Picture vs Page – The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun is Also a Star Picture vs Page Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

The Sun Is Also a Star’ exceeded any expectations I had. When the book was first released there was a lot of hype, and I tend to wait and read later without any influence to sway my opinion. But I had to get a move on with the release of the film adaptation. I wanted to read the novel before its release to avoid another lengthy wait for the hype to go down… and avoid spoilers.

The Sun is Also a Star’ novel is a contemporary narrated in alternating points of view between teens Natasha, a Jamaican native, grown up in New York about to be deported; and Daniel, a Korean-American with ‘tiger’ parents pushing him towards a Yale application and becoming a doctor, despite his passion for poetry. We also get the occasional factoid chapter around physics, science, or a side characters perspective/history/future. While all of these elements are present in the film, and because of the omnipresent nature of movies the story flowed much easier from scene to scene. And the cinematography was beautiful. One of the drawbacks of the film was that it eliminated a number of characters from the narrative which hindered the whole interconnectedness/universal fate theme that runs through ‘The Sun is Also a Star.’ Some of those secondary characters added something to the story too – and leaving them out of the film to focus solely on the two romantic leads (Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton) left the movie feeling like most other romances out there. Also the novel had enough time and space to develop a strong emotional connection with and between the characters – it did not feel as strong in the film.

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We see social issues of interracial relationships, racism (and typecasting), immigration (both legal and illegal), mixed in with identity, and coming of age all at that tender age where the world flips on its head – graduation of high school. It was a hot-bed of themes and issues to create a passionate contemporary. I don’t know if it’s just me but many of these hot-button issues did not resonate as strongly with me from the film; which is strange considering a visual medium can usually drag out a lot more pain. I think maybe the producers wanted to keep a lighter tone and focus on the romance.

The pacing did not lag anywhere in this novel – which is high praise for contemporary. Usually they are introspective, symbolic, and take some time to build. ‘The Sun is Also a Star’ set the stakes high straight away and kept the pressure on until the end. The pacing in the film by comparison was good, but a little slower. Maybe because the angst did not translate as strongly. Maybe I connected with Nicola Yoon’s writing style better than the tone of the movie?

We also get a pizza slice of the New York landscape. Coffee shops, record stores, the tourist strip, the corporate buildings – it was an almost magical depiction of the city as seen through the eyes of our protagonists. It was just as vibrant in the film as it was in the novel. Rotating wide shots, beautiful colour grading, and sultry close ups added atmosphere. You get some muted tones throughout to make other colours pop, and many shots had unfocused edges to draw the eye to the principal part of the scene. Brilliantly done.

On a side note – the movie soundtrack is pretty cool too!

The family dynamics of both Daniel and Natasha are also a great peek into how POC are depicted, and how their culture shape their behaviour. I will say the novel depicted more of a stereotypical version in compared to the film. But it was intentional in the book to illustrate a socio-political view. It was softened in the film – and successfully – I feel it may have come off a bit mirco-aggression-y without that tweak.

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I did find the ending typical of contemporaries, that ‘what if’ moment, leaving the reader to make up their own mind as to what happens after the last page. But it does this with an unexpected flair and twist that I enjoyed. The film’s conclusion felt – cute- it lost the impact of the novel (again due to the cuts from characters/loss of angst.) I liked it, but nothing I would rave about. The film teased the novels ending but then went in a different direction.

One theme that is strongly resonating throughout is that we are made up of the same molecules as the universe, proving that everything is connected. It pushes this further by playing with fate, predetermination, and how universal forces follow an order about things. I found it poetic. Sometimes it can be cliché, but the novel ‘The Sun Is Also a Star’ managed to pull it off with sophistication. The film did have this undercurrent, but it felt more like a story of love and fate. Like the universe will always open a door for your to find your one true love. A great concept, but less grand in stature to the novels theme. At least it didn’t come off as cheesy.

The novel is definitely superior to the film, but I’d recommend both.

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkin

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I read this collection spread out over just under four years! I think because the middle book disappointed me after the stellar impression from the debut, I was reluctant to pick up ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ for a while after its release.

