to lure the killer into a trap and save the lives of other potential victims. Will she be able to catch the killer before his body count rises? Or will she become the next victim? 

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I’m glad to be done with this series.

When did Kaitlyn turn into a 40 year old noir gumshoe? Seriously, Julia Crane needs to set up her motivations and stop making generic statements which are out of character. This book was one big sarcastic eye-roll for me.

So much flawed reasoning and immature behaviour. Many situations feel like they are half out of context. I was skimming and angry reading. It was frustrating but my OCD had me seeing it right through to the end – I can’t leave something unfinished. And I had to find out what happened.

This final book in the trilogy (hopefully) added yet more perspectives: Madeline, then Kaitlyn, Elliot and Eliza… No one book in this collection is in the same format as another. It is agitating. We also see an Ouija board used as a plot device, which certainly did not match the mythology/history of the series and felt cheap.

Kaitlyn broke character as well – her train of thought bordered on paranoid, which digressed from her established personality in the previous books and did feel not realistic for a girl her age.

Eliza had her head screwed on right and I was starting to enjoy ‘Fatal Abduction’ in parts until just after halfway through, and then I lost all hope. This character would be the books redeeming quality as far as the multiple protagonists go, but the behaviour of her parents added to the books descent into ridiculousness.

The only other good point I can think to mention was that the last five or so chapters had great pacing and action scenes. I was hoping this series would get better, but it became more disjointed and convoluted. I wound not recommend these books to anyone I know. Interesting concepts, but needs to go back to the drawing board, address the basics in storytelling and go through an extensive editing/vetting process.

The print was bad too – askew on the page throughout the entire book. How can a writer get things so consistently wrong in every aspect of the writing-publishing process? Every book in this series has had spelling errors, grammatical errors, formatting issues and low production quality…. I should also lump the publishing team in with this, they are responsible for representing the author and preventing this kind of low quality getting to bookstores. Valknut Press – you need to up your game.

Overall feeling: Don’t bother – seriously!

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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 – ‘Fractured Innocence’ by Julia Crane

Hoped for more…  

Fractured Innocence Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 298

From Goodreads:

Kaitlyn and Erik are sent on a mission to track down Vance Dasvoik, a ruthless monster. His latest thrill—abducting and selling young women.

Vance’s current victim: Aaliyah, a seventeen-year-old who never imagined walking her brother home from school one evening would change her life forever.

The mission quickly turns personal for Kaitlyn when she finds Aaliyah beaten, her mind and soul fractured from abuse of the worst kind. Kaitlyn knows firsthand what it’s like to be haunted by the past and resolves to bring justice to the elusive Dasvoik. 

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I was hoping book two, ‘Fractured Innocence’ would redeem this series after my opinion on ‘Freak of Nature,’ the debut of this series, completely bombed. But unluckily, this was yet another lemon.

The beginning still had that annoying childish tone which did not gel well with Kaitlyn’s robotic nature, or the relationships and situations the novel started with. Not a good sign when I felt tense and squirmy with the first few pages…

Differing from the ‘Freak of Nature,’ this instalment followed the format of a dual P.O.V. between Kaitlyn and Aaliyah. The latter, a new character is the most realistic of all the cast, but still not someone I could readily identify with.

Fractured Innocence Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleKaitlyn is still hard to relate to, and her reactions/behavior is inconsistent with her cyborg condition, and frankly, annoying most of the time. Make up your mid Julia Crane, either she has emotions or she doesn’t, either she obeys commands or not – personality traits were all over the map and added to my confusion. Additionally, it was idiotic with Kaitlyn ignoring her superiors and risking another person’s fragile psyche – professionals are there for a reason, they know what works and what doesn’t. Her blatant disregard left me assuming Kaitlyn is a blunt instrument with little intelligence.

Interactions between Kaitlyn and Lucas (her love interest and overseeing technician) felt very one dimensional. He kept commenting on her looks as if that were the only important thing about her. His objectification, and her wondering if she is an object (being a company asset) left the story flat and superficial. Leading on from this, I did like the conundrum of whether Kaitlyn is alive, has rights, or is owned. But we never get any type of resolution, it’s only pondered.

