Book Review – ‘This Vicious Cure’ (#3 This Mortal Coil) by Emily Suvada

A beautiful conclusion to a possible future where biology and technology merge.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 440

Two factions at war.

A plague that can’t be stopped.

A cure that could destroy them all…

Cat’s hacking skills weren’t enough to keep her from losing everything – her identity, her past, and now her freedom.

Meanwhile, the person who’s stolen everything from her is close to realizing a hacker’s dream: the solution to humanity’s problems in gene form. Or so she thinks…

But now a new threat has emerged – a threat that could bring the world to the brink of a devastating war.

Both sides will stop at nothing to seize control of humanity’s future, and that the centre of this war is Cat, and a race against the clock save millions of lives . . .

This is hands down one of my most favourite science fiction series read to date. Emily Suvada manages to surprise the reader in each instalment. Face crack of the season for me.

This, as a conclusion, had all the plot points I was expecting, but the climactic ending took an emotive humanitarian route (and rightly so) which was a departure from the scrappy band of soldiers fighting for freedom. So half of me wanted an all stakes battle, blood and guts everywhere, casualties, and world at the brink of an apocalypse… and the other half understands that the underlying battle of this series was to be fought in a laboratory and none of that balls-to-the-wall gore can actually play out in that scenario. I think Suvada did justice to this trilogy at the end, but it did not end with that definitive thump I was craving.

We see character arcs galore in ‘This Vicious Cure.’ I loved how everyone has to face personal demons in order for the world to change. Hats off to you Suvada, you know how to structure a character driven story with a plot engorged with action.

The ending, though slightly sickly sweet (cure Disney theme music) really leaves the reader with a sense of hope and wonder. I actually appreciated it. It was also easy to see that the job of healing the world was not over, neither was the growing developments in science, technology, and biology… each character finds new drive and motivation in the changed climate.

I really gelled with Suvada’s writing style. She manages to leave enough space for you to get to fall for a character without bogging you down with too much plot (info dumping) which is prevalent in science fiction. While I have read a few novels around technology and biology merging, and the ramifications of advancing in this area, none of them explored it in detail as much as Suvada. This trope was a character in the storyline in its own right; it wasn’t a plot device. You could see that this biotechnology was the heart and soul of this trilogy, and not a by-the-way aspect to show some futuristic wonder in setting a scene.

In hindsight, I think there were a lot of characters to keep track of (especially in book 2) but by the time I started reading ‘This Vicious Cure’ I was used to the cast and it did not feel like a struggle to keep all the characters straight in my head. Even though the pacing was a little slower at the beginning of the novel, it was not noticeably so, and this final instalment flew by and kept me engaged throughout. I only put the book down because I needed to sleep.

I don’t want to talk about the characters too much because it will spoil too many plot points for the series, but many of the main cast get a lot more fleshed out, motivations come to the forefront, and we really get to see them test their mettle.

A massive recommendation from me. This is a great exploration into a dystopian world where genetic tampering and biotechnology have brought the world to its knees with a masterful plot and interesting, driven characters. This is definitely sitting in my top 10 list.

Overall feeling: Inspirational

© 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 – ‘This Cruel Design’ (#2 This Mortal Coil) by Emily Suvada

Human evolution and technology start to take on a new meaning to me…

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 435

In bunkers and strongholds across the world, people are celebrating. There’s a vaccine to the virus that has ravaged the planet for years.

But the vaccine isn’t working. The virus is evolving. Catarina – genehacker, reluctant warrior – must find the one person who can help: her estranged father, who is guilty of unimaginable crimes.

Time is ticking. She has three days before the shadowy gentech corporation Cartaxus will use lethal code to wipe out every person on the planet’s surface: kill the hosts, kill the virus.

Forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts, and with the end approaching, Cat discovers that the biggest threat of all may be buried in her own mind.

Such a fantastic book!! I have not read a science fiction series that I have been so engrossed in that is not based in space or alien planets ever. I bow to you Miss Suvada!

There is only a few teeny-tiny things that stopped me from giving this novel a perfect score. The first being I had difficulty getting my bearings at the start. I was about 50 pages in before everything clicked. Even though the story takes up right after the debut ended, there was no summary or re-cap and given the length of time between picking up ‘This Cruel Design’ since reading ‘This Mortal Coil,’ I was just floundering along trying to make sense of things and trigger memories – in a sense I was like Cat attempting to fill in gaps of memory.

