Book Review – ‘Retribution’ (#5 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

The conclusion to worst series I’ve ever read. Love the concept but the writing was extremely undercooked.

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 301

From Goodreads:

War is coming between humans and Arvies, leaving me trapped between two enemies. This time, I don’t think I’ll survive.

The government will stop at nothing to get me back in their clutches. They want what’s inside me—a power I call Venge—and will use my greatest weakness to bring me to my knees. 

The Arvies know of my gift, and use my telepathy and their numbers, in an effort to take me out. 

My name is Abigail Park, and I promise retribution against those who’ve wronged me, even if it’s the last thing I do.

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All I can say is thank goodness this series is over and my OCD can pack up and leave! I still maintain the concept of The After Light Saga is brilliant, and I loved this story in theory, but the writing and execution was hella-poor.  It had every bad YA trope I can think of. I still cringe when I remember how Protagonist Abi named her gun and her psychic ability. Hellfire and Venge. Ugh! It wasn’t even done ironically.

Abi loves to blurt out everything to complete strangers. She hasn’t learnt to be cautious despite all of the crap she has found herself in since leaving the bunker. People are fighting to survive, so some caution should be common sense by now. Especially by book five. Not only does this reflect badly on her as a character, but is a form of info-dumping. I hope Cameo Renae grows as a writer because she has a great imagination and I’d love to read her stories if she can level-up.

How many times was Abi going to pass out? It felt like every two or three chapters ended with ‘my world went black.’ It felt like cheap storytelling. I was really gritting my teeth trying to get through this novel.

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI’m still not convinced of the romantic paring of Abi and Finn. I can’t relate to either of them. From the first novel until this finale, still every description of either revolve around how sexy they are. Nauseating. The overly lovey-dovey carry on didn’t feel like it was properly established or grounded in connection between Abi and Finn. It was all about muscles and abs – a strong emotional connection that wasn’t explored. This pairing could have been iconic if treated differently.

But having said that, some of the romance is cute – though other parts immature and sickly sweet, bordering on unrealistic. People that age don’t wax poetic like Cameo has written. It felt more like wish fulfilment than grounded in the character and relatable to the demographic of this series.

Reference to ‘normal’ life’ pre-bunker was made, but given that Abi has spent her life underground, she couldn’t have possibly experienced everything mentioned. Big contextual error there.

The introduction of the dog was a pleasant surprise – it added some interest and lightness to the narrative. Though this, and the astral travelling thing, felt a bit forced and not in the same vein as the rest of the story.

It feels like everyone is dumb. The army grunts, the government. And it only amplified how immature I felt the writing was. Characters are so quick to offer forgiveness and detailed explanations (more info-dumping) – they feel two-dimensional and obviously guided by the hand of the author. Where’s the complexity, the tension, diversity. It added to my frustration. This whole series reads like a child’s imaginings.

However, ‘Retribution’ cutely wrapped the series up (even if it had a tone of convenience.)

I hate to say this, but this collection makes me want to gag. ‘Retribution’ is a touch better than some of the previous sequels, but certainly not one I recommend. I’ll be donating the series, it’s not something I want to keep in my library.

Overall feeling: Blurgh!

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Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) 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.

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Book Review – ‘Hostile’ (#4 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

This series is turning into one big *facepalm*despite a promising concept.

Hostile (#4 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 257

From Goodreads:

Wanted. It’s something I’ve had to get used to since being placed on the government’s Most Wanted list. On the run, with my family and Finn by my side, we now have to evade not only the Arvies, but teams of soldiers sent to find and capture me.

Little do they know, I’m battling my own demons. After receiving large doses of mind-enhancing serum, a monster has been unleashed inside my mind. It promises death and destruction; its power, greater than anything I could imagine. Now, I’m too dangerous, and the lives of my loved ones depend on my separation from the group. I must leave and face the hostile world alone.

My name is Abigail Park. I will do whatever it takes to save the ones I love.

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Again, another book in this series that really isn’t a novel – more like a tale… the middle part of something happening.

I found ‘Hostile’ awfully spoony and over-ridden with typical YA tropes. Instances of bad grammar and immature writing. I was hoping this series would get better as the author got to hone her craft, but it is just getting repetitive with the same kind of underdeveloped writing style.

The concept is still full of potential, but feel like the author should take some classes or spend a year or two honing her craft.

