Book Review – ‘Night Hunt’ (#9 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A faltering, flat instalment for the series.

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

No. of pages: 201

The night is dark…and full of paranormal killers.

If Jason, Michael, and Freddy were merged into one being and given supernatural powers, the result would be something like Mister Scary. He’s been carrying out his murders from the Shadow Land for way too long now. It’s time to put him down.

It was fun to delve into the Harbinger franchise once again – this is a guilty pleasure read for me. Adam Wright has a great imagination and can weave the familiar and unfamiliar with ease. Thought to be honest, I felt like I was reading one of my high schoolers papers. At the end of Chapter 2 the last three pages were repeated again at the start of Chapter three. There were obvious grammatical errors and missing words that hampered an immersive experience. Additionally, Wrights writing style seemed to have devolved. This manuscript felt rushed into publication. There was a lot of telling and little showing, an awful amount of repetition, and a serendipity of events that seemed to fall together without an obstacle. ‘Night Hunt’ read like a first draft, still needing a bit of development and editing. It was really disappointing as this series has wormed its way under my skin.

The structure of the story is another episodic instalment to the franchise, ending in a cliff-hanger for more novels to come. Again, there is too much introduced in ‘Night Hunt’ that was not resolved to give me complete satisfaction, and the writing felt immature. Don’t introduce too many elements in your story that you intend to resolve in a sequel – it puts readers off. And it makes the author appear amateurish.

I really enjoyed the magical elements and setting of the story. But just about every character had no or little development; and again Alec assembled the ‘Scooby Squad’ magically and without argument – it was all too convenient. I really need to start seeing some character driven stories and not plot driven ones. If he continues to follow his current writing style I fear the sequels are going to be interesting but altogether flat.

The action scenes were crafted well, but too short, and again suffered from serendipity – it means you can sense the hand of the author guiding the story instead of it unfolding organically. You want to keep you reader engaged as much as possible.

There is still a great effort in creating suitable spooky ambiance for certain scenes, but I feel Wright could go a little further so we can attach an emotional connection to really hammer home the following scenes.

I see real potential in Wright as a writer, but hope that ‘Night Hunt’ is just a small falter in the development of his writing career. While entertaining, it did not feel up to his regular standard… and I want to see him, and this series, improve with each instalment.

In all honesty, after reading ‘Night Hunt’ I wouldn’t recommend this to a friend. It pains me to say there was so much going on with grammar, character development, and lack of editing that I didn’t get to really enjoy the story.

Not such a glowing review, but a hopeful one.

Overall feeling: Disappointed, but with a glimmer of hope.

© 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 – ‘Faerie Storm’ (#8 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A guilty pleasure that’s getting me back into fantasy.

Faerie Storm (#8 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Fantasy, Mystery

No. of pages: 268

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Be careful what you wish for…it might be inhabited by a demon.

When a case takes me to the wilderness of Northern Maine, I’m not even sure there’s a paranormal angle. Two girls walked into the woods one night and only one of them came back. She’s so traumatized by what she saw that she hasn’t spoken a word since.

The police come up empty-handed so the girl’s father hires me to find out what happened. Getting out of Dearmont for a while seems like a good idea—especially when there’s an ancient wizard trying to force me into using a cursed sword—so I pack the mosquito repellent and head north.

But when my client ends up dead, surrounded by occult symbols, I realize this is no vacation. Evil forces are at work here and someone is going to have to deal with them.

Guess that someone will have to be me.

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Another fun entertaining read from Adam Wright.

Faerie Storm’ follows another murder mystery and brings in a lot of characters both new and established in this series. We get a lot of world building, setting up to expand the Harbinger universe even wider (as Wright has a spin off franchise already slated with two novels for release in the Harbinger Academy series.)

This novel has really upped the ante, the stakes are higher, there is much more action, more intricate plot and plot points – Wright is really playing to his strengths in ‘Faerie Storm.’ It is the most engaged I’ve been in any of his novels so far. I am excited to see where his career goes if this level of development continues with each subsequent publication.

We don’t see a lot of growth or development with our protagonist, but he does overcome great obstacles and is changed because of it – the reason there isn’t a great character arc is because this is a serialised story. So we’re following different rules with this series. And what we get is fun escapist fiction that is action-orientated and a super-fast read. I managed to digest this tome in a matter of hours.