I really think a foreward would have been helpful just to summarize and set the scene from ‘This Mortal Coil’ and then ‘This Cruel Design’ could have launched in earnest.

The other small aspect, was the novel had a bit of a slow start. ‘This Mortal Coil’ starts off with a bang, and I didn’t get that sense with ‘This Cruel Design.’ There is a lot of science and technology in this series. A true STEM geek-out (which I adore) but with having to get back into world building of a universe the reader was already familiar with felt counter intuitive.

Besides those niggling aspects, ‘This Cruel Design’ is an excellent read. I have not read a series that has continued to surprise and delight me multiple times with each instalment. I am so envious of Emily Suvada’s writing and ability to craft a plot and plot twists. She doesn’t drop obvious hints that have you sleuthing out the ending… she is a true master craftswoman. Add to that the science, theories, grounded in practical experience lends so much credence to the storyline. It may be isolating to some readers who don’t have a grasp on things like genetics, coding, and technology, but this was right up my alley. All those shows discussing the direction of human and technological evolution are like an appetiser to this series.

I felt we really got to see what Cat was made of in ‘This Cruel Design,’ like she became even more fully resolved. Plus the aspects of biology and technology she plays with is truly mind-bending. The relationship she had with Cole did feel slightly too fast. Not insta-love, but not a slow burn either, and did not feel quite organic.

The rest of the gifted children (genetically altered soldiers) while each a fully rounded characters – both endearing and annoying… there is always something holding me back from falling in love with them. Maybe it’s the military aspect with them withholding information; or the fact they may be controlled or manipulated to some extent, but that is a truly marvellous storytelling device. This is interwoven with the expansion on Cat and Jun Bei’s family through flashbacks, history and present day events.

I love the introduction of a counter-faction to Cartaxus; equal in diverging biology and technology.

A side note of things yet to come, like the Dax mystery, the Lachlan mystery, and Agnes (yaya) secrets – these should be the big ones in the final book of the trilogy. The pigeons still have a part to play – they’ve been mentioned far too much to not have any significance. I’m keen to find this out. Not to mention the final showdown between Cat and Jun Bei… I’m clenching my buttocks with excitement for that one. Oh, yeah, and the ending of Cartaxus and orientating the world towards a new freedom. No biggie.

Though the story concluded, you still get a sense that there is still a much bigger picture and fight to be had (sans abovementioned notes) – setting up ‘This Vicious Cure’ really well. Can’t wait to see what surprises are in store. What new twists Suvada has in store.

Overall feeling: Mind-blowing adventure galore!

© 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.

#bookporn #coverlove

Looking through my TBR shelves and starting to pick some titles that are piquing my interest – like this dystopian. Feels relevant right now and I haven’t read anything my Sarah Crossan yet. Might discover a new favourite author and underhyped title. But it will have to wait until next year as I already have my reading pile mapped out for 2020. Is anyone else this anal when organising their reading material? I am a mood reader, but pick a selection for a month or two that I have to finish before I can read anything else (or purchase any new reads.)

#bookporn #coverlove

‘Dyschronia’ sold out of the regular online bookstores really quickly and I finally tracked down a copy at a local bookstore who was happy to mail my purchase. It feels great to support local while maintaining social distancing… and get a book I’ve been coveting for ages. Additional points for supporting local authors too! Fingers-crossed it will live up to all the anticipation.

Book Review – ‘The Boy on the Bridge’ (#2 The Girl With all the Gifts) by M.R. Carey

A great companion piece for fans of ‘The Girl With All The Gifts.’

Genre: Y/A, science Fiction, Dystopian, Horror

No. of pages: 400

Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.

The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.

To where the monsters lived.

This was a romantic conclusion to the duology. ‘The Boy on the Bridge’ loosely mirrors the debut in the series. An intelligent teen taken under the wing of a scientist and educated as what is left of this dystopian world eagerly scrambles to find a cure for the Hungry plague.

I feel more accurately ‘The Boy on the Bridge’ is a companion novel rather than a sequel as the timelines overlap. ‘The Boy on the Bridge’ takes place a little before ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ but also manages to pick up after so that you can conclude characters journeys from both novels. The writing style here is excellent, I really envy M.R. Carey’s wordcraft. However, I did not feel as driven with my reading experience. The narrative jumps perspectives with every chapter and the pacing was slow. We do get plot points in each chapter, but there was an element of intrigue or desperation that was missing for me. It did not get interesting until after the half way point, and even then the pacing was only at a clipped pace. There was no cinematic culmination.

