Book Review – ‘The Problem With Forever’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Taking your life back can be hard… but it’s easier with a hunk at your side.

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 474

A story about friendship, survival, and finding your voice.

Growing up, Mallory Dodge learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime. Now, after years of homeschooling, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at a public high school. But she never imagined she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day. 

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet soon it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory must make a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants and the truths that need to be heard.

A realistic tale of child abuse survivors attempting to live in the real world, finish high school, and reconnect.

To summarise my roller-coaster of feelings while reading ‘The Problem With Forever’ : a little long. Pacing was good. Nearly ugly cried at the end. Some melodrama (as expected). Loved the characters and character development, felt fresh from JLA, not a lot of surprises, but an enjoyable read. Shocked me once.

It’s been a minute since I’ve read anything from Jennifer L. Armentrout, I think I’ve been avoiding her titles because at times her writing feels too melodramatic and over-angsty. I actually love those elements in a story, but many times after reading one of JLA’s books I got the impression that it was heavy-handed (and sometimes repetitive) with theses story elements. ‘The Problem With Forever’ felt like a refreshing take for Armentrout in the context of my reading experience. I guess removing any science fiction or fantasy elements, we get more of her core writing skills with character development and dynamics. Admittedly I’ve only read a handful of her steamy contemporary romance stuff at present, so it’s hard to draw that comparison. But overall I really enjoyed ‘The Problem With Forever’ showcasing a unique protagonist, Mallory ‘Mouse’ Dodge attempting regular high school after years of home-schooling and dealing with the mental and physical aftereffects of abuse.

This was paced really well, but at times felt like it was dragging, or the story a little too long; but I think that comes down to the author liking to indulge in the romance and angst (and sometimes repeating a lot of what is already established) typical of YA and JLA’s writing style. But this did not detract from my enjoyment of ‘The Problem With Forever’ that much.

I enjoyed reading about a protagonist who was attempting to grow and push herself, to start using coping mechanisms for her PTSD, anxiety, and depression and get out in the world, function efficiently rather than living cooped up inside and away from crowds. I did get a sense of the love interest, Rider (ugh, that name) playing protector too much, like she was broken and needed a saviour. Setting up a premise of Mouse conquering her fears only to have Rider swoop in many times rubbed my skin the wrong way. I would have liked to see him in a more supportive role than the man who comes in to fix the problem… I don’t mind a damsel in distress moment, but as long as it is not set up as a repeating trope.

Rider is that cool, bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. JLA loves this trope, I see it a lot in her books. It’s a fun fantasy, and at least he wasn’t being mean or aloof ‘for her own good,’ and even though I cringed a bit at this trope, Rider grew on me as we see more and more of his motives come to light. The fact he has his own demons to wrestle from the same childhood abuse redeemed his character in my eyes.

You get the sense of some real underlying research into child abuse, mental illness, and how children cope, adapt, and it’s repercussions in later life. I would have liked to seen more practical advice and support presented in the narrative, but the story was pretty solid. It goes without saying that there should be a big trigger warning around child abuse for ‘The Problem With Forever.’

Mouse gets bullied – there is an element of girl warfare we see all the time in high school, it adds some great tension, and a worthy antagonist for the story, but something about Rider’s excuses, Mouse’s tendency to brush it off, and Paige (said antagonist) felt a little two-dimensional, painted as the villain a little too heavily. We also get a lot of holding back of information, and misunderstandings to amp up the drama which lost a little bit of realism for me.

The plot is fairly simple, though it has a great reveal at the end which really squeezed my heart. Jennifer L. Armentrout’s writing style is breezy, lending to a quick read despite its 474 page length. As with most contemporary romances the plot was easily predictable, but it is a satisfying ending that wraps up the plot points nicely. I’ve seen chatter on the blogs about wanting a companion novel following Ainsley (Mouse’s bff from home-schooling online) and Hector (Rider’s foster brother) and I can see the opening for that – their story is left up in the air, and I’d be down to read that book if it is ever written and get more of a glimpse into Mouse and Riders future.