Hostile (#4 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgProtagonist Abi was very two dimensional. The story at times is led by the author’s hand. Some of the events are implausible, even in this dystopian fantasy because there is no motivation, or not driven forward by the plot.

Some of the action scenes were well crafted though, and I enjoyed a few of these towards then end of the novel.

Hostile’ is a very quick read: 2-3hrs was all it took. Which is lucky, I wouldn’t invest any more time than that on such a poorly executed novel.

Again, I love the premise, but the basics of structuring a novel were amiss. One more book in this series to go, which I will read, just because I want to confirm how it all ends. Then I’ll probably gift the entire collection to one of my nieces or nephews because I have no intention of keeping books of this calibre in my library.

Even the covers are recycled of stock images – it hurts my heart to see, and read this kind of book.

On a side note, I burst out laughing at her shameless plug for another series she’s written – ‘Hidden Wings’ in the narrative. Big brass ones lady! I like it.

It was so cheesy and poorly written it was funny. Like a low budget syfy movie. Not recommending this one unfortunately.

Overall feeling: I think I have to dub this the book of eye rolls and gag noises.

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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 – ‘Intransigent’ (#3 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

It’s all going pear-shaped.

Intransigent (#3 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 235

From Goodreads:

Arriving at the new government bunker, things quickly go from bad to worse. I am separated from Finn and my family because of my ability to connect with Arvies through telepathy. Housed with three other Readers—and kept away from the general population—we are given serum injections in effort to enhance our thought transference. The end goal? Thought manipulation.

We are considered humanity’s only hope in the war against the Arvy race.

With the ever growing threat of an invasion, the government demands results from the Reader program by doling out ultimatums, and using our loved ones against us.

But they will not break me.

My name is Abigail Park. I am intransigent.

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Intransigent’ has got to be the weakest book of the series so far. My reaction is one massive eye roll. I had high hopes that the writing and plot would grow and develop through this series, but it seem not to be the case. The best reprieve is that these novels are short and can be completed in half a day.

I still love the concept, though the story took a direction that really didn’t interest me. A new batch of characters were introduced, but they felt generic and two dimensional. I’ve been wanting for this series to start getting meatier, delve into character development, mythology, a more complex plot because we have already done all the world building and got to know the main characters… none of that happened. The writing in this series has been taking a slow nose dive since the debut.

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I’m caring less and less about protagonist Abi and her fiancé Flynn – as a couple and as characters. The only reason I’m continuing with this series is because of my incessant curiosity, and bloody O.C.D. There’s only two novels left to wrap things up, so we’ll see how it all goes and if Cameo can redeem herself.

At this point I’d only recommend you give this collection a hard pass. The writing and characterization feels immature and underdeveloped. It is very predictable and has about every tired YA trope you can think of.

Overall feeling: …really?

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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 – ‘Sanctum’ (#2 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

What a doozy… thumbs down from me.

Sanctum (#2 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 272

From Goodreads:

The Arvy threat worsens each day. They continue to destroy the hive’s vital fuel resources, leaving us with one option— evacuate to the largest government bunker, located in South Dakota. 

The injured hive members are moved as first priority, but a disastrous event occurs on the way to our drop-off zone. We find ourselves in a ghost town, surrounded by spiteful, revenge-filled Arvies. Chaos ensues and our death toll rises. Just when we think the end has come, unsuspected help arrives. We are rescued and brought to an underground bunker.

They call it Sanctum.

With no way of reaching outside help, we must depend on each other to reach our pick-up zone, thirty miles away. If we don’t make it in time, we will be left for dead. 

Time is ticking.

My name is Abigail Park. I am a survivor.

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This is the worst book that I have read in a while. I’m finding it difficult to even review ‘Sanctum’ because of the numerous issues I had with the writing…  This sequel is a step down in quality from the debut ‘ARV-3,’ and considering it was recommended to me from a well-known reviewer I am flabbergasted as to what entranced his attention so vigorously.

All the lovey-dovey stuff between protagonist Abi and her fiancé Finn was getting over the top. It felt inappropriate to the tone of the novel and failed to serve much of a purpose in the plot.

