Book Review – ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout

A cautionary tale for teen love.

If There's No Tomorrow Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 384

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Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

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I didn’t mind this contemporary, it’s a slow burn romance with a heavy dose of survivor’s guilt. Compared to many other reads from JLA, where there is a lot of action, angst, or paranormal, ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ is more realistic fiction, and with a teen protagonist facing some heavy issues, it did not feel as gripping as I’m used to. But this is a great story. A precautionary tale that I feel is important for the demographic of this novel.

I did go in to this with no prior knowledge, I skipped reading the blurb, because Jennifer L. Armentrout is one of my auto-buy authors and I love her angsty, escapist tomes. So I was expecting just that – some drama filled teen romance of some description. And ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ is that… and more. Protagonist Lena is navigating decisions for graduating high school, telling her crush about her feelings, keeping together her girl squad, and then, bam! Underage drinking, driving while intoxicated, death. I was not expecting any of the latter. But I have to hand it to JLA, she really landed an experience of loss, grief, and survivor’s guilt. Even the situation of a father’s role in taking responsibility for their child. I related to this a lot. It was quite a sobering read. Though, in hindsight, I did not get the gut-wrenching feels, the man-cry sobs, or the tummy butterflies of yearning I wanted. This was somewhat vanilla. And I can understand why; there are some very heavy topics discussed here, but in effect ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ is a love story. Bogging down the narrative with the more realism-laden issues would take the narrative in a completely different and depressing direction and move well away from JLA’s typical fare. This is meant to be a love story – I get it.

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Lena was a fun protagonist, she loves volleyball, parties, hanging with her girls, and reading. So there was a lot to connect to. Thank goodness she wasn’t some snarky waif that we get a lot in YA, though she was a little of that plain jane stereotype.

The love interest, a jock, boy next door type, again felt a little stereotyped and typical for this genre, but I enjoyed how he is depicted as a man and not some idiot teen boy with impulse control issues.

I predicted the ending when it came to the love story – come on its expected and obvious, that’s why I picked up the book. But the other stuff around the accident and the aftermath was a complete surprise. Though if I had read the blurb, it’s all right there. So I’m not spoiling the book. I probably wouldn’t have picked this up if I had read the Goodreads description to be honest, but it was a great read nonetheless. But I probably would have rated it lower because it gives the entire story away.

Jennifer L. Armentrout’s writing style is effortless, and lends to a quick read, though I would have liked some more atmosphere built and less inner lamenting to build a stronger emotional connection. Symbolism always works better than someone having a whine.

I’d only recommend this for tried and true fans of JLA, or for young teens (as a precautionary tale). I think romance lovers and contemporaryphiles not familiar with Jennifer’s catalogue may find it a little bland. In fact as I check other reviews I can see this reflected in reader’s reactions. I appreciated ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ for what it is and am glad to add it to my collection.

Overall feeling: not what I was expecting…

If There's No Tomorrow Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

If There's No Tomorrow 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 – ‘Life Expectancy’ by Dean Koontz

Fun and weird characters, murder, humour and a twist I didn’t see coming.

Life Expectancy Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Thriller, Mystery

No. of pages: 401

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Jimmy Tock comes into the world on the very night his grandfather leaves it. As a violent storm rages outside the hospital, Rudy Tock spends long hours walking the corridors between the expectant fathers’ waiting room and his dying father’s bedside. It’s a strange vigil made all the stranger when, at the very height of the storm’s fury, Josef Tock suddenly sits up in bed and speaks coherently for the first and last time since his stroke.

What he says before he dies is that there will be five dark days in the life of his grandson—five dates whose terrible events Jimmy will have to prepare himself to face. The first is to occur in his twentieth year; the second in his twenty-third year; the third in his twenty-eighth; the fourth in his twenty-ninth; the fifth in his thirtieth.

Rudy is all too ready to discount his father’s last words as a dying man’s delusional rambling. But then he discovers that Josef also predicted the time of his grandson’s birth to the minute, as well as his exact height and weight, and the fact that Jimmy would be born with syndactyly—the unexplained anomal of fused digits—on his left foot. Suddenly the old man’s predictions take on a chilling significance.