Having said that, though, ‘The Boy on the Bridge’ pays off on fan service. It has all the elements from the first novel. I was hoping for some new insights regarding the Cordyceps fungus infecting the world and zombie-fying all of humanity, but alas, no maas. What we get is another road trip comprising of military and scientific personnel, and a wayward teen who is emotionally stunted. I feel awful saying that because the teen Stephen ‘The Robot’ Greaves is on the autism spectrum and somewhat of a savant. I only say it in that manner to illustrate strong parallels to that of Melanie from ‘The Girl With All The Gifts.’ It stopped me from forging a strong emotional connection to the protagonists – that continual switching of points of view and the emotional unavailability of the main character – it was too distant. So when something shocking did happen, I just rolled with the punches, not even an inkling of a sigh, gasp, or tear.

I really like this duology, its desolate tone, a world evolving and scratching for survival. I appreciated Carey’s writing and look forward to tackling another of his titles.

Overall feeling: Damn girl, that’s pretty good.

© 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.

Book Review – ‘This Mortal Coil’ (#1 This Mortal Coil) by Emily Suvada

A thrill ride from start to finish with all the STEM elements you could want.

This Mortal Coil (#1 This Mortal Coil) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 450

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Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

This book really sucked me into its dystopian world. Emily Suvada starts the story off with a bang and keeps the pace going right up to the end with reveal after thrilling reveal.

If I’m going to get right into the nitty-gritty of my reading experience the only fault I can point out is that I wish there were a few more moments of levity or humour to break up the narrative.

The science fiction elements and themes ‘This Mortal Coil’ tackles are brilliant. Gene manipulation, body modification, pandemics, biological warfare, power struggles, intellectual property through corporate ownership, psychological programming, coding, technology, identity, espionage, and love.

The other thing I really liked about this novel is not only that there were so many interesting things going on, but also how the story wrapped up so many of these to give the reader a satisfying end, but also set up the next novel with intrigue. I can’t wait to get my hands on ‘This Cruel Design.’

At 450 pages this is a little longer than your typical YA, but because of the pacing, I didn’t feel like this book dragged at all and read it in 2 sittings over 2 days.

This Mortal Coil (#1 This Mortal Coil) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Catarina was an interesting protagonist, she does embody parts of number of popular tropes in YA: the warrior, born yesterday, the orphan… while Cat is not wholly any of these, there were enough traits to help the reader quickly connect and identify Cat’s role. I did find myself guessing about the conclusion a lot, forming theories, revising them, adding new ones. It is testament to Suvada’s skill that I was constantly trying to figure things out. I did guess one of the major plot twists very early on, but the rest were a delightful surprise. Some of the others may yet prove true in the following sequels… I am definitely eager to continue on with this series.

Setting Dax as a love interest early on was an interesting thread to follow, though I don’t think it was given enough justice – but then again, we still have another two books to explore this more thoroughly.

Cole as the protector and rival for Cat’s affections did not sit well with me in the beginning, but I’m feeling like they are one of my favourite fictional couples. It may all go ka-bloowey in the next book, or it may endure. I’m hoping I get to continue swooning and squeeing…

Overall, a marvellous sci-fi that totally surprised me. It wasn’t as funny and light-hearted as I was expecting, but it certainly grappled with a lot of scientific elements, which won me over. I love me some science and theories. Highly recommend this one, but more so for the lovers of sci-fi and STEM enthusiasts.

Overall feeling: WOWZER!!

This Mortal Coil (#1 This Mortal Coil) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

This Mortal Coil (#1 This Mortal Coil) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© 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.

Book Review – ‘Guardian’ (#2 Proxy) by Alex London

Teen dystopian with diversity.

Guardian (#2 Proxy) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia, LGBT

No. of pages: 352

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In the new world led by the Rebooters, former Proxy Syd is the figurehead of the Revolution, beloved by some and hated by others. Liam, a seventeen-year-old Rebooter, is Syd’s bodyguard and must protect him with his life. But armed Machinists aren’t the only danger.

People are falling ill—their veins show through their skin, they find it hard to speak, and sores erupt all over their bodies. Guardians, the violent enforcers of the old system, are hit first, and the government does nothing to help. The old elites fall next, and in the face of an indifferent government, Syd decides it’s up to him to find a cure . . . and what he discovers leaves him stunned.