An interesting, heart-wrenching, realistic contemporary that I thoroughly enjoyed. Definitely recommend this one.

Overall feeling: She’s back in the saddle

© 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 – ‘You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)’ by Felicia Day

Deconstructing feminity in a male-driven industry… plus gaming and D&D and stuff.

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

No. of pages: 272

From online entertainment mogul, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to Internet-stardom, and embracing her individuality to find success in Hollywood.

The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world… or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.

After growing up in the south where she was “home-schooled for hippie reasons”, Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.

Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.

I have to admit I was a massive fan of Felicia Day, mainly for her acting chops in shows like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ ‘Eureka,’ ‘The Librarians,’ ‘The Magicians,’ ‘Supernatural,’ and ‘Dollhouse’ and the film ‘Red: Werewolf Hunter.’ I loved the fact there was another red headed actress out there making strides. I also knew she was kind of a geek, but that was the extent of what I knew of her. Delving into this memoir I became infinitely impressed with her drive and determination despite crippling anxiety and depression. She has two degrees, and effectively launched her own television production company (through web content.) Wowzer! What a chick.

I particularly loved how she approached each roadblock in her unique way. There was no ball-busting bitch. Day is a self-confessed delicate flower, yet she found ways to stand up against the Hollywood meat grinder, internet trolls, and financial struggles. It was such a delight to read about the antithesis of the cold, stone-faced, barren, corporate spinster women thought they needed to be to achieve success in a male dominated society.

She is pretty witty too. I laughed a few times, and enjoyed the memes she included in the books format to accompany the narrative. It wasn’t a laugh-riot, but has an upbeat quirky tone that I haven’t experienced in another memoir to date.

There is a lot of content about ‘The Guild’ and ‘Geek and Sundry’ – which is a major life achievement for her, but I was unfamiliar with a lot of that stuff, and not really into gaming, so my interest waned on the material… which is like, one third of the book. But underlying all of that content are gems and life lessons you learn as you navigate your way through self-discovery, and building a business.

I was particularly confronted towards the end around the internet hate, trolling, and doxing. Such an extreme form or bullying and so obviously done by white men throwing their opinions around and trying to tear down anyone who does not fit into the image they want them to. Felicia Day never comes out and says it directly – probably for legal reasons – but there is some plain-as-day misogynists out there in places of power, and hiding behind the anonymity of the internet that need to be checked, or simply removed from their thrones. Period. My heart bleeds for Day that she had to live through that experience.

This was a lovely read, and some of the content I could not relate to directly, but the core messages, and Felicia’s personality shine through. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone interested in acting, YouTube, gaming, or struggling with online hate. She has since published another book ‘Embrace Your Weird: Face Your Fears and Unleash Creativity’ which I am particularly interested in, as it sounds to be more focused on life-lessons and strategies for a creative driven business. Right up my alley.

Overall feeling: Brilliant insight.

© 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.

#bookquotes

#BQ The Yellow Wallpaper by Casey Carlisle

The next of the top 5 quotes from the most memorable novels read has to include the short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper‘ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. A narration on mental illness, post-partum depression, and being trapped in a archaic marriage, unable to play the role of a dutiful housewife. It was the first time I’d read anything so heavily steeped in symbolism. It was required reading for my first year of university and seemed to open my eyes in regards to feminism, equality, and gender roles.

Are there any books that opened your eyes to views on society?

Book Review – ‘Without Merit’ by Collen Hoover

Messy can be beautiful… or just plain miserable. But there is also beauty in misery.

Without Merit Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 385

From Goodreads:

Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

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What a train wreck of a family! ‘Without Merit’ is all about keeping secrets and putting up a front that contributes to this family imploding. But you don’t get the info dump of all the elements that have built up this tension – Colleen Hoover reveals them like peeling back layers of an onion in an organic way through the perspective of our protagonist Merit. It is a moderately paced book with a slow burn romance. It’s not overly traumatic, and has a cute ending but is very engaging. I completed it in two sittings and found the characters – and their arcs – delightful. It is just another novel that adds to the proof of Hoovers’ deft writing and stylistic flare.