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It has been a while since I’ve indulged in a Dean Koontz creation, and ‘Life Expectancy’ reminded me of all the things I love about his writing. Witty banter, fun and weird characters, a good chase, serendipity, and some obtuse cyclical element that you never expect.

Life Expectancy’ is a deliciously weird tale intertwined with prophecy, mad men, fate, and family. We get different sections of the novel centred around the dates Jimmy Tock’s grandfather foretold as days of great importance and sorrow.

Jimmy Tock, born in an electric storm at the same moment as the child of a weird man, who then goes on a killing spree through the country hospital kicks this story off with a bloody mess and dragged me into the narrative with ease. The different parts jump to the dates that Grandad Tock magic-eight-balled for Jimmy to look out for and keep the pace of this novel cranked up to maximum. Even when Jimmy meets love interest Lorrie, we get instant great chemistry, and I became besotted with the pair from the get-go. True to Koontz’s writing style, there is a brilliant mix of comedy (humour) and horror (needless death and destruction) that was cinematic in form.

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We don’t just get one bad guy either… antagonists that are sociopathically driven to enforce their justified point of view, all interwoven together in a crazy plot really threw me for a six. It was such a delicious delight to have these little unexpected twists.

The quaint backdrop of Snow Village – somehow reminding me of the set from ‘The Ghost Whisperer’ television show. A small town with a square, around which all the important buildings orientate. It just goes to show the descriptive abilities of Koontz’s writing style.

Because I’m such a fan of Dean Koontz and read countless of his tomes, I can say with confidence I predicted the ending pretty early one – however, there were a few surprising serendipities to that ending. And they were doozies. A one-two punch that had me making googly eyes at the page.

This hits the sweet spot of all the things I enjoy about Dean Koontz’s writing and happily recommend ‘Life Expectancy’ for your TBR.

Overall feeling: This!

Life Expectancy Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Life Expectancy 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.

e-Book Piracy – What to do if someone steals your book.

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Information and actions around preventing the theft of your published work.

I came across the below article penned by Dave Chessan a while back and thought I’d share it here for those wanting this type of information. The sad reality is that there is so much piracy of IP, and most of the time there is precious little we can do to stop it; or the reality of tracking down and persecuting those breaching your copyright is expensive and takes up a lot of time, money, and research. The piracy in the publishing world is primarily with e-books, and I can only hope that those downloading and reading pirated novels will like them enough to go and purchase a hard copy at a later date.

The other issue is that pirated copies usually are formatted differently, may be ARCs, or incomplete files as well. You never know what your going to get. Not to mention the digital security risks with getting files infected with a worm or virus, or having your personal information stolen.

Considering its something like $300 million or more annually of lost income to authors who are traditionally published (in the United States.) This is a big issue. Authors generally don’t earn much, so it would be ideal if we could eradicate piracy altogether. But I don’t see that happening, and unless some major technological developments, laws on copyright and e-commerce drastically change, it is going to continue.

I’m unsure how this affects independent authors and writers whom publish exclusively in electronic form (like Amazon KDP and similar) as there is no data available; but it looks to be only popular book titles that are being targeted for piracy.

But anyway, here is the article with some information to help tackle piracy, but keep in mind the laws can change quickly, and in dealing with international IP addresses, you are also grappling with both international and their local laws. Today, most pirates use fake accounts, and it is nothing for them to close them down and open another. But we have to keep fighting for the right to keep our own income and intellectual property.

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You’d be amazed at how many websites have pirated or claim to have pirated your book.

There it is…sitting there, being given away for free.

All those sales…lost.

Worse yet, most of these sites have no contact information and probably aren’t even located in your country.

So, how do you protect yourself against these pirates and protect your rights?

In this article, I want to show you the legal, safe, and extra awesome way that anyone can regain their book from these pirates with some cunning tactics that only the most advanced computer nerds know how to employ.

Don’t worry, this will be simple…even for the most tech-challenged readers.

In This Article, You’ll Learn:

  • When to act and when to leave it alone
  • The steps to get the pirates to release your book
  • How to get Google to slap them around
  • And more…

BEFORE YOU GET JUSTICE…

Before you go all Klingon and serve that dish cold, I’m going to give a recommendation that SHOULD apply to 99% of you: If you find out someone is offering your book for free on their website, you should just leave it alone and move on.