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This duology has me falling in love with Alex London’s writing and imagination. Not only do we get representation of a minority group (GLBT, POC) but a dystopian world to rival many that have dominated the YA genre. I can’t believe these books have been sitting unread on my shelves for years. ‘Guardian’ was a great read, but not quite up to the excellence of debut ‘Proxy.’ I was still engaged as a reader but upon completing the book I did not feel it had as much of an impact on me as the debut of the series. While the story unfolded organically, I did feel the omniscient POV pulled me from the story frequently.

Like ‘Proxy,’ ‘Guardian’ felt like a road trip book, protagonist Syd attempts to once again get to some place against a faction in power to free the population from an oppressive rule (and save their lives from a virus.) We see Marie stepping in as his protector/squad member again. And a new addition of Liam as a love interest.

Guardian (#2 Proxy) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI don’t think I saw too much character development from Syd. Being fallible seemed to play a big part of his story, but that had already been brought up in ‘Proxy.’ Instead it seems he starts to wrestle with his guilt and whether or not he is deserving of happiness.

Liam felt a little one note. He definitely embodies the mind of a soldier, but I wanted more inner torture to come out after the events he’s lived through and done… that kind of stuff would mess up anyone. I wanted more vulnerability (in private moments) to shine through. I feel it would have rounded him out as a character and not just a stereotypical protector.

I didn’t feel like Marie went much of anywhere. She helps move the plot along at some points, but again I was questioning what she was even doing there. Her determination to stick to a cause still feels out of step with the narrative. I think a great opportunity to juxtapose the philosophical themes of the novel were missed out in using her as an alternative point of view, or a sounding board.

It did feel a little formulaic, following the same path of ‘Proxy.’ I was hoping it would divert from this template, but still an entertaining read nonetheless. The first half, like the debut, felt a tad slow in its pacing. There are some great action scenes, but it takes half the book to set up the scene and get all the characters in place to drive the plot forward.

I really love Alex London’s writing style, but I’d love to read more following a different form of plot/story and see him start moving the plot forward in the early chapters.

I pretty much hunched-out the ending very early on – but not quite – there was a little twist to it that I had not guessed… and that added a great surprise. There were also a few other elements that I did not see coming. Overall, ‘Guardian’ gave me more surprises than ‘Proxy,’ but it let me down in the structure of the plot, pacing, and it needed a bit more spice for the characters. I needed something to balance out the bleakness in the world of ‘Proxy’ and machinations of introducing new characters and plot points.

I think as a sequel I was expecting more complexity, a higher intensity of challenges faced, introduction of a more emotional connection with the characters; but it was more of another episodic adventure following our protagonist. I can definitely see its appeal to the YA market.

Again some grammatical mistakes London’s editing team overlooked : missing words, words out of place. A little frustrating. I hope they up their professional game and let this author really shine.

I am going to download the finale short story form Alex London’s website because there is no third book in this series. Mainly because I did not get the level of completion I wanted. I don’t think it’s going to address the big questions, philosophical questions in the subtext, but merely wrap up the future of the main characters – which would be nice. As ‘Guardian’ ended as abruptly as ‘Proxy.’

Still a great read I’d happily recommend.

Overall feeling: totally didn’t suck

Guardian (#2 Proxy) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Guardian (#2 Proxy) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© 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.

Book Review – ‘Proxy’ (#1 Proxy) by Alex London

Teen dystopian about selling personal debt that raises some interesting questions.

Proxy (#1 Proxy) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia, LGBT

No. of pages: 384

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Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.

Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.

Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.

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A great hook. ‘Proxy’ is fabulously paced with some great action scenes and kept me riveted from start to finish.

A minor issue I found around the main characters becoming a little annoying over time. I wanted them to grow. Become a little more mature in the light of the challenges they faced. When certain reactions and tone of their narrative became repetitive it impeded the chance to establish a strong emotional connection, and destroyed some relevance to me as a reader.

However, I liked that ‘Proxy’ wasn’t focused on a romance storyline and had a gay protagonist. But I wanted a bit more of a personal connection with Syd other than him just trying to save his life. I wanted some fun and anxiety to make him more relatable, heck a fart joke would’ve make a huge difference.

Knox was bothersome through most of the novel and I wasn’t quite convinced of his motivations, I feel there could have been a stronger underlying motive added to give more strength and conviction to his character. He felt superfluous- until he wasn’t. I understand he starts out as superficial due to his every whim being catered for, but I wanted a stronger sense of drive for his character – social status, street cred, ambition – something for me to really sink my teeth into.