Aaliyah’s narrative is the one saving grace, it was gritty, raw and heart-breaking. But as her story continued I became less interested. The choices she made, and some handling of the situation by the author left it feeling less and less authentic. But I highly commend the tackling of shocking and confronting material. A huge trigger warning for sensitive types – this book revolves around human trafficking, sexual abuse and rape. I personally found it to be vile and skipped over those parts. It’s not in my taste, but well written to have me feeling so disgusted.

Julia Crane should have done a little more research in maritime jargon to add authenticity as well, some of language was laughable. But ‘Fractured Innocence’ is another quick read, and not for everyone. I had so many problems with this it’s hard to give it a proper review without sounding like I’m completely flaming the book.

My copy had several typos and formatting errors, like it was not proofread properly. I feel embarrassed for Julia, issues like this are a red flag to me as far as quality goes.

Overall, a bit of an inconsistent, hot mess. Definitely great potential, and Julia Crane has the makings of a great writer, but ‘Fractured Innocence’ needs a few more drafts before I’d recommend it to anyone.

Overall feeling: Flatlined

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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 – Glitches by Marissa Meyer

Glitches Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 32

From Goodreads:

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. In Glitches, a short prequel story to Cinder, we see the results of that illness play out, and the emotional toll that takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch…

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In the lead up to reading ‘Winter’ I wanted to read all of the novellas in the Lunar Universe – ‘Glitches’ is the first of three that have currently been released.

This story provides a look into Cinders childhood, with her step father Garan bringing her home for the first time. It was great to get a glimpse into the family before real hardship was dealt.

Cinder was really a blank slate, Peoney (younger stepsister) was a beautiful accepting and playful child, and Adri (adoptive mother) although held some distaste for Cinder, she had yet to start abusing her. Although not altogether a pretty picture, it was a realistic setting from which to start the downfall leading to the beginning of ‘Cinder.’

This story was also about the birth of Iko (Cinder’s android best friend)… my favourite character in the Lunar Chronicles

It ended on a broken beautiful note and well worth the read – and it’s only 32 pages, so it won’t consume a lot of your time.

A great addition to the Cinder franchise.

Overall feeling: Cool!

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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 – Cress by Marissa Meyer

Once upon a time… in space…

Cress Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 550

From Goodreads:

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

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Cress’ the next instalment in the Lunar Chronicles adds yet even more interesting characters in the mish-mash of fairy tale re-tellings.

There was more involvement in Cress’ storyline with that of the other characters, which we did not get as much in ‘Scarlet,’ and for that I am greatful. Even though Cress gets her own backstory, it was woven into that of the rest of the main cast of the Lunar Universe from the get-go.

Cress Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleCress is a different type of heroine – where Cinder and Scarlet are physical and strong willed, Cress is intelligent, idealistic, but fragile. She plays to her strengths, yet the motivation of all three protagonists remains the same: freedom.

We see all of the assumptions Cress has made of the world outside her single room satellite challenged – there is only so much information you can glean from on-screen dramas. And in fact she chooses to play pretend to deal with the real-world shock of it all, continually repeating to herself she is an actress when plunged into the unfamiliar.

Again, I loved the inclusion of Iko and her comedic timing, and we see elements of this type innocent blundering in Cress, which I feel helped round out this series and inject some much needed light-hearted banter to break up the action and espionage. After all, the world our three protagonists face is bleak; and you need a sense of humour to stop going insane.

With Cress being so young and isolated, the narrative is much more ‘girly’ than we got in the previous editions, and I must say, an enjoyable change. Because of this, and so many elements/story arcs happening the pacing is engaging – and for such a lump of a book (552 pages) – a great feat.

Some of my friends felt ‘Scarlet’ was a little clunky and slow, and ‘Cress’ definitely lives up the standards set in ‘Cinder.’ The main plot points are predictable – I mean we all know how the fairy tale goes. But besides that, much of this book is setting up events for the three characters to deal with an almighty war with Queen Levana in ‘Winter’ due out next month (November).

I have to commend this series for its sheer imagination and the ability to breathe new life into old characters and to then weave so many different fables into one massive overarching plot… I take my hat off to you Marissa Meyer, it is a truly outstanding achievement.

Definitely glad I caught up with this series before ‘Winter’s’ release and can’t wait to indulge over the Christmas break!

Overall feeling: You go girl!

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© 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.

Book Review – Freak of Nature by Julia Crane

A cyborg cacophony!