Additionally, since when are Finn and Abi the leaders and experts with all these army guys from the unit around them who have specialised training and instructions. I’m getting exasperated with the poor context of writing…

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The story concept was again interesting and had potential, but the plot was very simplistic. I found myself wanting more sophisticated storytelling. To be frank, I’ve read better from my high school students when teaching.

All I can say is lucky it was a quick skim-able read, especially the long drawn out love banter. I just wasn’t feeling it. So a saccharine sweet.

I’m still hoping that Cameo is going to up the ante and this series will improve with the next installments. Here’s wishing that ‘Intransigent’ brings some vast improvements, but I’m not holding my breath.

Notes on the physical book include how the chapter headings suddenly changed after chapter 9 like the book wasn’t formatted properly. And the cover art… using the same clip art throughout the series left it feeling amateurish.

Overall feeling: thththththth

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Sanctum (#2 After Light Saga) 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 – ‘ARV-3’ (#1 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

All the ingredients for a great dystopian read, but fell far short.

ARV-3 Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 316

From Goodreads:

The beginning of the end. The Apocalypse. A nuclear fallout wiped out every living thing on the planet, except for a few thousand of us who took shelter in underground bunkers across the globe. Now, after thirteen long years, we were finally able to return to the topside to begin to rebuild. We thought we were alone. We were never more wrong. Before the fallout, scientists had worked on creating an anti-radiation vaccine (ARV). The first two attempts failed, but despite the incomplete tests and results, the government approved and distributed the third serum to the masses in an effort to aid those who had no shelter. It worked, keeping those who remained on the topside alive, but it also altered and mutated them. This new and infectious threat had completely outnumbered us. Now, we not only had to rebuild our planet. We would have to fight for it. My name is Abigail Park. I’m seventeen, and this is my story. 

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ARV-3’ has a great concept for a YA dystopia, with tones of ‘The 100’ and ‘Wayward Pines’ we find a teen female protagonist face a plethora of challenges in a desolate world after emerging from an underground hive to survive an irradiated planet.

ARV-3 Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgI  love the concept, the story line, but I feel like the characterization and writing style let this novel down a great deal. It felt immature. Plus there were so many contextual errors cropping up regularly that, even though it’s all a fantasy world, not a lot felt plausible. The spirit of ‘ARV-3’ is there, and you can see the potential, and I feel a great content and developmental editor would have helped this novel shine.

My main reason for picking up this novel was because of Benjaminoftimes singing its praises on his YouTube channel… and I’m finding on average about half of his recommendations fall short for me. I’m beginning to question his palette, or wonder if he’s not partaking of some psychedelic mushrooms at times because there are some novels he’s awarded 5 stars to which are in blatantly obvious need of editorial assistance.

Again ‘ARV-3’ has all the mechanics to make a great read, but the protagonist Abi (Abigail) came off as cocky and immature. Insert YA tropes a dozen too… instalove, bad-ass-gun-toting-chick, ninja warrior, always right, has special talents that mean only she can save the world, uninvolved parents, everyone is incredibly good looking and muscular, no diversity, and well kinda sexist. It was like an 80’s teen film mentality in a dystopian world. It felt disjointed.

ARV-3 Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

With all the issues I had with ‘ARV-3’ I did not hate it. It still managed to draw me into an imaginary world, the action scenes had me sitting up straight and nibbling on my lip. And I still want to know where the story goes in the rest of the series. I like escapist fiction. And ‘ARV-3’ is a quick and easy read. I feel if the narrative was clunky and slow reading, or if it was another 50 pages longer I would have skimmed it and abandoned the series completely. But it shows promise – and I’m hoping that Cameo Renae’s writing improves with each instalment. So we’ll see if she is able to redeem my opinion.

There isn’t anything new in this novel – I feel like I’ve read or seen it all before. I didn’t get any unexpected surprises in the plot either. It does end on a cliff hanger, and while it ends on a note of a natural conclusion, many of the plot points are not resolved. It’s not a novel I’d recommend freely, but maybe the younger end of the teen market would enjoy it. But there are many more intelligent books in this genre out there which would be far more entertaining.

I’ll see if my opinion is altered in the sequel ‘Sanctum.’ Stay tuned for a review coming soon 🙂

Overall feeling: Potential

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ARV-3 Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

 

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wrap up – Flat-Out Trilogy by Jessica Park

From tear-jerking angst to cute romance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

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

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

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

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

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

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

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

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

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall feeling: Sweet.

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

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