And a friendly warning: this is a wrap-up, so it discusses many elements with the plot, so avoid reading if you don’t like *spoilers!*

I was blow away with the debut. Hodkin’s writing is eloquent and haunting and I loved the analytical introspection of the protagonist. Plus the paranormal mystery storyline mixed in with a bit of thriller kept me engaged. A rich tapestry of characters that you don’t get a lot of in YA had me singing its praises to anyone who’d listen. And then the sequel “The Evolution of Mara Dyer’ put a big spanner in the works. The narrative moved away from the paranormal mystery/thriller, to that of a contemporary dealing with mental illness. We still get all the supernatural elements, but find ourselves embroiled in something that floundered about. Mara was not sure of anything –and as a result, I had no clue where the story was going. The pacing slowed right down because we were dealing circle shares and lengthy introductions to new cast members in the Sanatorium. I missed the tone of the debut and consequently was not too eager to pick of ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ when it was released.

After reading many rave reviews for the conclusion for this trilogy, I finally got around to reading it and my faith was just about fully restored. Though the genre was approaching more sci-fi than paranormal. Experiments for developing abilities – and mental illness the cost of acquiring such abilities is a fantastic concept. I was a touch underwhelmed about this explanation. The hint of past lives and ghosts from the first novel is what had interested me in this series initially.

This series is the first that I have read in YA with a darker tone to it, and I really can’t hype Hodkin’s writing enough. She is a sheer genius with her turn of phrase. What started out as feeling like a paranormal thriller, morphed into a gothic romance. So it was a bit of a rocky road with this trilogy, but definitely gets two thumbs up from me.

Of course we can continue in this universe with the latest releases of The Shaw Confessions, of which I am keen to collect and read. ‘The Becoming of Noah Shaw,’ ‘The Reckoning of Noah Shaw,’ and a third yet untitled volume to be published in 2019. Let’s hope it continues with the timeline and does not suffer the middle book slump.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/book-review-the-unbecoming-of-mara-dyer/

The Evolution of Mara Dyer’ https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/book-review-the-evolution-of-mara-dyer/

The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/book-review-the-retribution-of-mara-dyer-by-michelle-hodkin/

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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 – Blackbird Duology by Anna Carey

When there is no-one you can trust, people are trying to kill you, all you can do is rely on yourself… and survive!

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What a dynamic duology! I loved and devoured both of these books in quick succession. I would recommend reading these close together, or marathoning them, as ‘Blackbird’ ends on a cliff-hanger and if you get entranced as I was, you’ll be desperate to find out what happens next.

I will say that the whole memory loss/amnesia trope has been clubbed to death, especially in YA. However the majority of protagonists in this action/thriller genre tend to be male, so it was fantastic to read it from a female perspective. Especially since she is intelligent, resourceful, and follows her instincts. No fading wallflower or damsel in distress here.

One other note of contention that we never really get explained is how the protagonists get some of their spy-like survival skills. It was a bit of a reach for me to completely swallow this aspect.

But on the whole, I loved how quickly the series kicks off isolating the protagonist. The feeling of not being able to trust anyone is visceral and the writing style is punchy. Short chapters, so you can really power through these novels.

Once our protagonist begins to regain some of her memories, especially in ‘Deadfall,’ there were a lot of flashback scenes that pulled me from the narrative. I would have preferred different methods of revealing these memories to the reader though, because after three or four, to became too repetitive.

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There is a love triangle in here, but it does not devolve into an angsty mess. So I did not find myself rolling my eyes at this trope.

I have to say this is a solid four star rating across the board. The brief and punchy descriptive style of Anna Carey keeps the pace going from beginning to end and I was highly entertained and would happily recommend this to lovers of the YA genre. We get a decent amount of character development. The plot twists are pretty great and was completely satisfied with the pay-off upon completing the two novels. A fun cat-and-mouse type thriller.

Blackbird’ was optioned by Lionsgate back in March 2015, but there has been no news since the announcement. I can see how this would have appeal to the public as an action/thriller, especially since there have not been a lot of releases in this genre of late, so I guess we will have to wait and see if it comes to fruition, and what type of Hollywood treatment it gets. But it is certainly a film I’d be interested in seeing. But in digging further into the screenwriter attached to the project, Daniel Mackey (of ‘Aim High’ fame,) he hasn’t been involved in anything listed on the regular movie production sites since 2015. Plus ‘Blackbird’ is no longer listed on Lionsgate’s website as movies in development, so while it is optioned, at this point in time it is not being actively worked on. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Blackbird Duology Wrap Up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Blackbird’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/book-review-blackbird-1-blackbird-by-anna-carey/

Deadfall’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/book-review-deadfall-2-blackbird-by-anna-carey/

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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.

Film vs Novel – Fallen

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Where some angles fear to read.