Proxy (#1 Proxy) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI enjoyed the aspect of teens struggling through a world they didn’t want to be in, wanted to rebel against. I think I was craving that stronger emotional connection to the characters and their mission. More angst. Less triviality. Something to really hammer home the bleakness of the world on an emotional level.

I did find myself questioning Marie’s presence. It felt a tad fabricated at times. I guess it boils down to ‘Proxy’ being a plot driven story and therefore the character driven part is the weaker aspect of the novel. You can feel the author’s hand guiding the story.

The amount of gore, murder, and senseless killing definitely painted a desperate picture of how brutal this world is. The cutthroat struggle for survival, you can definitely see Alex London’s experiences as a journalist reporting from conflict zones supporting this story.

Loved the world building and technology, the class structure. I have questions about how the world came to be, how it developed into what it is, and how things will go after the cliff-hanger at the end of ‘Proxy.’ Now keen to read the sequel ‘Guardian’ asap.

Themes of class, race, power, and sexuality were a great addition to this narrative, but some of it felt disjointed in a technologically advanced civilization. Like gay discrimination just seemed a little redundant. And with the level of genetic manipulation and technological intervention through bloodwork, there would have been a larger evolution in self-expression/adaptation/specialisation to link into the class structure. How beauty standards of today expressed in the novel wouldn’t necessarily be the same in the world of ‘Proxy’ with all this technology at their fingertips. Like more extremes of genetic manipulation and integrated technology would express wealth and stature, and therefore some of the wealthy could seem almost alien.

Alex London’s writing style was effortless, I was able to slip into the imaginary world easily and only got pulled out from some grammatical errors – which his editing team at Philomel Books let him down on. Words out of place or missing. Maybe between 5-10… I feel like London deserves much better.

Wonderfully unpredictable. Though I guessed the twist very early on. It was just a very bumpy ride. Thoroughly enjoyed this – one of the better dystopian novels I’ve read in a while in YA. An active protagonist.

Overall feeling: mildly impressed

Proxy (#1 Proxy) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Proxy (#1 Proxy) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© 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.

Book Review – ‘Not Your Backup’ (#3 Sidekick Squad) by C.B. Lee

Diversity, superheroes and an expert plot.

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 320

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Emma Robledo has a few more responsibilities than the usual high school senior, but then again, she and her friends have left school to lead a fractured Resistance movement against a corrupt Heroes League of Heroes. Emma is the only member of a supercharged team without powers, and she isn’t always taken seriously. A natural leader, Emma is determined to win this battle, and when that’s done, get back to school. As the Resistance moves to challenge the League, Emma realizes where her place is in this fight: at the front.

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I’ve been getting a real kick out of this series – the diverse cast, superheroes, espionage, and teen angst. ‘Not Your Backup’ did not hit all the same marks as its two prequels for me. The pacing felt slower and there were a lot of characters to follow, and given the amount of time passed since having read ‘Not Your Villain,’ it took me a minute to get back into the swing of the story.

I love how it picks up not long after the events in ‘Not Your Villain’ following Emma as a protagonist. The only one on the Sidekick Squad who does not possess meta-human abilities… though she does have a high IQ and has been dubbed Mastermind. I was a little tired of her ‘woe is me no-one takes me seriously because I’m a child and don’t have superpowers’ shtick. It was a great plot device but it felt like it dragged on for too long. I would have liked her to use it as an advantage – let people underestimate her and become more cloak and dagger.

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleEmma’s self-discovery around being asexual (ace/aro) was interesting and educational, as too the discussion of queerplatonic relationships.

Bells as the love interest is cute as all get out (the protagonist from ‘Not Your Villain.’) And you could see him revelling in all the character growth he’d made from that sequel.

Plot-wise ‘Not Your Backup’ is outstanding, we get seeding of clues and threads, many of the characters have their own arc (some of them off-page.) I think though, compared to the other two novels published so far, there was less action, less gadgets, less uncertainty in the people around them, which left most of the novel feeling bare and the pace lagging. The last section of the novel, leading up to the conclusion was back at what I expect from C.B. Lee. Great pacing, twists and turns aplenty, all ending in a big bang. Where ‘Not Your Sidekick’ and ‘Not Your Villain’ were introducing characters, ‘Not Your Backup’ followed these characters and started setting up plot points to be resolved in the finale ‘Not Your Hero’ which was initially set to be due out this June 2020, but I haven’t seen an update in a while, and with many titles getting pushed pack, we may not see this released until around Christmas or in 2021. So I guess ‘Not Your Backup’ has a bit of that old middle book syndrome playing out. Something of a necessity. And that’s not to say I was bored or anything, quite the contrary, I remained engaged throughout and love Lee’s writing style. It was just a little slower than I was used to.