We’re introduced to Merit as someone who is angry yet hopeful… and then slowly shown why she is both of these things. I related to her because she is both flawed, intelligent, and resourceful. She questions and challenges the world in her loner fashion.

Without Merit Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe rest of her siblings each have a different dysfunction – their mechanisms for dealing with the repercussions of their parents’ divorce and parental style. Utah, Honor, and Moby were still connected enough to be a family unit, but had their own story arcs going on. It was great to read that all the characters were so intricately crafted.

Two other characters of note revolving around the family: Luck seems like a bright addition to the family, but is soon discovered as the grenade that starts the inciting moment of self-inspection the family desperately needs. And Sagan, who comes across as the tattooed brooding love interest with a touch of mystery about him – and while he is all of those things we soon discover there is more: an artist, a compassionate soul. I really enjoyed discovering him through Merits eyes, though the whole quiet brooding thing was starting to get a little tired towards the end.

We also get the neighbour’s dog that Merit adopts; who is by far my favourite character and a wonderful symbol of moving on from a painful past.

I like how mental illness is represented and discussed in ‘Without Merit.’ It doesn’t necessarily paint a pretty picture, but once brought out into the open and dealt with, can be treated in a way that is not destructive.

The novel really deals with how perceptions and assumptions are continually deconstructed and the truth revealed.

The first half takes a while in setting up the characters and plot, so the pacing feels moderately slow, but after the halfway mark, things really get interesting and I did not want to put the book down. It’s not really an angsty novel. More one of uncovering one sensational thing after another, like some telenovela, it was tragically juicy and I was hooked.

Hoovers writing style slayed me yet again, and it was hard to predict what was going to happen because the predicament Merit finds herself in is just so deliciously messy. It all made great reading and a novel I’d happily recommend.

Overall reaction: Knock me down with a feather.

Without Merit Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Without Merit 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.

Mental illness in writing

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

It might be a point of difference, a plot point, but mental illness in YA and literature can help save lives through education and lifting the veil on depression and related conditions. Before the person suffering takes drastic measures of their own…

I have a (secondary) character in one of my WIPs who suffers from depression, it provides one of the main characters in the story with motivation and characteristics important to their arc. However, while taking a break from framing out the second half of the novel, I jumped on social media for a nosey and catch up with friends. Two things happened that have me questioning my mentally ill character… first, a teenage girl in my family circle dealing with her own mental illness and a ton of online bullying; and secondly, the suicide of an idol. Part of the contributing factors leading him to his death were the continual hate he was getting online – he never felt good enough.

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It really hit home. I truly don’t fully understand what it is to be depressed enough to take your own life. I’m much too proactive and positive for that. It must be such a desperate and lonely place to be. And I wish others did not have to experience such a painful and debilitating emotion.

Professional psychologists attribute some of this to a chemical imbalance in the brain, as well as finding the coping mechanisms to train your thought patterns… it all sounds so clinical in the face of such a devastating state of mind.

I know there is no easy fix for something like this, but I always wonder why the two people mentioned above in particular don’t take some control of their exposure to the hate? Granted, they are the victims, and by right should not have to limit their activities. But why in the heck don’t they just delete all social media accounts? Or block the trolls? Online haters feel safe in anonymity; and the numbers and reach of these kind of people are incrementally greater online. Why not just switch off, unplug, and concentrate on you. On what you can control?

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI understand asking that of today’s youth would be like removing a limb – but wouldn’t you rather value your mental health than put up with idiots and haters? It has become such a huge problem that we are dealing with since the growth of online communities. Depression, anxiety, and bullies are a dangerous mix – it can lead to suicide, substance abuse, or fatal retaliation. Thankfully there are ways to deal. Help lines, organisations, peer counselors, teachers, parents, friends, doctors, mental health professionals. While life online has exposed people to more hate, it has also connected us to real help. Plus, we can control what we are exposed to with security settings, blocking profiles, reporting abusers to moderators. It’s not a hopeless situation. And seeking help online isn’t as difficult as reaching out in person. There is no shame or embarrassment.