I read the book over three years ago, and wasn’t overly impressed, but was interested to see if the movie could improve on my opinion.

On the surface, ‘Fallen’ is a thrilling story about forbidden love. And I enjoyed all the supernatural elements in the novel, though its execution was burdened with over-used tropes glutting the YA market. The movie did little to fix this, the characters still felt two dimensional, and it even managed to create a worse insta-love scenario between Luce and Daniel.

The whole age-old mythology of angels vs demons and reincarnation lost its edge.

The story itself is interesting, although nothing new or surprising, and if it hadn’t been such a lumbering read I would have rated it higher. You could predict the plot easily and I was a little disappointed how the climax (battle) of the book took place off screen. There were some unique devices within the novel, like the use of shadows to glimpse a window into the past, I really liked how this was done. But amnesia and flashbacks are two of my pet hates in a novel – they are cliché and overused.  The film watered down the story line so much – dropping out the roles of certain characters that teach and interact with Luce to the point that I just about wanted to puke. The reason/role the school of the Sword and Cross was also omitted. By the end of the film, I felt like I’d only gotten half of the story. The film failed to do a lot of the set up established in the novel, and did a gross disservice to ‘Fallen’ in my opinion.

The SPFX, especially that of angel wings, was pretty impressive though – it was my favourite aspect of the movie. ‘Fallen’ is aesthetically beautiful and melancholy. The visual tone is executed really well. But that old saying about polishing a turd…. with such a problematic story to begin with, there wasn’t a great deal you could do with it and remain true to the original novel. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded if it had a much darker, biblical tone, given the characters some depth and attitude that wasn’t steeped in an ancient battle of good and evil.

Fallen Film vs Novel Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Having said that, there were some scenes that felt like an ‘80’s music video : lighting effects, camera pulling in and out of focus, hair blowing in the wind… cue the ‘Heart’ soundtrack.

Luce, the main character, was too insipid for me in the novel. She reacted to the circumstances around her, and lacked strength. I can understand what Lauren Kate was trying to convey with this story, but neglected to give her main cast any sort of edge. Similarly Daniel and Cam, fighting for Luce’s affection, were equally two-dimensional. Both had strong chauvinistic attributes and I failed to connect with any of the characters or their love story. The film managed to give Luce an edge I was hoping for – I actually liked Addison Timlin’s portrayal of her. Daniel was played well by Jeremy Irvine (*swoons*), but I still found his character too aloof and brooding to care about. Cam felt much more dynamic on the screen (played by Harrison Gilbertson.) I had mixed feelings in the novel with him being painted as the tempting villain, but in the film, a layer of genuine concern of Luce’s well-bring shone through.

Fallen Film vs Novel Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Lauren’s writing is easy to read, and I enjoyed her style – she just kept losing me. I feel if you cut the book down to half its size to ensure the pace pulled you through the story, Luce would have been seen as a survivor rather than someone who simply endures. By the end of the novel I was more interested in the periphery characters: they had powers and attitude that stirred my curiosity. In the film I sat there blinking at the screen when the end credits rolled – I did not know what was going on with the periphery characters at all. And Penn – what happened there? Blink and you miss it, and none of the cast seemed concerned or affected by what went down.

Many of the reveals in the novel are slowly released, where in the film, much of it is dumped on the viewer in the first fifteen minutes and I was left wondering where the story had to go. If it weren’t for the digital effects I would have gotten really angry.

I do know the studio bought the film rights for all the books – and some sequels could help redeem this series, because this movie debut did feel like the first instalment of a series or a tv pilot… so there may be more to come.

Given the movie managed to interest and entice me much more than the books, it definitely surpasses the written version; though I felt it missed out on some important elements of interest from the books – and the pacing was a little off.

But if you love epic love stories, and angels, and don’t mind a passive protagonist then you will love this book or film. I had rated the book two stars on Goodreads, and in comparison, I’d rate the movie 2.5… an improvement, but still, no cigar!

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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.

Book Review – ‘The Decisions We Make’ by RJ Scott

A bit of a bipolar read for me… great writing but poor story development.

The Decisions We Make Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 137

From Goodreads:

Daniel Keyes is an orphan, fostered by the Walkers. The product of a lonely childhood, he is thrown into the chaos of the Walker family and into the life of his new foster brother Jamie. 

This story is the journey of Daniel and Jamie finding their place in the world. Through Jamie being a victim of hate crime to coming out to family and friends, there are many decisions the boys have to make before they become men.