Going in, I already knew there was a final book coming for this series, so the whole overturning of the Hero’s League of Heroes and dethroning the reigning council members was not going to be resolved in this instalment. And after being declared fugitives in the previous novel, the only thing I predicted was the Sidekick Squad getting back together and attempting guerrilla warfare tactics. Besides that, I had no idea what was around the corner, and C.B. Lee managed to throw in a few curve balls giving me a few WTF moments. Genius.

I am expecting an epic conclusion in the final novel and can’t wait for its release. And I’d definitely recommend this novel (and series) to lovers of superheroes, YA, and queer literature. It’s certainly a well-written fun romp through a genre that has outlasted many throughout our written history. Though ‘Not Your Backup’ cannot be read as a standalone – you definitely need to read the sequels to get a proper understanding of the characters and world building.

So C.B. Lee not only entertains me, but gives me snippets of queer culture education along the way in a superhero wrapping.

Overall feeling: Yee-haw!

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© 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.

Book Review – ‘Rebels of Eden’ (#3 Children of Eden) by Joey Graceffa and Laura L. Sullivan

Richly themed sci-fi with slow pacing.

Rebels of Eden (#3 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Rowan is finally in Harmonia, an Earth-friendly, sustainable commune in the wilderness she always thought was dead. Even in this idyllic world, she finds no peace. Harmonia has strict rules—and dire consequences. Thinking about Eden is forbidden, but she’s determined to rescue the loved ones she left behind. Though they are in terrible danger, her pleas for help are ignored.

After months of living as one with nature, a shocking reminder of her past pushes Rowan to act. With the help of new friends, she infiltrates Eden. What she discovers is even worse than the situation she left behind. In the chaos of civil war, Rowan and her friends join forces with the second children and other rebels trapped inside. They fight for their lives, and for the future of humanity in this broken Earth.

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The end to the trilogy brought about in formidable sci-fi finesse. It took me a good long while to get into ‘Rebels of Eden.’ Again out protagonist Yarrow/Rowan is in completely unfamiliar territory and a new place with new characters. It was disorientating. I found it hard to connect with her when we had a new world to build… only to have is thrown aside when we return to familiar ground introduced in the debut ‘Children of Eden.’

The concept of this trilogy does not feel all too original. And some aspects and symbolism introduced in ‘Elites of Eden’ were not addressed at all. While this trilogy is entertaining, fairly well written, and mostly engaging; it was well… messy. The main storyline did not feel strong or episodic for each instalment for this series. For the most part the plot makes sense and the main points are resolved, but not in a poignant, neat way that I’m used to in most of my science fiction reads. Maybe skill will come as Joey Graceffa grows as an author.

The writing style felt a lot different to the start as well. Again, I don’t know if this is down to Graceffa’s evolving style as he gains experience, or a different collaboration of team members behind the scenes in delivering this book to publication. It lacked the wide-eyed wonder and innocence of its prequels, and was frequently lost to long and unnecessary exposition.

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We get a more determined and together Yarrow/Rowan for a protagonist, and for the most part I liked her strength. There were too many situations that lost their realism for me. And I didn’t feel a strong connection to her past.  But on the whole, character development and character arcs are much better in this conclusion than I’ve come to expect from prior in the series. You can get a sense of Graceffa gaining mastery of the elements of crafting a story here.

I did feel like the pacing was way off until the last 80-50 pages. This was a real difficult one to get into. I have never put down a novel so often. In the end I pushed myself through just the get it finished. But I enjoyed the ending. Somewhat anti-climactic, but hit all the right notes to fill me with satisfaction.

I have a big soft spot for the themes, diverse characters, and technology explored in this series, all the while touting the importance of the environment and connection to the earth; but I feel like the series needs to be developed and worked on a bit more. All the elements are there to make this a truly outstanding collection, but it just didn’t quite get there. But it has left me excited to see what comes next from Graceffa. He has a great imagination, can build tension, write interesting characters and explores fun themes.

Overall feeling: Felt like a long journey but finally got there.

Rebels of Eden (#3 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Rebels of Eden (#3 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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