Book Review – ‘My Calamity Jane’ (#3 The Lady Janies) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

The historical retelling I didn’t know I needed…

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical, LGBT

No. of pages: 544

Welcome ​to 1876 and a rootin’-tootin’ America bursting with gunslingers, outlaws, and garou.

JANE (a genuine hero-eene)

Calamity’s her name, and garou hunting’s her game—when she’s not starring in Wild Bill’s Traveling Show, that is. She reckons that if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.

FRANK (*wolf whistle*)

Frank “the Pistol Prince” Butler is the Wild West’s #1 bachelor. He’s also the best sharpshooter on both sides of the Mississippi, but he’s about to meet his match. . . .

ANNIE (get your gun!)

Annie Oakley (yep, that Annie) is lookin’ for a job, not a romance, but she can’t deny there’s something about Frank she likes. Really likes. Still, she’s pretty sure that anything he can do, she can do better.

A HAIRY SITUATION

After a garou hunt goes south and Jane finds a suspicious-like bite on her arm, she turns tail for Deadwood, where there’s been talk of a garou cure. But things ain’t always what they seem—meaning the gang better hightail it after her before they’re a day late and a Jane short.

Another entertaining fantastical historical romp to conclude the My Lady Janies trilogy. ‘My Calamity Jane’ pairs western legend with werewolf mythology in a comedic venture into the Wild West.

A spaghetti western with a paranormal twist written with humour and hints of feminism. I really enjoy this trio of authors working together. I am always amused and entrenched in the stories they write, the little twists to story and character, the little asides breaking the 4th wall to the reader.

We follow multiple perspectives revolving around the anecdotal stories of Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, Wild Bill and the Pistol Prince. Calamity Jane, a member of Wild Bill’s travelling show, marvelling townships with their skills in gun slinging, knife throwing, and whip-cracking. But it’s all a cover as they hunt down werewolves bent on killing or intentionally infecting the naive populace. Jane is a smart-mouthed tom boy, driven to forge her place in a male dominated world… and live up to the legend the group had crafted to sell tickets to their show. Annie is a determined young lady, if a little rough around the edges, eager to join the sharp shooting crew as it’s newest member – because there aren’t many places for a lady with her skills to find employment. Wild Bill and his posse are the ticket to a life she’s always dreamed of. Frank is slightly egotistical, but always up for a challenge. As the team track down the leader of the garou pack, bent on infecting every unsuspecting human they can to build an army of their own; Wild Bills group has their work cut out for them. Facing off this threat is going to uncover some secrets buried from the past and force the gang to open up to each other about their own hidden past and desires.

I literally flew through this book. It is highly entertaining with plenty of twist, turns, and reveals. I was saddened to hear this was an end to this series, but joyous to hear of another trilogy following Mary’s in history. This trio of authors have struck gold.

The writing style is very tongue-in-cheek and combines historical deportment and language mixed in with a contemporary sentimentality: the combination is magical. Hand, Ashton, and Meadows do comedy well in combination to creating fantastic, relatable characters, and encompassing worlds.

The plot wasn’t quite predictable; you get a sense of its direction at the beginning, and then the plot take you on a wild ride, the many reveals completely displacing you from the saddle. There is so much charm in ‘My Calamity Jane’ I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Overall feeling: Blow me down!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘My Plain Jane’ (#2 The Lady Janies) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Another supernatural twist on a classic tale…

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Historical

No. of pages: 464

From Goodreads:

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

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Another hilarious ride through a re-imagined classic from authors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.

I did find the characters interesting and compelling, and the plot equally twisty and turny. Expect surprises, with ‘My Plain Jane’ but also mirroring the same tone to the original text this novel is inspired by.

While the authors are great at world building, the stand out aspect of ‘My Plain Jane’ is the complexity of the characters and their development. Historical mannerisms and social etiquette also add a comedic touch. I especially remember when Charlotte Bronte disguised herself as a footman and marvels how comfortable being dressed as a man is, and wonders why they aren’t sleeping all the time.

The story is told from three perspectives, that of Jane, Charlotte and Alexander. Jane can see ghosts and has a passion for writing. Everyone describes her as average, forgettable. Except for ghosts. The otherworldly spectres see Jane as beautiful and compelling. Charlotte is a fastidious beauty. The kind of always on the go perfectionist and Janes best friend. We do see a bit of jealousy, or sibling rivalry pop up between these two. And Alexander, an agent of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits of which he tries to recruit Jane for her ability to communicate (and see) ghosts.

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Helen, the sassy 14 year old ghost and best friend of Jane Eyre has to be my favourite character from the book. I’d love her running the narration or giving opinion of what is going on.

The ghosts and their mythology were a great addition to this tome and I wish there was a sequel following these characters. (Maybe in the Marys trilogy.)

We get a few nods to the original text, as well as a mention of the main characters from ‘My Lady Jane’ which I found delightful.

The pacing felt slower in ‘My Plain Jane,’ I put this book down a number of times for rests. So too was the humour spread out much more. In comparison to ‘My Lady Jane’ where we got frequent asides to the reader, plenty of slapstick. I was always laughing… this felt sparse in ‘My Plain Jane.’

I think one thing that slowed the pace down for me is the continual head-jumping as multiple points of view are followed in ‘My Plain Jane.’ Changing with each chapter, their voices weren’t that distinct, and the authors had to establish a little about the character and the scene before moving the story forward – and many of the chapters are short – so I think this was the main culprit for the pace feeling slow. Especially in the first half of the novel. I think if the authors tackled several plot points in a chapter before switching point of view it would have driven the story further a lot quicker and given the reader enough time to connect to the narrator before hearing from another of the main cast.

The overall plot was very enjoyable. I’d re-read this for a lazy Sunday afternoon sipping hot tea on the porch to wind down from a busy week.

There is a great amount of predictability, given ‘My Plain Jane’ is a re-imagining of ‘Jane Eyre,’ but I felt this novel stood on its own, and the fuzzy memory I had of the original story still did not impede the surprises and twist of the storyline. I kinda liked the way it ended.

Another solid recommendation. A fun by-the-side for lovers of the classic novel.

Looking forward to the final book in this trilogy ‘My Calamity Jane,’ due for release sometime in 2020 and I also noted that there will be another trilogy for the Marys (the first set in the same universe as ‘My Lady Jane’) and am ecstatic to see these three authors collaborate on further novels in this tone. So much fun to read!

Overall feeling: fun and funny, but a bit flat

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) 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.

#bookporn

#bookporn Unearthly trilogy by Casey Carlisle.jpg

Recently finished this trilogy, and even though I’m not a fan of the YA angel genre, and this was published a while back, have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Keep an eye out for book reviews! Falling in love with Cynthia Hands writing – will have to check out some of her other titles. Any recommendations?

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.