I feel like including characters in my writing, and reading about them in fiction, can help educate people about this issue in an informal and personal way. I may not fully understand the things that go through someone’s head suffering depression, but with some research maybe I can help a reader feel like they are not alone, show them ways to handle these strong feelings, and seek out the help they need? Some of the novels I’ve read have certainly educated me in handling grief, bullying, depression, and anxiety. It’s also shed light on other mental illnesses and disabilities and how individuals cope with them in their lives, like bipolar, schizophrenia, being on the autism spectrum. When I was a child, things like this were taboo. Never mentioned. But what I see today is that dealing with mental illness doesn’t have to be struggled through alone. People can overcome the difficulties. And it’s more common than you think.

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It hurts my heart to see such a dark side of humanity laid bare when I think of those driven to take their own lives from bullying and hate. We don’t need to do that to each other. And to anyone surrounded by shadows and clouds, feeling worthless and alone – don’t believe those feelings. Don’t give in. You are a special, unique individual. A part of what makes this universe tick. Even though these words are coming from a complete stranger through a screen of some kind – you are loved.

 

And there is help.

 

Please call for help.

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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 – ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ by Michelle Hodkin

Haunting.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Paranormal,

No. of pages: 470

From Goodreads:

Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.

There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.

She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.

She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.

Retribution has arrived.

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After a very long spate of novels where after the first 100 pages or so, I was still struggling to get into the book. ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ broke that slump. It jumps right into the action and had me trying to puzzle things out, gripping me with every page. I had put off reading this last book of the trilogy for so long because of the difficulty I had getting into ‘The Evolution of Mara Dyer,’ but we get answers very quickly, and it puts the all the series of events up this this point into a new perspective straight away. Someone should had slapped me upside the head earlier on and forced me to get into this final book sooner…

With such a dark, captivating and complex tone, I was truly enraptured.

Our protagonist Mara is definitely a troubled teen – the way she handles the darkness, the things she does left me uneasy. It was compelling reading, but I don’t fully understand how the people around her can dismiss the gravity of what she has done (and what she is capable of) so easily. It’s the one issue I have with this book – zero repercussions for crime, murder and violence. All aspects of the mystery surrounding Mara Dyer are solved. And she is no longer the victim as I thought of her in book one, but an anti-hero. I really enjoyed her journey, but also found it disturbing.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Noah as lovely as he is, as gorgeous as the love between Mara and him is, is whipped. The romantic in me finds it endearing. But the realistic side of me wonders if he’s not being stupid… but that’s the thing with love isn’t it? It makes you do silly things. To have the gorgeous relationship blossoming between these two characters amongst so much tragedy is juxtaposing. A gothic romance.

At times the narrative felt a little long winded, but it did not detract from the excitement of the story. I was constantly wondering how the hell they were going to get out of the mess they were in. My mind was doing a lot of scrambling to work out what was going on. So any of my predictions flew out the window very early on.

With a great writing style, it comes off as lyrical and full of shadows. But also manages to give answers and real technical information to tie up the trilogy without spoiling the mystical feel of the novel. It was a brilliant end to the series. May I say cute even. Which is weird given the dark aspects to the story.

Highly recommend this trilogy, though I did struggle with the middle book. Recently hearing that The Shaw Confessions is getting added to this universe, with ‘The Becoming of Noah Shaw’ due for release on November 7th this year, I’m getting really excited. I may be making little squeaky noises, and jumping up and down…

Overall feeling: Blew me away, like a pile of ash.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

Film vs Novel – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Film vs Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

There was a lot of hype around the release of both the film and the novel – but did it live up to expectations? Was the extrapolation onto the big screen true to the narrative of the book? I have some mixed feelings, but both mediums were highly entertaining.