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There are still some grammatical errors – nothing a spell check would pick up, but a line editor should have. And the formatting of the physical book was off where the printed page is skewed too far to the right. I’ve seen these issues pop up in every other of Wrights novels so far, and I’m guessing it’s down to rushing through the writing/editing/publishing process and using a self-publishing platform. But those kinds of issues are slowly eliminated with experience. I am seeing a lot less mistakes, but yet to have a ‘perfect’ copy.

I’ve mentioned before that this series is a guilty pleasure read for me – it’s the kind of fantasy I can get into. High fantasy tomes are sometimes a bit too heavy and I get bored with excessive world building and long character backstories (or constant diversions into language, customs, etc.) Stick to the mythology and character development and a great plot. I like my read to have a clip of pacing.

There are a number of things set up for over-arcing storylines in the volumes in this franchise to come that sound exciting. I was a bit bummed we didn’t get a better resolution to the Cabal – that storyline is dragging a bit; but having said that it is the most excited for a sequel I’ve been since discovering Alec Harbinger P.I.  I’m really looking forward to ‘Night Hunt’ releasing in March 2020.

Adam Wrights writing style is improving. I’m seeing less repetition in common phrasing, less of the chauvinistic attitudes of our protagonist, less of the convenience and coincidence of the secondary cast (it’s still there, but less obvious) I’d still like to see some character development of all the cast, feel a stronger emotional connection, because if any of them were killed off at the moment (apart from Felicity) I’d be like, meh. And there was a bit of a rush at the end in setting the scene that felt disingenuous for the characters and setting. A small developmental editing tweak could have made it so much punchier. But I have to say this is best and by far the most engaging read in the series so far.

This one gets the MVP trophy!

Overall feeling: I want more, gimme more.

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Faerie Storm (#8 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

Book Review – A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) by Sarah J. Maas

Christmas, revisiting familiar characters, but my least favourite book in the series.

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 229

From Goodreads:

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.  

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I was actually looking forward to delving back into the fantasy world of Feyre, but not too far into the novel little things started to chip away at my enjoyment. There is a lot of repetition in the narrative – even using the same words. It became tiresome. So too did the sexual carryings-on between Feyre and Rhysand. Maybe it was meant to be sexy or romantic, but the language choice and the way it was delivered (far too many times in the story) came across as smarmy and icky. I actually said ‘blargh’ out loud many times and skimmed through these scenes. It totally was not cute.

I also balked at all this smelling of each others’ scents… really that’s kinda, well, gross. It was okay mentioned a few times, but when it hits a beat in nearly every chapter about smelling the desire of one’s mate conjures up an altogether unpleasant smell – dude go take a shower and keep your nose to yourself.

The story line of ‘A Court of Frost and Starlight’ pretty much only deals with the Winter Solstice (their form of Christmas) and touch on the aftermath of the battle with Hybern.

We get a number of perspectives: Feyre, Rhysand, Cassian, Nesta, Morrigan, but mostly the first two aforementioned. The chapters are short and give a little insight into how each character is handling the loss and devastation of the war, piecing together their life and finding joy again to celebrate the Solstice.

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere isn’t a lot of character development, but we get a small amount of growth from many of the cast. This was a quaint whimsical story, and I’m not a huge fan of fantasy, but there was something about Sarah J. Maas’ writing style in ‘A Court of Frost and Starlight’ that was bland. I put this book down many times due to lack of interest, and for a short novel, that’s not a great thing. I found a number of comical moments that had me laughing out loud and definitely lightened the mood and dragged me back into the narrative.

There was too graphic a sex scene for me – it went on for pages. I don’t know – again something about the writing style made me feel uncomfortable and dirty. Not romantic, just smutty. I think it’s the masculine tone of these encounters. The forwardness of both Feyre and Rhysand which I find aggressive and not alluding to images of love and comfort, but of rutting animals and seedy drunken passes in some dive bar.

I don’t know what I was expecting going into this story – There wasn’t anything really to predict other than Feyre’s assembled family coming together for the seasonal gift exchange and party…

So there’s going to be another three books for this series, and frankly, I’m kind of tired of Maas’ writing, the characters are starting to feel laboured, and the repetitive nature of her storytelling does not inspire me. Though she can weave a great plot when she wants to, and I have enjoyed some of her novels in the past… we’ll just have to see what teasers she can deliver to weigh up on whether I will continues to follow Feyre and Rhysand’s journey any further.