Why?

  1. Most of the time, they don’t actually have your book.They scraped your title off Amazon – seeing that it was popular or potentially popular – and are only lying saying the book is available in their archives.  This is for one of two reasons.  Either:
  2. They want the searcher to pay their subscription in order to get the “free” books
  3. They will “send you the book” but it will actually be a virus.

So, in the end, you’re actually safer if you don’t look for these pirates.

  1. The amount of work it will take to get your book removed is usually not worth it.That’s not a knock against you or your book, but the number of sales that you would lose because of that book is probably so negligible that you shouldn’t even waste your time with it.  Most people who go looking for free books probably aren’t the type that would actually pay for one.  So you really aren’t losing any money.

Also, it’s important to note that sometimes ebook piracy can be a good thing.  As my good friend Tim Grahl shows, it can actually help you out.

But I get it.  It’s just the sheer fact that someone is either lying to people or conning them out of money, and using your book to do it.  You’re out for justice!

ARRRRR! Finally…a way to deal with ebook piracy #Ebooks

Well if that is the case, or your book is outside of reasons #1 and #2 above, then below are the steps you should take in order to get it removed or hurt their website, without getting a lawyer involved.

STEP 1. CONTACT THE WRITER/OWNER/EDITOR

Probably the most obvious of steps, yet often overlooked and more effective than you’d think with these cheap book thieves.

Why?

Because they are probably not making much money off of your book specifically, so instead of endangering their website/business (for fear that you are savvy with the ways of the Internet force and have read this article), they’ll acquiesce to your request and remove the one single page.

But what if they don’t have a contact page or way for you to contact them?

That’s okay because we’re going to use Whois to find out all we need to know about this website.

NOTE: For this, I’m going to use a pretty cool fiction website made by my good friend, Shaunta Grimes, called What Is A Plot.  How good of a friend?  Well, let’s just say I photo-bombed her Huffington Post picture.  But rest assured, she is not a pirate.

To do this, navigate to http://www.whois.com/whois/ and type in the pirate website’s domain name.

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Whois is awesome because it not only lists their personal contact information (unless they paid for privacy), but also lists where their website’s domain is registered, who their hosting service is, when they bought the domain, and more.

Basically, it’s useful for figuring out information about any website out there.

And that information is going to be important for these next couple steps. So, keep this information handy as we move forward.

Now, scroll down to where “Registrant Email” is listed.

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If it says something like “privacy@servername.com” don’t worry.  Just send an email to that address, and it will get redirected to their real email.

Now that you have the owner’s email, craft a well thought out email that details your displeasure in the matter, your request that they remove it, your rights, and the steps below that you WILL take if they don’t comply.

STEP 2. CONTACT THE HOST/DNS PROVIDER

If you’re at this step, then they either didn’t have contact information readily available, didn’t respond, or they said they were disinclined to acquiesce to your request…

So, let’s take it to the next level.  In this step, we will contact the hosting company – the people who house their website on their servers.

What good will that do?

These hosting servers have more to lose than some sneaky ebook pirate. If it is found that they are hosting illegal sites and are not in compliance, they could get shut down and lose their business. Plus, most of them don’t want illegal activity on their servers.

But how do we find out who their hosting service is?

Simple!  We go back to Whois Lookup.

Now, to find out who their hosting service is, you want to scroll down in Whois until you see “Name Servers.”

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These servers usually look like “ns1.somehostingcompany.com.”  In the example above, it is Bluehost.com.

In this case, you’d want to go to “somehostingcompany.com” and look for a “Contact Us” form or an “Abuse” form and file your complaint there.

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When you contact them, be sure to use your best legalese and state the following:

  1. The violations occurred by the website owner
  2. Specific URL you want to be taken down with a “fix it or else” type statement
  3. Inform that you tried contacting the owner of the site directly but they were unresponsive
  4. Your next step will be to file a DMCA (more on this later)

STEP 3. CONTACT THE REGISTRAR

Many of the scourge of the Internet actually have their own hosting service (you can basically turn any old computer into a web server), so sometimes trying to contact their “hosting service” will do no good.

But that’s okay.  We can kick it up a notch because even if they have their own hosting, they CAN’T have their own Registrar.