I found ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ a bit slow at the start of the novel. With two false starts, I ended up persevering over a Sunday before I got hooked. The setting was described brilliantly, I really felt like I was there. A back drop of WWII almost felt like an homage to the battle within Jacob’s conscious, as well as the challenges the “Peculiars” faced. The twist on the origins of the gifted, or those with abilities – known as peculiars, in addition to the introduction of time manipulation was brilliant. Completely sucked me in. The melancholy strong in the narrative of the novel was replaced with eerie sense in the film. The movie also instantly throws us into the action, little time was spent setting up Jacob’s circumstances and frame of mind.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Film vs Novel Pic 08 by Casey Carlisle.jpgTying in old photographs into the narrative brought a fresh aspect to the reading experience adding authenticity to the story. It’s great to find novels starting to break the mould when it comes to formatting and finding more interesting ways to present a story. They were equally represented in the film, though lost that air of creepy. I did like the colour grading of the movie though, a soft muting of colour and shift in hue gave the movie an old-time feel.

The writing style is mature for YA – there were a few words that I needed to look up in a dictionary – which I liked. I love learning new ways to express myself succinctly in print. The composition of Riggs sentences was almost lyrical at times, like an old fable. The dialogue of the Peculiar Children and Miss Peregrine matched the era they were living in, which added a layer of authenticity and fascination for me. Seeing this play out on the screen however, was sometimes a bit cheesy. Whether it was bad accents on the actors behalf, or their delivery of the lines, I found myself giving the side-eye at a few moments.

Thankfully, after a stumble through the beginning, the second half of the novel was incrementally more gripping. The movie, however, true to adaptations, was well paced and moved the story along quickly. I will say it took license to grandiose some of the scenes that had me wondering what the hell was going on – that wasn’t in the book!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Film vs Novel Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgOur protagonist Jacob is an intelligent young man grappling with his own demons, wondering if he is mentally ill. I love how he grows throughout the novel, in small graded steps – it felt very realistic that he goes through small changes instead of one giant leap. You get a real sense of wonder and fascination through his eyes as he slowly starts to prove or disprove the stories his Grandfather has been telling him all his life. In the film, played by Asa Butterfield, I felt captured the hopelessness and depression of Jake’s life brilliantly. Out of all the casting – Asa matched how I pictured Jake the most. The slow and gradual development of his character transformed into a bit of a rush on the screen. His relationship with Emma was tweaked a little and brushed dangerously close to instalove.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Film vs Novel Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgAs for the Peculiar Children, and Miss Peregrine… while I came to sort-of like them. There is still a lot of unknowns, and I’m sure we’ll get to know them more intimately in the following two books of the trilogy. Something about their behaviour was ‘off’ Even though they are likeable, until I hear some more backstory, or an origin story, I don’t think I’ll feel entirely comfortable with them. Miss Peregrine, played by Eva Green in the film did a commendable job. I’ve seen her in other works and have to say the acting, make-up, and wardrobe really let her shine.

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I also have to mention how sufficiently creeped out by the white eyed wight in the novel. *shiver* Though the film gave them (and the hollowgast) a more comical tone and I wasn’t frightened at all… and can I mention the CGI – umm, yeah not spooky or matching the tone of the novel at all. Leading up to their reveal I was anxious, but as soon as their wriggly form appeared, I just wanted to shrug. Though to be fair, it they had been made too scary, it would have pushed the rating into ‘MA’ territory and completely missed the demographic.

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Pretty much all the characters were all interesting (even if they weren’t peculiar) for the novel, because they all had mysterious motivations. I’m dying to find out more. This was a great first book for a series in setting the scene and intrigue. With the movie, it destroyed a lot of the mystique for me. Sometimes it was stereotypical, sometimes over the top. Some of the characters cast with actors I felt too old for the part and didn’t look as though they were born in the era they were supposed to (see the photographs in the novel). Though their performances were good, the production lost authenticity for me – much in the way the Twilight franchise had with over-made-up actors.

