Book Review – ‘Hunted’ by Meagan Spooner

A Beauty and the Beast re-telling with a modern attitude.

Hunted Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast? 

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Meagan Spooner tackles a Beauty and the Beast re-telling with ‘Hunted,’ delivering another fantastic incarnation, breathing life into one of my all-time favourite fairy tales.

Hunted Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleWe follow protagonist Yeva, affectionately called Beauty, while she tries to find her place in the world. She wants more than getting married off in her small village. We see Yeva longing for the forest and hunting with her father. Once tragedy strikes, she begins to embrace the role she’s always wanted… but is it more of an escape than survival?

I loved how we don’t get another bookish beauty with this re-imagining. Yeva stands her own in a male-only occupation. Combined with her mental strength and desire for something more leads her down a darkened path.

Enter the beast.

Spooners reinvented beast is much darker than some other versions I’ve read. He has a duality to him that is distinct and warring for dominance. The mythology in this version feels older than what we get in the Disney version. There is no pretty flower or need to have Beauty fall in love with him to break the spell. This was so much more fun to read. I highly recommend you give this title a go.

The pacing is pretty good – slow in some parts – but only because it is keeping with the cadence of the popular tale. But I did complete ‘Hunted’ in two sittings and was not bored or disinterested in the slower parts enough to put it down and take a break.

We get some prominent themes in ‘Hunted’ which I found delightful. It’s not about romance, more around facing our animalistic nature and thirst for more.

Forget about a Gaston-type character in ‘Hunted’ in the traditional sense. There is no stereotypical fame obsessed machismo set to make Yeva his own. Which was another aspect to this novel that really appealed to me.

Spooners writing style and world building create a picturesque landscape that doesn’t drag too much with details, but keeps the story klipping along at a decent pace.

I’m a little of two minds over the ending. I felt like I wanted something bigger. Only because there were a few parts that I wanted resolved better – but that’s just because I love the big dramatic endings. Especially in the fairy tale genre. But on the whole I’m not mad at reading ‘Hunted.’ I went in dubious, because, you know – yet another Beauty and the Beast re-telling *yawn* But Spooner really got me excited for old becoming new again.

Totally recommend.

Overall feeling: Sucked into the adventure

Hunted Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Hunted 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.

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Book Review – ‘Croak’ (#1 Croak) by Gina Damico

Emo loner meets Grimm.

Croak (#1 Croak) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal

No. of pages: 311

From Goodreads:

Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex’s parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape.

But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than shoveling manure. He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach Lex the family business.

She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can’t stop her desire for justice — or is it vengeance? — whenever she encounters a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again.

Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?

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This was a delightful detour from many of the YA novels I usually read. ‘Croak’ gives a great twist on grim reapers and a heavy dose of sarcastic teen. I will say that the sarcasm wasn’t really my thing – it got on my nerves a bit and stopped me from relating to the protagonist in the first half of the novel. But there were some real gems – laugh out loud stuff with this humour as well.

There were some aspects to ‘Croak’ that detracted from a raving review. My main issue had to do with how Lex accepted a lot of things around her new role and environment as it were nothing, yet struggled with others… and it seemed to me, centred around driving the plot forward and conflicting with her personality and character. It felt like a giant red flag of subtext waving at me that Gina Damico did not take the time to let Lex settle into her new surroundings organically. Yes, it’s me being nit-picky, but it was the one factor that was grinding in the back of my skull while reading ‘Croak.’ However, it was also nice to read a protagonist who wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Lex had a bit of prickle to her and also wrestled with some basic moral principles. It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of reading a main character so conflicted in YA.

There was a bit of ‘the chosen one’ trope that had me rolling my eyes but it is what it is.

Croak (#1 Croak) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlilse

We get a bit of romance, though it is not a strong theme – and I felt this too could have been left out, or introduced later in the series. I liked the tension and banter between Lex and Driggs. I hope it doesn’t change too much in future instalments.

Although we solve the main mystery, and open up a new one at the end of ‘Croak’ – so it kind of ends on a cliff hanger – there were still so many other questions I wanted answered. I’m hoping we get them uncovered in the rest of the trilogy ‘Scorched’ and ‘Rogue.’ I am definitely intrigued and interested enough to read on in this series. And if Gina Damico makes a strong enough impression, I’ll definitely order the rest of her back catalogue.

Damico’s writing style is colourful and sarcastic with a hint of darkness – whether it is due to Lex’s emo nature, or it’s in her narrative comfort zone I’ve yet to discern, but it was easy enough to read and the second half of the novel practically zinged by. I didn’t detect any issues with pacing, the story unfolded naturally and I didn’t guess the main reveal before reading the words on the page. I mean I suspected, but Damico placed a lot of other possibilities out there, so I was never confident, and subsequently got a delicious surprise at that ah-huh moment. So points for dodging any predictability.