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The Decisions We Make’ was a mixed bag for me. Many elements were so well done, and then others fell way short of the mark leaving the book looking a little amateur. I can’t remember how I came to purchase this book, whether it was on a recommendation from a friend or not, because based on the blurb it doesn’t have much appeal to me. Though, I can see a great amount of potential for the author.

RJ Scott’s narrative styling is a bit dry, but the story is touching and cute.

Our two main characters, Jamie and Daniel were okay, but this novel was so short I didn’t have the time to get me to connect with them. I felt this book was built around a few key scenes without setting the scene and developing the characters enough. We jumped straight into the good stuff and the remainder felt rushed.

The tone of ‘The Decisions We Make’ is blunt. Sexy. Garish. With moments of intense emotion and angst, bringing on all the feels. I lurve these elements in a story, and they are depicted so well, but without to softness of building a rapport with the reader it left me feeling somewhat juxtaposed.

Our cast face some scary moments – both physically and mentally – and I love how RJ can tap into that. I was really engaged in those scenes.

I felt there was some insensitivity when different family or friends kept asking Daniel or Jamie if they could’ve chosen an easier path – like it’s a choice, like it is wrong and dangerous… a very “straight” mentality. It totally rubbed me the wrong way. I’m guessing that’s the link to the title? But other than that, I’m really not sure how the book title is linked to the story. The cover art also threw me – it doesn’t really reflect the characters and, I hate to say it, not altogether polished.

There was a habit in the writing style of friends and family stating that they already knew about Jamie or Daniel’s sexual orientation, or were easily accepting (in a flash of a moment.) And that came across as being falsely and staunchly politically correct and not realistic. Only because everything was so summarised and rushed, it lost the importance and impact of such a declaration.

Some contextual facts that really destroyed the story for me revolved around Daniel being in foster care, and the admission he makes, would make him and his parents liable for persecution from Social Services – where was his Care Worker in this story? Relationships and boundaries as set up early and monitored by Care Workers closely to avoid this potentially psychological scarring event. The whole situation was so glossed over it was painful. I understand it is a simple storytelling device, but it didn’t work for me in this context.

There is a tone of the comical around ‘The Decisions We Make’ as well, there is funny dialogue and situations that had me snorting. Another point I applaud RJ Scott for is some of the educational aspects. It approached both Daniel and Jamie’s exploration and self-discovery in a practical and responsible manner.

Overall an okay read, with all the elements I love in a book, but fell short in the delivery. Sad to say I don’t think I’d recommend it, maybe when the author has had some more practice developing a story…

Overall reaction: Dude!

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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 – Finding Cinderella by Colleen Hoover

You can find love in the strangest of places… no matter who you are.

Finding Cinderella Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 90

From Goodreads:

A chance encounter in the dark leads eighteen-year-old Daniel and the girl who stumbles across him to profess their love for each other. But this love comes with conditions: they agree it will only last one hour and it will only be make-believe.

When their hour is up and the girl rushes off like Cinderella, Daniel tries to convince himself that what happened between them only seemed perfect because they were pretending it was perfect. Moments like that with girls like her don’t happen outside of fairytales.

One year and one bad relationship later, his disbelief in insta-love is stripped away the day he meets Six: a girl with a strange name and an even stranger personality. Daniel soon realizes the way he pretended to feel about Cinderella and the way he really feels about Six may not be so different after all. Especially when the two loves of his life end up being one in the same.

Unfortunately for Daniel, finding Cinderella doesn’t guarantee their happily ever after…it only further threatens it.  

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A great little companion novella to the Hopeless duology, this time dealing with Six and Daniel’s perspective – I found their story refreshing. There is no re-hash of Sky (Hope) or Holder’s story, but briefly kisses their journey as Six deals with a quandary all of her own.

With all the angst from the series but vastly different protagonists, ‘Finding Cinderella’ is much more gritty and real. The distinct voices of both Six and Daniel really serve to enhance this short story and help to colour the Hopeless Universe.

It can stand on its own, without having read other novels in the franchise, but in addition to the duology, this really shines with attitude.

I loved getting a peek inside Sky’s head, how she handles slut-shaming and the way both our protagonists grow from pivotal moments.

With only 90 pages in length it is a satisfying afternoon read – not as heavy as its predecessors, but full of the feels.

Other titles in the Hopeless Series:

Finding Cinderella Book Review Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleOverall feeling: Rock on!
Finding Cinderella Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Finding Cinderella Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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.

