Book Review – ‘My Calamity Jane’ (#3 The Lady Janies) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

The historical retelling I didn’t know I needed…

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical, LGBT

No. of pages: 544

Welcome ​to 1876 and a rootin’-tootin’ America bursting with gunslingers, outlaws, and garou.

JANE (a genuine hero-eene)

Calamity’s her name, and garou hunting’s her game—when she’s not starring in Wild Bill’s Traveling Show, that is. She reckons that if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.

FRANK (*wolf whistle*)

Frank “the Pistol Prince” Butler is the Wild West’s #1 bachelor. He’s also the best sharpshooter on both sides of the Mississippi, but he’s about to meet his match. . . .

ANNIE (get your gun!)

Annie Oakley (yep, that Annie) is lookin’ for a job, not a romance, but she can’t deny there’s something about Frank she likes. Really likes. Still, she’s pretty sure that anything he can do, she can do better.

A HAIRY SITUATION

After a garou hunt goes south and Jane finds a suspicious-like bite on her arm, she turns tail for Deadwood, where there’s been talk of a garou cure. But things ain’t always what they seem—meaning the gang better hightail it after her before they’re a day late and a Jane short.

Another entertaining fantastical historical romp to conclude the My Lady Janies trilogy. ‘My Calamity Jane’ pairs western legend with werewolf mythology in a comedic venture into the Wild West.

A spaghetti western with a paranormal twist written with humour and hints of feminism. I really enjoy this trio of authors working together. I am always amused and entrenched in the stories they write, the little twists to story and character, the little asides breaking the 4th wall to the reader.

We follow multiple perspectives revolving around the anecdotal stories of Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, Wild Bill and the Pistol Prince. Calamity Jane, a member of Wild Bill’s travelling show, marvelling townships with their skills in gun slinging, knife throwing, and whip-cracking. But it’s all a cover as they hunt down werewolves bent on killing or intentionally infecting the naive populace. Jane is a smart-mouthed tom boy, driven to forge her place in a male dominated world… and live up to the legend the group had crafted to sell tickets to their show. Annie is a determined young lady, if a little rough around the edges, eager to join the sharp shooting crew as it’s newest member – because there aren’t many places for a lady with her skills to find employment. Wild Bill and his posse are the ticket to a life she’s always dreamed of. Frank is slightly egotistical, but always up for a challenge. As the team track down the leader of the garou pack, bent on infecting every unsuspecting human they can to build an army of their own; Wild Bills group has their work cut out for them. Facing off this threat is going to uncover some secrets buried from the past and force the gang to open up to each other about their own hidden past and desires.

I literally flew through this book. It is highly entertaining with plenty of twist, turns, and reveals. I was saddened to hear this was an end to this series, but joyous to hear of another trilogy following Mary’s in history. This trio of authors have struck gold.

The writing style is very tongue-in-cheek and combines historical deportment and language mixed in with a contemporary sentimentality: the combination is magical. Hand, Ashton, and Meadows do comedy well in combination to creating fantastic, relatable characters, and encompassing worlds.

The plot wasn’t quite predictable; you get a sense of its direction at the beginning, and then the plot take you on a wild ride, the many reveals completely displacing you from the saddle. There is so much charm in ‘My Calamity Jane’ I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Overall feeling: Blow me down!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Luminous Dead’ by Caitlin Starling

A claustrophobic sci-fi psychological thriller to bury them all.

Genre: Science Fiction, Psychological Thriller, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 415

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

A phenomenal read, I was glued to the page from start to finish. I was a literal zombie trying to stay awake and read til the end because I could not put ‘The Luminous Dead’ down.  This was an outstanding novel that I want to recommend to all my friends. It’s been a long time since I have been both compelled and repelled at the same time when reading.

There is a creepy suffocating ambience that penetrates the story to have you feeling the little hairs on the back of your neck raise. In the last half especially I was squirming, pulling my feet from the floor and taking twenty second breaks to run around the room and shake the hee-bee-jee-bees from my limbs.

The only minute thing that held me back from giving this a perfect score was how the plot felt too long, and kept back-tracking on itself. It did add an air of desperation that enhanced to the reading experience, but left ‘The Luminous Dead’ feeling a snatch too long. Juxtaposing this was an incredible talent to keep the pacing from start to finish. It was carnage to me, each chapter left me wanting more. I am an instant fan of Caitlin Starling and eager to see what else she has written. Anyone who can keep me this engaged and creeped out at the same time is a 5 star author in my books.