Nice to visit the characters again, but the story is a bit pointless. You could skip this book if you wanted to, it doesn’t really add any plot points to the first three novels in the series. I’m choosing not to recommend this one unless you are a hardcore fan.

Overall feeling: Bit of a struggle-bus

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Book Review – ‘Shadow Land’ (#5 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Delectable Detective and Punchy Paranormals but some Morbid Machismo….

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

When a child goes missing, his mother asks me to help. After all, she believes he was taken by a monster and that’s my field of expertise. The search leads to the storm drains of Dearmont; not a good place to be when you’ve seen as many horror movies as I have. 

Turns out the monstrous kidnapper is also responsible for the mysterious disappearance of a patient from a psychiatric hospital nearby. And as I investigate further, I’m pushed into the waiting arms of an old nemesis. 

Missing children, fishy creatures, and icy curses are all in a day’s work for Harbinger P.I. But when Mister Scary shows up, the hardest job is staying alive.

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 I’m loving Adam Wright’s take on the paranormal, or preternatural as referred to in this series. There is always so much going on that I’m hooked and addicted to finding out what is going on. There is always more than one mystery to solve, an antagonist or two to fight or run away from. Wright’s concepts are fun and engaging.

However there is still one of the biggest gripes in ‘Shadow Land’ that I have had with this series front and centre – again with our protagonist Preternatural Detective, Alec having things fall into his lap, or his assistant Felicity doing them for him. I know a lot of detective work is boring and something we don’t necessarily want to read, but coming up with ideas and uncovering clues are prime aspects to test the protagonist and drive the story forward – watch any detective show on television for numerous engaging examples. This was a big miss for me.

I’m still getting a sexist vibe, and a little of that ‘things conveniently happening’ around Alec’s treatment of the cast, in addition to secondary characters popping into the story when relevant to the plot, but otherwise ignored… it feels like they’re being used but not developed, not allowed to become complex. It feels like lazy writing… so many missed opportunities.

But the narrative improved after the half way mark.

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We re-visit the on-again, off-again thing with Alec and Felicity… its feeling tired. Was it done to drag their relationship out over a few more books? Something was missing in the tension between these two with ‘Shadow Land.’ And it was awkward – not between the characters Alec and Felicity, but in the writing. As much as I enjoy this world and the characters, I question whether Wright is rushing through the writing-publishing process to keep the momentum of sales for the Harbinger P.I. series instead of taking a little extra time to polish the manuscript.

Upon reaching the end of the book I wasn’t totally satisfied – there were so many new clues and elements introduced in ‘Shadow Land,’ and less than half were resolved. Great for getting me to continue with the series, but reflects badly on this novel alone. Plus, we end on a cliff hanger which was incentive enough for me to want to pick up ‘Midnight Blood’ – but some more resolution to the Mr Scary storyline would have been good – or the Cabal… just saying.

I was a little perturbed by the death of a paranormal towards the end as well – though it was explained – it felt unjustified, and frankly, rushed.

But the writing style is pleasant, and I like the folklore references. I wish we would delve more into the mythology of things. We are starting to get there as Alec was more involved in the research with Felicity. It’s nice to see he can actually do some detective work for himself because he tends to outsource a lot and spend much of the time wandering around thinking.

The pacing is good and the plot jumps all over the place as well. The point of view briefly switches to Sheriff Cantrell and then is daughter Amy (a deputy) interrupting the flow of a narrative and follow a story arc. It was interesting, and in the past few novels Wright has started to add in different characters perspectives… it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it should be though. And we jump from first person to third person narrative.

I did guess the puzzle to the main case solved in ‘Shadow Land’ in the first couple of chapters. I don’t know how, or why, maybe I’m getting tuned into Wright’s mind. So I guess that’s also why this wasn’t such an impactful novel for me.

Still, this is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the supernatural elements and Wright’s take on the world of things that go bump in the night. Also, where has all the thing about Felicity becoming a fully-fledged P.I. gone? She’s back to acting like a glorified secretary again, and the sizzle between these two has left the pages. And it might be the feminist in me, but I’d really like to see Felicity play the hero apart from Alec, and not constantly running around providing answers before Alec even knew he needed them… how about he do it for himself and let her get into the action!