Book Review – The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer Book Review by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

Mara Dyer believes life can’t get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can. 
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love. She’s wrong.

Firstly, the style of Michelle Hodkin was phenomenal. I am so envious of her turn of phase – she is imaginative and eloquent, and this was by far the most outstanding quality. The supernatural, or paranormal theme that plays out in this book is subtle, it doesn’t fall into a fantasy world, which added legitimacy and realism to the narration.

Mara’s internal dialogue is enrapturing; her struggles with overanalysing her surrounds and overlapping visions and flashbacks give it a touch of a psychological thriller. Michelle Hodkin has written a refreshing take within the YA genre that left me wanting more. The story itself is more about an inner journey, as outwardly there is no epic quest, rather a revisitation of past dramas intermingled with a current one.

I normally detest flashbacks – they are so overdone, but this storytelling tool was used in ‘The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer’ to show you facts eluding to what is happening to Mara and let the reader draw their own conclusions.

The character of Mara is easy to relate to, her confusion, fear and a strong feeling of being out of place or lost shines through as she tentatively tries to connect with those around her. I managed to guess what was going on early in the piece, but was surprised with unexpected twists at the end.

source:  Pinterest - Gabriel Briefs

source: Pinterest – Gabriel Briefs

Daniel and Joseph, (Mara’s younger and older siblings) are equal parts adorable and annoying; you really feel a sense of family here and how the band together to deal with their parents. It is the type of dynamic and camaraderie that you see in many families.

Your typical scruffy but gorgeous guy – Noah – makes the perfect match for Mara and I liked his never-say-die attitude from the get-go. He provides the rock that Mara needs to work through her issues. If you like obstinate boys who always grab your attention with witty banter, then you’ll love Noah.

Besides the well rounded characters and amazing writing style I can’t say too much more without posting spoilers, so I’ll end it here. I highly recommend this for your collection, it is a great change of pace from you typical paranormal themed book. For people not overly into this genre, Hodkin’s book would be a good intro.

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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 – ‘Fallen’ by Lauren Kate … written by Casey Carlisle.

Where some angels fear to read.

ImageThe first book in a YA supernatural series promising something “dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, ‘Fallen’ is a thrilling story about forbidden love.”

                My overall impression of this book was mixed with unrealised potential. I did enjoy to story, but it failed to reach my expectations.

Having been recommended by a number of friends, I finally succumbed and bought the book. The cover and blurb hinted at an angsty romance with plenty of action and drama… well it did play out between the pages, but with a rather lukewarm execution.

The story itself is interesting, although nothing new or surprising, and if it hadn’t been such a lumbering read I would have rated it higher. You could predict the plot easily and I was a little disappointed how the climax (battle) of the book took place off screen. There were some unique and devices within the novel, like the use of shadows to glimpse a window into the past, I really liked how this was done. But amnesia and flashbacks are two of my pet hates in a novel – because they are cliché and overused.

With so many books being turned into movies these days (as this one will be), I’m interested to see what will come of ‘Fallen,’ because it may quite possibly turn out much more entertaining than the book.

Luce, the main character, was too insipid for me. She reacted to the circumstances around her, and lacked strength. I can understand what Lauren Kate was trying to convey with this story, but neglected to give her main cast any sort of edge. Similarly Daniel and Cam, fighting for Luce’s affection, were equally two-dimensional. Both had strong chauvinistic attributes and I failed to connect with any of the characters or their love story. I don’t mind reading this type of genre from time to time; the all or nothing stakes for an indescribable passion between two people. But ‘Fallen’ fell down on this aspect.

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Lauren’s writing is easy to read, and I enjoyed her style – she just kept losing me. I feel if you cut the book down to half its size to ensure the pace pulled you through the story, Luce would have been seen as a survivor rather than someone who simply endures. But the end of the novel I was more interested in the periphery characters: they had powers and attitude that stirred my curiosity.

Another aspect of ‘Fallen’ which didn’t play well with me, only from personal taste, is that I’m not too fond of stories involving angels. It humanises the divine and mixed drama into religious beliefs. Sometimes it can be done really well (as was with Cassandra Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments because the angels were a story telling devise, not a character trait) and sometimes not.

But if you love epic love stories, and angels, and don’t mind a passive protagonist then you will love this book.

 Excited over the premise, disappointed by the execution and it gets 2 out of 5 kisses from me.

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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.