For this, we again look at the Whois info and locate their “Registrar Abuse Contact Email” and/or “Registrar Abuse Contact Phone.”

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If a phone number is available, it’s best to pick up the phone and contact the Registrar with your complaint.  Since its a copyright infringement, you have a decent shot at getting the information removed pronto.

If for some reason, you don’t get through to them on the phone or no phone number is listed, then send an email to the Registrar Abuse Contact Email with the compiled information and close your email with the statement “My next step is to follow through with a DMCA request since you are dealing with stolen content.”

That ought to get ‘em!

STEP 4. ENTER THE DMCA DRAGON

If nothing has happened yet, then it is time to roll up your sleeves and slap them around for real. In this case, a dish served cold with a side of DMCA.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is supposed to protect the owners of content from copyright infringement on the web. It’s basically a formal action.

So, why not just start with this?  Because DMCAs are supposed to be the last resort.  It’s the “I’ve tried everything and they didn’t listen so here comes the boom” move.

This is how you can take down the Pirates who steal your #book, Matey! #WritersLife

Most of the hosting services and registrars have a specific page for submitting a DMCA.  The best way to find this is to do a Google search with the “Name of the Company” + “DMCA”.

Here is an example of Host Gator’s DMCA page.

If the company you’re looking for doesn’t have a DMCA, then you’ll need to create your own and send it to them or their legal department. You can also access the Copyright.gov website list of companies and hit them there.

When filling out a formal copyright claim, you’ll need to list some of the following:

  1. Your full name and contact information
  2. Exactly who you are filing this DMCA against (website owner, host, registrant, etc. – you need to do a separate one for each)
  3. Take a screenshot of the blatant abuse
  4. Provide proof that you attempted to contact the violator
  5. Sign it yourself (electronic signatures are sufficient)
  6. State that you are complaining in “good faith”
  7. State that “under penalty of perjury, the information contained in the notification is accurate”
  8. State that you have the right to submit this DMCA because you are the copyright owner or the owner’s agent.

Here you can find a couple of templates to use:

DMCA Notification Template
DMCA Template from our dear friends at Scribd

Also, to help this step move in a better way, be sure to check out my article on Book Copyright pages and what to put in them. Having a strong copyright page will go a long way to helping to bolster your argument.  Also, there are extra steps you can take in order to formally copyright your book other than just publishing as well.

STEP 5. THE FINAL TAKEDOWN WITH A GOOGLE SLAP!

Hopefully, by now, you’ve made some progress with all of this.  But here’s the thing…even though the website finally complied, their cache might be slow to change.  Therefore, to get the Internet and Google to stop showing the page, you need to tell Google to remove the URL.

To do this, just click on Google’s URL request, put in the URL you want Google to stop acknowledging exists on the Internet, and click “request removal.”

Then Google will get to work ASAP so no one in the near future will stumble upon it.

Any SEOers reading this know what the above image references…haha.  Panda Update, anyone?

WHAT NOW

Again, I hope you didn’t go through all of that to save a couple of sales.  But if you did or needed to, then kudos to you and may the Copyright force be with you.  The above steps have only worked 2 out the 3 times I’ve enacted them.  The third?  Well, not really sure what happened there, but the owners were above average in covering their trail.

So, you no longer need to feel helpless if your book is being stolen or your content is being used without your consent.

You’ve got the steps and the means in order to exact justice.  Now, it’s up to you to decide if all of that is worth your time. Personally, I’d rather get back to writing.

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Have you been personally affected by piracy? Did they steal your novel, or simply use it as a lure to attract traffic, charge money, or steal personal information?

I’m seeing pirates getting more and more imaginative, setting up profiles on goodreads.com, contacting consumers directly through email gleaned from Amazon reviews… Keep reporting, it’s up to us to police our own industry!

UPPERCASE lowercase 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 – ‘The Burning World’ (#2 Warm Bodies) by Isaac Marion

Breathing more life into the apocalyptic series.

The Burning World (#2 Warm Bodies) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Horror

No. of pages: 500

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A romance between a zombie boy and a human girl is bound to have its problems, but after battling against the odds and the undead, it seemed that Julie and R had earned their happy ending. But they soon must face a new enemy more terrifying than the walking corpses that still roam the wasted cities: a faceless and merciless corporation who are seeking control of the ruins of America. The key to survival and victory may lie in R’s past life, but can he finally face his own demons?