Still a really fun and interesting world. Wright puts his little twists on the preternatural that I find engaging and fascinating.

Overall feeling: Trying to ignore the flaws…

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Dead Ground’ (#4 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

The Preternatural Investigator is at it again….

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

When my old friend Jim Walker asks me to fly up to Canada and take a look at a strange murder case, it sounds like a good excuse for barbecue and brewskis. 

But the party gets crashed by a pit-load of demons and things take a turn for the worse. Throw a faerie queen and a couple of ancient vampires into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. 

Time to sharpen the stakes and start slaying the undead. 

Because if you gaze long into a vampire’s eyes, the vampire gazes also into you. 

Then it glamors you. And kills you.

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Another instalment in the Harbinger P.I. series sees great twists at the end which redeemed this book in my eyes despite some issues I had in developing the plot and secondary characters. We get a heavy dose of paranormal happenings – witches, fairies, vampires, magical swords and spells.

There’s still more of the machismo that urks me in the narrative, but I am beginning to enjoy this series like b-grade 80’s horror films… there is something camp about it, and find it entertaining despite its faults. There is something addictive and compelling about the Harbinger series.

I wish there was more character development to help me care more about the characters. I’m starting to fall into a speed reading mentality just to find out what is going on because I’m not forming any attachments. This distinct lack of development of characters pulled in to aid protagonist Alex Harbinger in his quest, or in their relationships – they simply came to his aid without question whenever he asked. Even if it meant they could lose their lives. To this end it felt like they were merely a plot device, like Adam Wright couldn’t be bothered taking to time to grow a back story and help the reader develop an emotional attachment to the characters. Overall this was the biggest issue I had with the story.

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

To this end, while full of action and fast paced, I felt a little despondent at times. It was feeling a little repetitive. Again not enough is resolved and only little seeds of clues are mentioned for an overarching plot for the series. Much of what stood out to me about the prequels.

The books feel like they’ve been rushed to publish and not given the benefit of a good editor. Nonetheless, I’m becoming a fan and will continue to support the author. I am noticing improvements in his writing with each book in the series. It is starting to become a guilty pleasure with me. I have issues with the writing, but the concept, and potential of Adam Wright keeps me intrigued and coming back for more.

Really interested to see what his next release ‘Midnight Blood’ brings. I know Adam Wright has stated that its publication date has been pushed back because he’s moving house before the final edits, so maybe a fresh set of eyes and experience so far will push this sequel even further.

As much as I enjoy this series, I would only recommend it sparingly, but they are quick, adventurous, fun reads.

Overall feeling: Big on imagination, little on execution

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Lost Soul’ (#1 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A paranormal detective story with a touch of misogyny and a lot of promise.

Lost Soul (#1 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 226

From Goodreads:

Alec Harbinger is a preternatural investigator, a hunter of things that go bump in the night. When his employers, the Society of Shadows, banish him from his Chicago office to a small town in Maine, Alec thinks his career and life are over. How is a preternatural investigator supposed to find work in a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere? But when a local teenager comes back from a weekend at the lake with an altered personality, Alec is hired to investigate a possible demon possession. A young man turning up at Alec’s office insisting he’s been bitten by a werewolf adds to the caseload. And just to make his first day at the office perfect, Alec discovers that someone in the Society of Shadows is trying to kill him with ogre assassins. No work for a preternatural investigator in a sleepy Maine town? Yeah, about that…

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A Private Investigating franchise with branches all over the globe that everyone is familiar with – yet everyone is ignorant of, or doesn’t believe (in the preternatural) … um… contradictory much. Not the best premise to start off with. But this debut of the Harbinger P.I. series promises supernatural goodness with a wisecracking gumshoe.

The protagonist, and only detective assigned to backwater town of Dearmont, Maine: Alec feels like some old fashioned sexist sleuth. I chose to read this with some irony to keep it fun, like a satire of old Dick Tracey cartoons… even breaking out an overzealous accent at times when reading dialogue. Whaddya talkin’ bout? See?