It’s a soft recommendation from me. A fun read, but I had issues with the character developing organically. Who knows, Damico’s storytelling may improve with each sequel.

On a side note, this novel gave me serious ‘Dead Like Me’ vibes – a tv series that had a short run that has me praying for a re-make or reboot.

Overall feeling: Intrigued me enough to keep going with the trilogy.

Croak (#1 Croak) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

Croak (#1 Croak) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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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.

#bookporn

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I’ve been enjoying this series by Victoria Aveyard – but I need to carve out some time to finish off the collection with ‘War Storm.’ Lets hope it’s an epic culmination to wrap everything up for Mare and her friends.

Book Review – ’Boundless’ (#3 Unearthly) by Cynthia Hand

The wrap-up to a trilogy that truly surprised me.

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 448

From Goodreads:

The past few years have held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner could ever have anticipated. Yet from the dizzying highs of first love, to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she can no longer deny is that she was never meant to live a normal life.

Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seems like the best option, so she’s headed back to California – and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.

As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfill her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal.

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A great way to wrap up the trilogy, if somewhat spoony – but that comes with the territory for paranormal romances.

I’d like to say it was predictable – and in some ways it is obviously so – however there were so many smaller reveals, and the plot structured in a way with many red herrings that I seriously doubted my first assumptions. Which is a tremendously good thing. I was taken off into a fantasy world of angels and angel bloods and put the book down only once to go to sleep.

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleClara becomes a quiet determined hero. Yes she gets some kick-butt fighting skills, but bucks the trend when it comes to YA heroines. It’s not all about the fist and sword. It’s also about family and friends. About love. About your own convictions and the decisions you make. There was an undercurrent that hints at a grand design, working in tandem with free will. That you still shape your own destiny… but that destiny is already out there waiting to be realised. A lovely tone to shine through.

Christian, although a character I found impossible, arrogant, and annoying, redeems himself in my eyes. A bit of selflessness shines through that didn’t marry up to his own desires. It was great to see him finally put to the test.

You don’t get a lot of Tucker, but he’s there still the beautiful righteous cowboy as much as ever.

I was not a big fan of the love triangle thing in this novel. It felt tired and dragged out unnecessarily. But thankfully there is a lot more going on in ‘Boundless’ to entertain. Dark Wings, Hell, University, unexpected surprises, and discovering even more angelic powers. Hand has done a great job of building on the mythology and keeping the tension growing from start to finish.

I was of two minds about the strain that went through Angela and Clara’s friendship; some of it seemed forced for the plot, as did the relationship with Jeffrey, Clara’s brother. I remember wondering why somethings were ignored or forgotten at convenient times, so it lost a touch of realism for me there.

Hand has a fun light touch for her writing style. ‘Boundless’ didn’t have the wit and humor from the first two as much, but we were dealing with some serious stuff and wrapping up the trilogy. I still stand by how engrossed I was with this series, I’m not in to angels or religion with my reading, but the Unearthly trilogy surprised me on all fronts and is a collection I’d happily recommend to lovers of YA.

Overall feeling: Go angels!

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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

5 star reviews from the past 5 years

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Books that I award 5 stars to usually affect me in some way: strike an emotional cord, surprise me with the plot or writing, or allow me to completely escape into a fantasy world (or all of the above)… and I don’t award that perfect score lightly. So I thought I’d take a look at how many novels fall into this category; both read and published within the last 5 years.

I was surprised that it only consisted of seven books. Out of the over 400 novels I’ve read in the past 5 years, the list below were the only ones to shine. Maybe I need to start reading more new releases? Let’s take a look:

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe Martian by Andy Weir

I’m a huge sci-fi geek. It’s what got me into reading in my youth. But I think what resonated with me from ‘The Martian’ was how plausible it felt. Much of the novel is grounded in applicable science. Plus, I love working through problems. It was a real case of every obstacle being thrown at protagonist Mark Watney, and he systematically finding a solution to keep surviving. MacGuyver on Mars!

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleIlluminae, Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This series is action from start to finish. It has sassy, sarcastic, and diverse protagonists, a countdown, and more than one antagonist working against our heroes. With a narrative of collected documents, the pace kept going, and grabbed snippets of different perspectives in this action packed soap opera. The middle book ‘Gemina’ didn’t quite match the calibre of its companions, but this is a trilogy I’d recommend to anyone who wants a sci-fi read.