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This almost feels like a road trip novel. The characters go from A to B and some plot points are tied up and some aren’t… it seems like this would suffer a middle book syndrome, but it doesn’t. To be honest I was a little worried going into to ‘The Burning World’ with its 500 page length for a zombie dystopian, it has the potential to have an ambling pace, but Isaac Marion put his foot on the accelerator and did not let up until the end. It was a journey with so many things coming at the characters hard and fast.

You get a real sense of humanity through the characters, they react in a realistic way to the circumstances they face. ‘The Burning World’ picks up just after the events in ‘Warm Bodies.’ I’d say this novel primarily deals with filling in R’s backstory. It gives us a hint about the start of the zombie virus, but not quite. I’m hoping it all comes to light in the last book of the franchise ‘The Living.’

There are a lot of interesting elements in ‘The Burning World.’ We get interspersed chapters following a younger R; A young Nearly Dead boy with amber eyes; and some collective consciousness observing the planet and its evolution that seems to have some sort of vast knowledge. There was something like that in ‘Warm Bodies’ with the Boneys – but we don’t see them in this book. There is a sense that everything is connected, that a tangled mess of plot points is being set up. I’m hoping for an epic conclusion.

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Isaac Marion’s writing style is both concise and poetic. Descriptions and actions are written with brevity, but philosophy and ambience are waxed lyrical. It is a unique and interesting tone of voice to read.

There does not feel like a tonne of character development. R’s eyes and personality are growing both with the return of his memories, and seeing Julie in the differing scenarios they survive. The other characters have minor realisations of their own, but nothing that pivots or redirects the plot. As you can guess I’m saying this is a plot driven story, rather than a character driven one.

It’s hard to say I predicted anything about ‘The Burning World’ because I didn’t really know where it was heading… and the journey is still yet to be completed. We get enough plot points resolved to finish the novel at a natural point and felt satisfied, but it didn’t altogether feel like a resounding conclusion. I was surprised at many of the elements introduced in this novel – ‘Warm Bodies’ feels simplistic in comparison.

Definitely looking forward to ‘The Living’ to complete the story and see where this all leads. Recommend this to fans of ‘Warm Bodies’ and any of the zombie and dystopian niches, but you must get your hands on both ‘The Burning World’ and ‘The Living’ to skip disappointment. (Luckily I have my copy waiting to go.)

Overall feeling: Didn’t see that one coming…

The Burning World (#2 Warm Bodies) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Burning World (#2 Warm Bodies) 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 – ‘Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between’ by Jennifer E. Smith

Cute high school romantic fare.

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 246

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On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan have only one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night leads them to family and friends, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

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Jennifer E. Smith never fails to grab you with a cute contemporary, and ‘Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between’ is just that.

This wasn’t the best read for me – maybe I wasn’t it the right mood for a contemporary like this – and maybe there wasn’t enough story for me to sink my teeth into. Following our protagonist Clare as she is about to head off to the other side of the country for college and saying goodbye to her boyfriend by revisiting all of the places that benchmark developments in their relationship before ending things for good… and that’s the entire plot. I have to say there wasn’t a lot about ‘Hello, Goodbye’ and Everything in Between’ that grabbed my attention. In fact I skimmed nearly this entire novel. And it’s only a short book… but it still took me a really long time to finish. I kept putting it down due to lack of interest.

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It’s a pity. Smith’s writing is endearing and she really paints a landscape in setting a scene. We get some poignant symbolism. But I was really missing some more interesting (possibly diverse) characters. And something other than angst about saying goodbye to your high school boyfriend. I hate to say it, but ‘Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between’ felt a little self-indulgent and shallow. I feel if the main characters had a couple of more realistic problems to navigate and didn’t feel so privileged white middle class America; this story would have been a much different creature.

There’s not much else I can say about ‘Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between’ because it is so short, and not a lot happens. No big character arcs or personal growth, no huge obstacles… because of this the pacing felt slow and the tension was fairly non-existent. I did like the angst, but when that is all you have in the plot it can become tired.