He seem to objectify all the women he met – who just happened to be skinny and drop dead gorgeous. Weren’t there any normal women in this novel? And of course the assistant, Felicity Lake, did everything for him, all the menial tasks while Alec went about posturing, ogling and flexing his brain. It was hilariously awful. I can’t decide if this was badly written characters or camp overload. But it was oddly compelling despite these drawbacks.

Alec brokers a lot of deals for later favours. A little too convenient the way he makes friends/builds a team. Everyone seemed very amenable without having to go through the process of building up a friendship – and Alec did not seem nervous or too wary about it. It was all a bit contrived. It was easy to spot the hands of the author pushing the plot in a certain direction, and lost its organic feel.

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When going to investigate a forest by the lake for a case, Alec states he want to go in the morning to avoid stumbling around in the dark… and when he gets there, has to wait until dark to get his enchanted statue-compass-thingy to work. Doh! Chalk up another one in the column of inconsistencies.

Why weren’t these glaringly obvious mistakes picked up by a content editor or beta reader before publishing? The writing and plot felt a bit… well messy and amateur.

It didn’t help things that I identified a few grammatical errors too.

But enough of the negative critiquing – the action scenes were great. I was gripped, but there were small moments that were dropped that had me wondering if -‘d missed something.

The ending was a little trite, some things tied up neatly that sent me into an eye-rolling frenzy, and other elements were set up well to lead into the next book in the series.

Lost Soul’ is interesting. But short on world building. I still have no clue as to why the world in ‘Lost Soul’ is the way it is. There was a lot going on, plenty to keep my interest, so I wasn’t bored. Adam Wright’s writing style is a little dry, a touch sparse… and very… male. But it worked for that condescending tone of an old fashioned private detective‎ that this story was channelling. If you don’t take this seriously, it is fun. But if you’re a stickler for plot, grammar, and context, and not one to laugh at those B-Grade horror movies, ‘Lost Soul’ will feel like torture. This is written to a very certain demographic/niche.

I don’t know what inspired me to but this – it is certainly well out of my wheelhouse of regular reads. And an interesting journey. Maybe it was the gorgeous cover promising a dark paranormal mystery – massive battles against dark forces. Instead, it is more of a campy detective novel set in a world of witches, werewolves, fairies, demons and vampires.

I’m interested to see where the sequels will take us.

Overall feeling: This was… okay. That is all.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – A Court of Mist and Fury (#3 A Court of Thorns and Roses) by Sarah J. Maas

A great story, a beautiful romance and lots of fae.

A Court of Wings and Ruin Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 699

From Goodreads:

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.  

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Started off better than I had anticipated. Very impressed. I have to stay I enjoyed this book far more than the previous 2 in this series.

I loved reading Feyre. Although she did feel predictable – I guessed her actions well in advance. But she was ballsy and did not let a man define her (much.) And I liked how the element of family played a strong part of who she is in this instalment. She always wore her decisions, good or bad. It is an admirable quality and helped me connect and invest in her story.

While I loved the relationship between Feyre and Rhys, his character seems to have evolved into a Mr Goody-two-shoes. Where was that scary darkness that he let us glimpse in the first two books? It gave him an edge. So while a great culmination in their story, I was starting to get a little bored with Rhys.

The shining part of this book, as minor as it is, was Suriel. It tugged on my heart strings and even had many tears falling at the beauty of Feyre’s interaction with it in the forest.

A Court of Wings and Ruin Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgMaas is still a fan of overusing the phrase “a mask of…” to describe facial expression and emotion. Almost wanted to turn it into a drinking game. I’m finding frequent repetition of descriptions and qualifiers, which is disappointing because a good editor should have picked these issues up.

I was put off by the overt erotica in some parts – it was fine when it added something to the plot or character development, but the rest just left me feeling… itchy. The graphic content felt like it was included to service Sarah J. Maas’ opinion on the ultimate sexual relationship – how a male should put the woman’s needs first. And left the whole experience a little contrived.

There was a focus on gender within the narrative, and people being coupled off, which while cute and expected in YA, I was hoping for a little more grit and daring. Especially in a fantasy genre where you can push the envelope a bit further.

The second half of the book was much easier to read than the first half – I guess the story arc with Tamlin bogged things down for me. Focusing more on political manoeuvring than action. Though I understand it a necessary part of the overall storyline. As we needed to see some sort of resolution between these two.