Freak of Nature Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 284

From Goodreads:

Donate Body to Science. Check.
When seventeen-year-old Kaitlyn checked the box, she never suspected she’d have her life–and her body–stolen from her. She awakens one day in a secret laboratory to discover that her body is now half-robot and is forced to hide her own secret: that she still has human emotions and a human mind. If the scientists who made her find out, they’ll erase what remains of who she was.

Kaitlyn finds an unlikely ally in Lucas, a handsome, brilliant scientist who can’t get over the guilt he feels knowing she was once a vibrant, beautiful young woman. He never expected a science project to affect him the way she does. As he tries to help her rediscover her past, he finds himself falling for the brave girl struggling to find her place and acceptance between the human and computer worlds. 

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A nice little book – just nice. It could have been fantastic. I was lead to believe such great things from some fellow bloggers I follow, but it fell way short. Such a great premise for ‘Freak of Nature’ – waking up a cyborg, a clandestine company overlord and forced to perform nefarious stunts for someone else’s regime. There is a lot to like.

Freak of Nature Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleFor me, the biggest part that held my heart from falling in love with Julia Crane’s love child, is that I could not relate to either of the main characters. Kaitlyn’s mentality did not match her predicament. Her reactions varied from fantastic and engaging, to way off base. She was everywhere, and did not make sense to her character. Switching from mature to immature – it left her wishy-washy when I felt a great arc would have been about her rising out of confusion and uncertainty to assume her identity and ideals.

Lucas was the most frustrating. For someone intelligent enough to build a cyborg, he sure was dumb. I didn’t feel any of the chemistry between him and Kaitlyn. His inner turmoil fell flat, and as it was dragged out for so long through the story line of the novel, soon became tiresome. He was in a great position to make this character amazing, with compassion and power, trying to buck the man and a yearning like Frankenstein for his monster, I wanted to experience some torment, angst, and covert operations… and it was there, but just like a whisper in the dark.

Gracie made the most sense, but still her behaviour and manipulations sometimes jumped out of character and left me grinding my teeth. She was allowed too much freedom for it to feel realistic, and the way she fell into fast friendship with Kaitlyn, superficial. She seemed to wave too much control over key players in the plot for me to swallow. I’d really have like to see her challenged and need to test her strength for the sake of her friendships and relationships.

Much of the science around Kaitlyn being a cyborg did not add up and annoyed me throughout reading the entire book. It turned in to a bit of a struggle, and I put it down on several occasions. As did some of the twists at the end… and left me rolling my eyes.

If you overlook the glaringly obvious shortcomings this is a fun escape. Free flowing narrative style, though a bit juvenile for my tastes. It did conclude nicely (also leaving enough open for a sequel), but even that felt a little too trite. I felt this book more suitable for middle graders with the way it was written – but some of the steamier scenes wrote it out of that category leaving it ill placed for its target market.

I really wanted to love this book – but in the end it just felt like a dog’s breakfast.

Overall feeling: Frustrated.

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© 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.

Book Review – Fairest by Marissa Meyer

The B!tch is Back!

fairest 01Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure

No. of pages: 220

From Goodreads:

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now. 

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The origin story of Queen Levana – you may end up feeling a little compassionate for her… but not for long

I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way” a quote from Who Framed Roger Rabbit springs to mind when I think of Queen Levana, knowing that nobody starts out bad, they usually are shaped through events. In other cases, some are born with a little evil and embrace the darkness within until consumes them. You’ll have to make up your own mind which category Levana falls into.

Fairest 02Marissa managed to write a great story with the same magical tone of Cinder. New surprises are uncovered, the world/moon is explored a little more, everything moving to enrich the Lunar Chronicles Universe. Ultimately building an antagonist more terrifying than any Disney baddie.

The prose is easy to read and fierce on pace, it’s definitely a book you can blaze through in one sitting. It doesn’t double dip either. I could see how some topics could have been a big trap, like the virus, or the genetic hybrids – but seeing how they were major plot points in other novels, they were merely mentioned in passing… which is fantastic because my interest would had wavered if suffering repeat information.

There is not much else to say – it was a fun read, and definitely fuelled my intense dislike for the Lunar Queen – in a good way. So I highly recommend you add this title to your collection if you are a Cinder fan!

Overall feeling: I wanna punch that witch in the face – so strong feels!

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Critique Casey 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.