So, a cute novel, I think a younger demographic would really enjoy it because of the relevance to their situation, but for an old duck like me, it wasn’t that inspiring. I wouldn’t recommend this one (but maybe if you are a total stan for Jennifer E. Smith, or a junkie for high school romance.)

Overall feeling: Meh.

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between Book Review Pic 03 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 – ‘Dispel Illusion’ (#3 Impossible Times) by Mark Lawrence

Awesome conclusion for this trilogy of novellas.

Dispel Illusion (#3 Impossible Times) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 234

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Sometimes being wrong is the right answer.

Nick Hayes’s genius is in wringing out the universe’s secrets. It’s a talent that’s allowed him to carve paths through time. But the worst part is that he knows how his story will end. He’s seen it with his own eyes. And every year that passes, every breakthrough he makes, brings him a step closer. Mia’s accident is waiting for them both in 2011. If it happens then he’s out of choices.

Then a chance 1992 discovery reveals that this seeker of truth has been lying to himself. But why? It’s a question that haunts him for years. A straw he clings to as his long-awaited fate draws near.

Time travel turns out not to be the biggest problem Nick has to work on. He needs to find out how he can stay on his path but change the destination. Failure has never been an option, and neither has survival. But Nick’s hoping to roll the dice one more time. And this new truth begins with a lie.

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Another fun instalment for this franchise, upping the ante and revisiting the concepts introduced from the start… with a twist. ‘Dispel Illusion’ wraps up this trilogy with style.

I had predicted this novel from the start – given the title and the discovery in the cave – the conclusion was inevitable. Additionally, with heavier elements of the science fiction of time travel, setting things up, and resolving all the plot points for this collection of novellas, I found myself putting the book down frequently. Mainly because I like character driven stories, and there was a lighter dose of character development and connection between the cast because this is a plot driven story. It is very clever, but I did not get the emotional connection I was expecting to help keep the tension and pace (especially in the first half.)

Dispel Illusion (#3 Impossible Times) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There is definitely some masterful weaving from Mark Lawrence. The way he unfolds the plot was exceptional. I wish there was more time spent on staying with the main set of characters to develop conflict, emotional tension, and angst. This aspect of the story fell a bit flat for me. Maybe it’s just his writing style? But I found myself caring more for the characters in the first two novels… there is also the possibility that I had sleuthed out the plot very early on in ‘Dispel Illusion’ so without any additional surprises or some heavy raw emotion to hook me in, my reading experience suffered.

The concept of marrying fantasy and science fiction (especially with heavy symbolism) was a treat to read. This trilogy has certainly got me keeping an eye on Mark Lawrence and his publications. Definitely recommend this to fantasy and sci-fi lovers alike. They are quick intriguing reads with a solid foundation in both writing and concept.

Bravo Mr Lawrence!

Overall feeling: Timey-wimey goodness!

Dispel Illusion (#3 Impossible Times) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Dispel Illusion (#3 Impossible Times) 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 – ‘One of Us is Lying’ (#1 One of Us is Lying) by Karen McManus

A murder in the middle of The Breakfast Club.

One of Us is Lying (#1 One of Us is Lying) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery, LGBT

No. of pages: 361

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Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

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This feels difficult for me to rate and review. It has been hyped so much, and many friends, and bloggers I follow have raved about ‘One of Us is Lying.’ On the whole, this was well written and the plot unfolded masterfully. We get interesting fleshed-out characters and tension is maintained from beginning to end. We follow four protagonists, the narrative jumps to each of their perspectives frequently, so at the start I was all over the place and even had to jot down some notes to get the characters straight in my head – because not only do we get the four protagonists, but their friends and families as well. I struggled to fall into the world of ‘One of Us is Lying.’ It felt like it took half the novel for things to really get going. I put this novel down and read 3 others before picking it up again. But after the halfway point I was totally gripped.

I think because it took so long to develop so many characters, and set the scene, the first half suffered pacing issues with my reading experience. I was also frustrated with some of the things which happened in the novel – like the police or press contacting the kids directly; and even the kids fraternizing with each other after the fact. In real life, police can have their case thrown out the window, or even get suspended for questioning a minor without a parent or guardian present. News reporters risk jail for questioning an unaccompanied minor. And parents should be locking these kids up and keeping them away from each other – I mean we’re dealing with murder here. Hello? Is anybody in there? *knocking on your skull*

One of Us is Lying (#1 One of Us is Lying) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI understand what Karen M. McManus was doing, and I appreciate how she crafts a story. But having a background as a high school teacher and a person of authority, some aspects triggered me and pulled me from the narrative. I wish I could have just enjoyed it like fiction instead of poking holes in the plot.