Mass’ writing style, especially when setting a scene, painted the landscape with such rich language I was truly impressed.  There was a lot too it. A lot happened. The pace just kept driving forward. Though there were some spots where it felt a little slow. As a lot went down, the cast grew, transformed, challenged, I really can’t comment too much about them without giving away any spoilers – but enough to say I really enjoyed the journey of all the secondary cast members. With such a wide and varied collection of characters, it was easy to track and identify each one.

Have developed a great fondness for this collection.

A Court of Wings and Ruin’ is a big book – I frequently got aching hands trying to hold this slab of paper up. The typesetting and formatting is of a comfortable size and layout so that not too much is cramped on to one page and you find yourself re-reading a line of text. Love the cover art and how it ties into the previous two novels. But it is reminding me that I’ll read books over 600 pages in e-book format so that they are easier to hold.

What started out as a Beauty and the Beast re-telling grew into an epic fae fantasy I’d recommend to lovers of this genre, Romance and female warrior protagonists.

Overall feeling: Brilliant ending!

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Masterful writing from Maas.

A Court of Mist and Fury Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 624

From Goodreads:

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two. 

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I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ after loving the start of the series ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ (a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ re-telling) so much. And I jumped into the first few pages with excitement.

What I was confronted with was a little unnerving: a graphic sex scene. Maybe I’m a bit of a prude, but I like my intimate encounters to be personal and romantic, titillation shot through a soft focus lens. This one was all hard banging and rough, it felt violent and reminded me of rape.  Though, I liked how Feyre was empowered throughout. It was definitely not to my taste. I’m still not sure what it added to the story exactly. Need and want can be set up in other less confronting ways, and any aspersions to Tamlin’s nature had already been expressed. So straight out of the gate, my happy feelings for this sequel plummeted a little.

A Court of Mist and Fury Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI certainly did not expect this to continue and my excitement wane so quickly. I stumbled over the story, putting the book down many times – it plummeted me into a mini reading slump. Not because the writing was bad, or that there wasn’t anything interesting going on… the build of the story is so slow that the pacing dropped off for me and I had to take a break, several times, and completed another five novels over the duration of reading ACOMAF. Such a disappointing thing to admit to after a fun experience with ACOTAR, and such high praise for Sarah J. Mass’ writing. Admittedly I am not a huge reader of high fantasy, but read enough to be considered widely experienced. I just wish this book had a larger impact on me. Especially from a prolific author.

Of note, however, was Feyre’s journey to empowerment. We really see her grow, test out her powers, mental strength, and challenge her emotions. The character development in ACOMAF lifts my opinion back up, though not quite as high as for its predecessor.

I liked the cheekiness of Rhysand in ACOTAR, but loved his equal mindedness in ACOMAF, he felt like a stable voice of reason in the new world of the Fae Feyre has to navigate. He also grounded me as a reader given the uncertainty in the world and its characters.

A phrase that was overused and annoying towards the end of the book – everyone “had a mask of…” to conceal their true feelings, pulling me from the narrative repeatedly. I hope Maas comes up with some new adjectives or descriptions in the latter books for this series.

Given that I gave the book a rest for a bit, it will come no surprise when I say ACOMAF felt long, though, the action and pacing picked up in the second half. We finally got to see some interesting things happen in plot, and I was hooked again even after the first half being a struggle.

I really loved the ending, another cliff-hanger, and can’t wait to find out what happens in the next book – I just hope it doesn’t lag as much as ACOMAF. Amazing storytelling from Maas as always, but not the easiest read.

A point of contention for me with the hardcover edition, dark blue ink of the cover kept staining my fingers. So it maybe needs to cure a little or have a different finish.

Overall feeling: Didn’t quite meet my expectations, but enjoyable nonetheless

A Court of Mist and Fury Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

A Court of Mist and Fury Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ by Holly Black

The double edged sword of having Fae folk as neighbours.. it can only be delicious and terrifying.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough? 

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I bought this after reading ‘The Coldest Girl in Coldtown’ – Holly Black’s writing is fun, dark, and she’s great at developing a character; so I was expecting all of that in ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ and was not disappointed.

I’m not big on fantasy, but the setting of this novel was in a modern day urban locale, with a small town sharing a forest with Fae Folk. They’ve reached a sort-of pact, and know all of the Fariy Lore. So, I found it easy to relate to the story, and wasn’t distracted by lengthy world building.