I noted how the special abilities the characters possessed hailed more from the day of travelling Side-Shows rather than psychic powers or X-men type abilities, which I felt add to the ambiance of the novel, tying into the old photographs and the WWII setting. These abilities were tweaked in the movie to either be more present in the storyline, or add cinematic special effects. So much so that at the end of the movie I’m concerned that I’ve been spoiled for books two and three in the trilogy. Yes – the ending of the movie is different to the novel. I’m uncertain if it is because the movie is a solo endeavour, or because of poetic license, but things went down that I definitely did not read about, (about the wights, the hollowgast and their motives, not to mention Emma’s ability) and hope it hasn’t ruined the rest of the novels in the series for me. So maybe it’s better if you read the entire trilogy before viewing the film… I’ll let you know after I read ‘Hollow City.’

I got many surprises from the plot. There was an obvious aspect around Jacobs fate, which is needed for this series to work, but the rest of the arcs had me guessing. Which I loved. There are still a lot of surprises in the film too – its divergence from the plot of the novel, the special effects, the costuming, some added scenes. It’s all very entertaining, but the overall plot, like the book, is predictable.

A highly entertaining novel and film, and something I’d easily recommend to all my friends, family, strangers on the street… Really excited to see where this series goes. But the book slides in just above the movie for my rating. The entertainment value and ability to set the tone for characters and keep the scare factor of the darker elements of the story are far superior in written word.

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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.

Wrap up – Flat-Out Trilogy by Jessica Park

From tear-jerking angst to cute romance.

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This series was spread over two and a half years, mainly because the first novel dragged out all the feels and left me with a book hangover; the second did little to add to the story and left me with disappointment; and the third, though a great read, did not live up to the heights of the debut.

I jumped into ‘Flat-Out Love’ when it had just been released and there was plenty of hype. At that time I had not read a novel dealing with grief and loss or mental disorders. The romance was unique for me as well. My reading habits were steeped in Adventure, Science Fiction and Horror; so this contemporary felt like something amazing and new, opening up a world in a new genre. As you can imagine I gave it a rave review, grabbed by the witty facebook status updates and Julie’s angst over Finn and Matt.

I immediately jumped online and ordered a copy of ‘Flat-Out Matt’ hoping for more Park goodness… it was in the era where ‘Midnight Sun’ from ‘Twilight’ Author Stephanie Meyer got leaked, and many authors were starting to release books of the same plotline, but from a different character’s perspective. After such a great high, I got a big dip. There wasn’t a lot of new content, no new insights, it was basically a recap of ‘Flat-Out Love.’

It took me another two years before I picked up the last title in this series from Park, the middle book had scared me off. But ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ managed to redeem the author somewhat in my eyes, although it was missing the wit and irony I had loved so much in the debut – and it took a little while to start liking the main character. There was also a watering down of angst and issues dealt with in ‘Flat-Out Love.’ It was in a word: charming. The great thing about it is that you get a jump six years into the future and get a snapshot of how things turned out from the first book.

Overall Park’s writing is great. It has a lyrical sophistication that will engross you. It suffers somewhat with long inner monologues, and sometimes, repetition of particular phrases. But all are engaging and she can really set a great pace, building to a climax that is emotionally messy and satisfying at the same time. ‘Flat-Out Love’ is clearly the best by a mile, and I would only recommend the other books in the series to hardcore fans. They all have elements of Christmas, the loss of a loved one, and learning to live with mental blocks/disorders.

I want to say the characters are kind of quirky – but not in a cute way – in a damaged way. Jessica Park has lost her shine for me as nothing has lived up to the first novel, which I highly recommend (you can skip the rest). I might be tempted to try some of her newer releases ‘Clear’ and the ‘Left Drowning’ series, but they aren’t anything I’m rushing out to purchase. With a great writing style, complex characters Park has a lot going for her writing, so maybe I’ll cave and read some more next year. Watch this space.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Flat-Out Love’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/book-review-flat-out-love/

Flat-Out Matt’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/book-review-flat-out-matt/

Flat-Out Celeste’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/book-review-flat-out-celeste-by-jessica-park/

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ by Jessica Park

Sometimes it takes trying to be someone else to find yourself.

Flat Out Celeste Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation.

But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe.

Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him.

Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love.  