With each cast member having a secret was a great tool for developing each character, and by default, giving them a nuance and point of interest. It is the kind of writing tool that attracted me to the novel in the first place.

I won’t say I easily predicted the story, but I will say I had some very strong hunches about some characters that proved to be true. I say this because I can’t pinpoint any facts that foretold the way the plot was going to unfold… it was just little things, character reactions which tingled my spidey senses that got me thinking. I have to hand it to McManus in structuring a marvellous mystery.

Her writing style is top notch and easy to read, but I would have liked some more separation between the character voices. If not for the name of each character in the title heading I may not have known who we were following. She could have used particular words and sentence structure unique to each character to differentiate and aid in identify differing points of view.

I think the other thing that contributed to this rating is that I did not connect/relate to any of the protagonists. I mean I cared about them, but there was no deep emotional bond with any of the cast. I felt like an observer rather than getting to experience the predicament through their eyes, this level of separation kept me from really getting into ‘One of Us if Lying.’

I’m going to be picking up the sequel ‘One of Us is Next,’ and now that I am familiar with the characters and the scene is set, having understood their history, I’ll should be able to forge a stronger connection, and ultimately, enjoy the read more.

I’m really looking forward to the television series adaptation currently in development, the visual format is better suited for following so many main cast and with a longer format of a full season of television allowing the story to unfold slowly, yet keeping up the pace… it opens the possibility that I may like the tv show better.

A fun read and one I’m happy to recommend.

Overall feeling: Had me raising an eyebrow…

One of Us is Lying (#1 One of Us is Lying) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

One of Us is Lying (#1 One of Us is Lying) 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 – ‘History Is All You Left Me’ by Adam Silvera

An endearing character study in grief and loss.

History Is All You Left Me Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 294

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Griffin has lost his first love in a drowning accident. Theo was his best friend, his ex-boyfriend and the one he believed he would end up with. Now, reeling from grief and worsening OCD, Griffin turns to an unexpected person for help. Theo’s new boyfriend.

But as their relationship becomes increasingly complicated, dangerous truths begin to surface. Griffin must make a choice: confront the past, or miss out on his future.

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Told in alternating narratives in time, one from 2016 (the present) after Theo, Griffin’s boyfriend, has passed away from a drowning incident; and another from 2014, a happier time when Theo was alive…

To be honest, 3 months had passed since reading ‘History is All You Left Me’ until writing a review. I usually write up notes straight away, and I don’t know if I omitted my review because of the emotional impact, and I needed a few days to let it sit and simply forgot, or jumped in to the next read to get away from the book hangover and started to avoid writing a review. But the sad fact is that I forgot everything about ‘History Is All You Left Me’ and I needed to skim through the whole book to collect my thoughts. That is not a good sign. Usually I remember enough to write up a review… let’s see what my opinion is after a quick flip through the novel:

History Is All You Left Me Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI think the main reason I didn’t get into ‘History Is All You Left Me,’ and also why it did not impact me as much as I was expecting was how Griffin behaved. He was literally a man-s!#t. Though there was no cheating on anyone, and yes, I know when someone is dealing with loss and grief (and maybe some guilt too) that lots of weird and unexpected things can happen. Like sleeping with your deceased ex’s boyfriend. And similar such destructive behaviours. So while I understand it, it did nothing to dispel the bad taste left in my mouth. I wanted a protagonist with a stronger character. Someone I could get behind. But Griffin is a mess. Both before and after Theo’s death. It does humanise Griffin and gives this story a level of realism. But I feel like if I praise this book, I’ll be condoning that type of behaviour. That it’s okay to be selfish in times of grief and hurt everyone around you. Um, yeah. This novel was triggering. I’ve lived through grief and loss of many loved ones and been the victim of other people’s destructive behaviour. It’s not nice.