The writing style has an omnipresent eye, bucking the trend of a first person narrative, as we follow brother and sister, Ben and Hazel, both who are fascinated (as are much of the town of Farifold) with a beautiful boy in a glass coffin, Snow White-style.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleHazel is warrior child from the get go, she wild and brazen and not afraid of the folk. Imaginary games of being a huntress, dispatching the bad Fae becomes a real life duty for Hazel. It’s her secret double life outside of being a regular fun-loving school student.

Likewise, her brother Ben assists in Hazel quests using his ability to entrance all with music, like a Pied Piper, a gift bestowed on him by the Fae. Ben is compassionate and tortured, like every true artist. Having Ben identify as gay only added delicious layers to his story.

Jack is Ben’s best friend (and Changeling – a fairy youngling, replacing a human child and left for the family to raise, however the ruse was discovered and the human baby recovered, though Ben was kept as a punishment. Looking completely human and identical to human baby Carter, he was raised as a part of the family.) Jack loves without discrimination and has a foot in both worlds. Of course, Hazel would have a crush on him. I loved the way his character developed in this story most of all.

Severin the horned prince in the glass coffin – and Ben’s love interest still manages to be in the centre of the storyline even though he is asleep. The stories everyone makes up about who he is, and how he came to be entombed in a magical glass box is fascinating.

A surprisingly fast read that is paced well. ‘The Darkest Part of the Forest’ always kept me interested and engaged. The story dealt out some surprises, but overall, fairly predictable – though that did not detract from my enjoyment. With such a rich array of characters and a fantastical world juxtaposing over our own, it ticked all the poxes for me as an enjoyable weekend read. I think the only thing that could have made it better was a heavier dose of darkness and menacing tension – then I would be completely satisfied. Though having said that it would have lost that innocent lyrical tone befitting the Fae so well.

Loved the physical presentation of the hardback copy. Deckled edges, mat and embossed dust jacket and beautiful typesetting throughout the interior. And did I mention the stunning cover art?

Overall feeling: One word – Cute.

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Darkest Part of the Forest Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Beauty and the Beast turned Fae – Yes Please!.

 A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 416

From Goodreads:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever. 

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This is the first novel from Sarah J Mass that I’ve read, and I have to say I was impressed.

Not being a fan of fairy-tale re-tellings, but am finding this genre to continually grow on my bookshelf – ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses,’ puts an original spin on the Beauty and the Beast fable.

Outstanding story telling – although there are a few moments, one at the start and one near the end, that felt a little too convenient and were made to happen for the sake of the story line (and to fit into the original fairy tale mould). Which is what ultimately knocked this down half a point for me; I guess because the writing and character development had so far exceeded my expectations that these contrived plot points were glaringly contrite. But that is the worst of my criticism.

It has been years since I’ve gotten lost in a fantasy world. I’m usually reading contemporary, science fiction or supernatural. But Maas got me hook, line and sinker…

Feyre is obstinate and challenging from the first page – and we really get to believe her assumptions, ‘know’ that she is right. And then it slowly gets pulled apart like a slowly unravelling jumper. I loved her fierce independence and will to stand up on what she feels is right. Feyre is the type of character that spurns me to continue reading page to page – and that’s without the action and intrigue of her story.

A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Tamlin is a great beast. Scary, complex, intelligent and handsome. Most incarnations of beasts are superficially frightening, but Tamlin is righteously terrifying in all his glory. And, as the story goes when he’s softened and tamed by Belle (Feyre) we get to see more of his beauty. Don’t think he’ll become any less infamous though.

The adventure has only just begun. It’s obvious upon completion this is not a stand-alone, and I am very excited and eagerly awaiting the next instalment. So, in the meantime, I will catch up to many of my bookish buddies and fill in time working my way through the Throne of Glass series.

‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ left me feeling a little shell-shocked by the end. We really get put through the ringer. It’s fast paced adventure makes the 400+ pages a breeze and Maas’ beautific writing style pull you into a magical world and make reading effortless.

Even though we all know the story of Beauty and the Beast, this story still manages to surprise. Definitely adding this to my favourites list and it is listed in my Top 5 Favourite reads of 2015. Highly recommended, even if you are not into fantasy, this will blow your mind.

Overall feeling: *uplifting music*

A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.