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I read the previous novels in this series, ‘Flat-Out Love’ and ‘Flat-Out Matt’ around two years ago, and ultimately lost my momentum with this collection from Jessica Park. The debut was draining – in a good way – all the feels from Julie’s story left me in a book coma for a few days. Then ‘Flat-Out Matt’ re-visited that dark place, as well as adding a touch of bland with a repetitive storyline we got in ‘Flat-Out Love’ this time told in Matt’s perspective. So I needed a break away from Julie and Matt’s world… and the narrative seemed to think so too, because ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ picks up years later. Celeste has grown up and is about to enter college. Don’t expect to get a lot of Julie and Matt in this novel, though we do get some more of their story. As the title suggests, we find out how Celeste has grown since Julie impacted on the Watkins family’s lives, and the challenges she now faces when more of her safety zone has to be left behind as she embarks on a tertiary education away from family and home.

flat-out-celeste-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleInitially some grammatical errors that should have been fixed within the first chapter immediately tarnished my excitement. And Celeste was cute when she was younger with her literal way of speaking. But now older, her speech pattern felt fake and a bit annoying. Especially with her naivety – she’s supposed to be intelligent, and being ignorant of a few things felt unrealistic and included as a hook or comedic device. I did not find it amusing.

After a few chapters in, the magic started coming back again. I began to like Celeste and got invested in her experiment to become a different, more likeable person. It has some light comical moments that did not rely on her lexicon. She transformed into an endearing character, if not a little insecure and lost.

We meet Justin, a goofy and adorable love interest with run-on sentences that reminds me of a few of my past boyfriends; so it wasn’t hard to instantly adore him. Around the middle of the book Justin starts calling Celeste the Snow Goddess, and I just about threw up in my mouth. His trying to be cheesy-romantic came off as tacky. But that was the only stand out moment that I experienced, the rest of the time he was nerd-girl-porn for me. Justin embodies patience, maturity, and clearly doesn’t like labels. He’s comfortable with who he is, and I just wish I could have a Justin all of my own in real life. *sigh*

Some parts of the book got a little waffly with rambling dialogue (which are character traits of both the leads, but after a while became slightly tiresome.) I felt we got a bit of a spoony ending – but it suited the characters and tone of the novel, so no complaints. Though, after the gut-wrenching climax of the predecessors in this franchise, I was expecting more. Overall ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ was enjoyable, more so than I expected. A great follow-up to end the trilogy that encapsulated some of the original charm with a softer tone. Recommended if you like a light contemporary with quirky characters.

Overall feeling: Sweet.

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness

Something to make you shiver and cringe… but also give you a big warm hug.

A Monster Calls Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, Magical Realism

No. of pages: 216

From Goodreads:

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

A Monster Calls’ is haunting and beautiful. I think it sheds a light on a lot of unexpected feelings around guilt, loss and grief and lets you know that it’s okay. It delivers that eerie folk tale in a modern setting, familiar to the works of The Brothers Grimm, Roald Dahl and Emily Carroll.

Our protagonist, Connor’s behaviour and reactions tell a story of their own, and then upon finishing the novel, take on a different meaning with hindsight.

I got a little angry for Connor, at the helplessness of his situation and at the apparent apathy of many of the adults around him. Not that they weren’t sympathetic, but that they didn’t show him how important he was.

In that manner, this book struck a personal chord with me. I too have suffered through a similar experience with my mother, and I have had my own battle with cancer. A lot of memories were dredged up, both pleasant and gut-wrenching.

The Yew Tree Monster had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck a few times and was truly terrifying. Not an easy feat, so I commend Patrick Ness on creating an atmosphere that really creeped me out.

I liked the splattered and scratchy ink illustrations, all in black and white adding to the tone of the narrative.

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For such a dark book it carries a lot of hope. Really impressed. Highly recommended.

Best Patrick Ness book I’ve read to date – can’t wait to see if it translates the big screen with the movie due for imminent release.

Overall reaction: Holy crow!

A Monster Calls Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

A Monster Calls Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

 

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.