Theo is painted as the innocent, the saint that everyone has lost. He wore his feelings on his sleeve and there were no secrets with him. Which was nice to read – illustrating the tendency to place those who have passed on a pedestal. Even if you are mad at them in your grief.

After Theo departs for college, and Griffin dumps him, Theo meets Jackson. Jackson’s time together is only brief before Theo drowns in an accident. I found it interesting, the different colours of grief and guilt played out between Griffin and Jackson in the chapters set in the present day. And how, as they work through the loss and memories of Theo, it changes them, and their relationship to each other, Theo, and those around them.

I will say I appreciated the inclusion of parental figures, and a professional therapist. Though they didn’t play as a prominent part as I would have wished, they were present and helped our characters navigate the new and heavy feelings associated with mental illness and grief.

I did not really predict much about this story. We already knew Griffin’s first love, Theo has died and that the book was going to be about him dealing with that and moving on… apart from that, it’s a wild guess as to what would happen. Because this is not a plot driven story, but a character driven one. Plus, we get a nice character twist that added an element of charm and hope for the future.

The tone of ‘History Is All You Left Me’ is an endearing one. As Griffin is addressing Theo’s memory through most of it. Keeping his memory alive. And the method of alternating timelines added something that broke up heavier scenes of loss with happier times and made this book easier to read.

Overall, a touching read, but not one that stabbed me in the heart like I was expecting. But a joy to read Adam Silvera’s writing and forging a legacy of interesting queer leads in literature. If you don’t mind a more emotionally challenging story then I recommend this one for you.

Overall feeling: A little sad, a little triggering, an okay read.

History Is All You Left Me Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

History Is All You Left Me 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 – ‘Freakboy’ by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

A queer book in prose!

Freakboy Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Poetry, Y/A, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 448

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From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In Freakboy’s razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

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Freakboy’ kinda didn’t go anywhere – but that matches the aesthetic of some forms of poetry, or a story told in verse, they are about a moment, a feeling, not a story.

Some of the formatting of the pages was interesting. Like stanzas posing a question forming a question mark on the page. Or the shape of a bowling pin when the character is at the bowling alley.

I’m not a big poetry reader. I usually avoid it. But this kind of poetry was okay to read. Though I did stall at the beginning of the novel a number of times, and even stopped around the 80 page mark to read another 2 books before picking it back up again. I think it took a bit for my brain to kick into gear with this style of writing to follow the three different perspectives and grasp the narrative.

We don’t get much character development – it’s more of a snippet in time. We follow Brendan as he starts to explore his gender identity; Vanessa – the least interesting character – just struggling to hold on the Brendan as he pulls away; and Angel, a transgender female at the Youth Centre who reaches out to help Brendan… and has many flashbacks of her past. And that’s it. It doesn’t really go anywhere.

Freakboy Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

This also reads as a book written by a cis gendered person. Like they are using it to educate other cis gendered people. Which is not a bad thing. It’s executed pretty well and I’m all for representation in literature. But there is a big difference when it comes to the soul and tone of the novel in relation to its authenticity. Own voices novel are much more nuanced, and the characters are about much more than just their gender identity. To further is argument the author mixes up gender identity with sexual identity, and uses the incorrect pronouns throughout given that it is told in past tense and should reflect the protagonist’s genuine gender expression. Big, obvious things like that would have been second nature to an own voices author and avoided in the narrative. But everything is a learning curve, and who knows it may be intentional to reach a larger cis gendered audience.

The prose does feel denser than regular contemporary fiction – as with most poetry – and rich with symbolism. ‘Freakboy’ may look like a long book on the outside, but this is poetry, there are less words to a page, more space to shape the stanzas on the blank surfaces, so it will feel like you’re flying through the novel if you’re not stopping to ponder and resonate with the words too often.

It’s a good book to read in that it is accessible. You don’t have to be a big lover of poetry to understand ‘Freakboy.’ It is simple in its themes and message. It represents a marginalized community beautifully. So while I have strong opinions about some of the content, ‘Freakboy’ is breaking through some walls and giving a voice to people who previously had little to no representation. I guess this is a tentative recommendation from me. I value the message, the representation, but don’t quite gel with the delivery.

Overall feeling: Torn between two worlds

Freakboy Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Freakboy 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.