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleCress by Marissa Meyer

I really have to get on with finishing up the rest of this collection! With a fairytale re-telling twist, this science fiction saga brings loveable characters that feel both new and familiar. I was struck at how the storyline kept to the tone of the original fairytales, but still managed to tell a completely new story. This series is the one that opened the door to re-imaginings of old fables. I’m interested to see where it all goes. ‘Winter’ is calling me…

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 05 by Casey CarlisleSimon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Such a cute, quirky contemporary. I both laughed and cried out loud. It was so in touch with teen awkwardness and working out who you are that I could not put it down. So glad the film followed not long after, which I enjoyed thoroughly as well. None of the Creekwook books have lived up to Simon yet, but it is nice to stay in the universe for a while longer.

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 06 by Casey CarlisleThe Five Stages of Andrey Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

This was a dark horse of a book. I remember being tentative about this read at first, but it has become a favourite. It does deal with protagonist Andrew and his identity and orientation, but mainly it’s about dealing with grief. With an edgy contemporary style, and having to personally deal with losing a family member a year of two earlier, this resonated with me. Grief hits you in unexpected ways and can hang around for quite some time. It can ruin you, change your life. Sometimes it’s about crying, saying goodbye, and getting on with things; and sometimes it’s not. Shaun David Hutchinson’s writing style really stood out to me. A brilliant stand alone.

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 07 by Casey CarlisleA Court of Thorns and Roses Sarah J. Maas

I’m not big on fantasy, but having found a new love for re-tellings, and the hype around Sarah J. Maas, I gave this trilogy a chance. I have to admit I was surprised by how compelling protagonist Feyre’s story is. How Maas interpreted the tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ We get a ballsy heroine, a trickster of a beast, and such an imaginative fae world… and the ending was not what I expected. So this one gets full marks for great escapism, strong female characters, and surprises.

And that’s it. All of my other 5 star reads were published much earlier and did not fit into this discussion. Four science fiction, two contemporary, and one fantasy. Considering my favourite genres are YA, Science Fiction and Horror/Thriller, I expected quite a different list. But that’s how the cookie crumbles.

Do you have any 5 star recommendations? Let me know in the comments, I need to start populating this list with more books!

In the meantime, happy reading. Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 02 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 – ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky’ (#3 Wayward Children) by Seanan McGuire

Trip into Confectionery…

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 174

From Goodreads:

Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world. 

Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.

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I’m not a huge reader of the fantasy genre, but I like to indulge every now and then. And ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky’ is a great addition to the Wayward Children family. But maybe I was getting a little tired of the genre after the previous two novels? Or maybe it’s that we jump about with the timeline, new and old characters? Introducing new worlds… or maybe it was because Confection is a nonsense world, and I love order and logic? I enjoyed ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky’ a touch less than its predecessors. It’s the first book in this collection I had to pressure myself to read at some points – but not to fault of the writing or the story, but more my personal preference of genre.

Seanan’s whimsical writing style is a delight. I am completely entranced by her turn of phrase. I loved her continuing representation of diversity: body shape, ethnicity, gender identity, amputees… But these aspects are a part of a character – something that is a part of the whole – not something that makes them ‘other,’ or a point of difference. I have to commend in how these characters are written and how their outlook is crafted. True genius.

A notable mention to the character of Cora who was a determined and strong protagonist with a heavy burden of insecurity due to her body shape. It was so juxtaposing and created inner conflict that made her feel real, complex, and interesting. It was like a lesson on how to write great characters. The same goes for the world building; so imaginative and unique. I can’t fault this book in any way.

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I had been hoping we would return to the Home for Wayward Children, pick up some of the story of the school and other characters, ‘Down Among the Stick and Bones’ felt like a solitary tale mostly disconnected to the continuing storyline of the School, and was thankful to get that connection and glimpses of the characters futures that I had already met in the first two novellas.

Beneath the Sugar Sky’ was mostly predictable – it’s a hero’s journey. A quest. So for the story to be any part satisfying, the objective needs to be obtained. But the happenings along the way are truly extravagant.

Clearly this is YA, the cast are all teens and the subject matter is in the demographic wheelhouse; though with Seanan’s writing style, the intelligent wording, I sometimes think she had high-brow lexicon that many readers would need a dictionary to understand. I actually love reading books like this – exploring the English language and expression. Educating me in adjectives. But can see how some readers in the YA demographic might glaze over with a bit of a ‘huh?’

Definitely recommend this – it’s deliciously fantastical. Looking forward to ‘In an Absent Dream’ due out next year and what characters it is going to deal with, and what new additions it is going to show in the Wayward Children universe.

Overall feeling: such a sugar rush.

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) 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.