The concept is out of this world too – exploring underground caves on alien planets (essentially in a space suit) with all manner of dangers to face, with a psychological thriller aspect – where do I sign. It was an easy add-to-cart for me. I most definitely was not disappointed.

Our protagonist, Gyre is a battler, she’s working hard to provide better opportunities for her life. Coming from nothing, she is not afraid to take risks for that life… and that’s how she ends up deep underground in treacherous territory, finding dead bodies and hiding from alien tunnellers that could either crush you to death as they make the tunnels collapse, or eat you for a morning snack. Gyre’s grit is amazing, yet soft and compassionate. We see her constantly measuring risk and reward with each new challenge.

Em is what I like to think of as a definition of ‘book smart.’ She has no qualms in chemically controlling Gyre to achieve her goals, is not chatty over the coms, treating Gyre much like a tool. It was in interesting journey to see Gyre’s influence (through need) in deconstructing Em’s clinical nature and become more than just a stoic, sparse voice over the com.

Lack of control, human connection, suffocation, creepy alien creature stalking you in the dark, and dealing with loss.

Enthusiastically recommend ‘The Luminous Dead’ to everyone.

Overall feeling: Outstanding!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Wayward Son’ (#2 Simon Snow) by Rainbow Rowell

Entertaining re-visit to some fan-girly characters, but felt a little light on plot.

Genre: Y/A, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 356

The story is supposed to be over.

Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after…

So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?

What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.

They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…

I was really looking forward to jumping back into the Simon Snow universe.

Wayward Son’ did not have the same tone as ‘Carry On.’ There was less of that Potteresque magic and silliness. The angst between Simon and Baz is still there and fabulously kept my attention (if at times, a little juvenile.) Though, it was as if we rolled back Simon and Baz’s relationship for the sake of angst. I’m not mad at it, though I do feel a little cheated.

This felt more like a tale or anecdote rather than a novel. A road tip.

Where ‘Carry On’ felt rich in atmosphere and world building, ‘Wayward Son,’ was a little sparse in comparison. I’m guessing this novel is suffering a lot of that middle book syndrome, where it is about introducing new characters, and setting up a lot of things for the next instalment ‘Where the Wind Blows.’

There is something about Rainbow Rowell’s writing style in this franchise that feels so breezy and innocent. I’m not a massive fantasy reader anymore, but this series definitely gives me all the feels and I was very content to kick back and fall into the world of Simon and Baz with a cuppa on the balcony.

I wasn’t too sure about the plot of ‘Wayward Son,’ there is a lot of time spent with the characters ambling and re-orientating themselves. Trying to find their purpose. I think that is what lost me a bit too. Yes, I love the characters, and the angst, and the magical world they live in… but that meandering purpose dragged a little too long into the novel.

A cute twist at the end involving the new character to the gang was a pleasant surprise and definitely has me intrigued with release of the final book in this trilogy.

In terms of story, ‘Wayward Son’ is interesting, but not one that had me chomping at the bit to read the sequel. It’s more about the characters for me, and I’m hoping that Rowell ups the ante in the third book in the franchise. While I enjoyed ‘Wayward Son,’ it was more of a so-so read. Another novel I’ll hang back on recommending until I read the next in the series: it will make or break my love of the franchise.

Overall feeling: a bit of a wobble…

© 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 Haunted’ (#1 The Haunted) by Danielle Vega

The Grudge and Amytiville House all rolled into one.

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, Paranormal

No. of pages: 252

From Goodreads:

Hendricks Becker-O’Malley is new in town, and she’s bringing baggage with her. With a dark and wild past, Hendricks doesn’t think the small town her parents moved her to has much to offer her in terms of excitement. She plans on laying low, but when she’s suddenly welcomed into the popular crowd at school, things don’t go as expected.

Hendricks learns from her new friends that the fixer-upper her parents are so excited about is notorious in town. Local legend says it’s haunted. Hendricks doesn’t believe it. Until she’s forced to. Blood-curdling screams erupt from the basement, her little brother wakes up covered in scratches, and something, or someone pushes her dad down the stairs. With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don’t take her first.  

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A brilliant little fast-paced read that feels like you’re watching a horror movie.

Danielle Vega has done it again! I loved ‘The Haunted.’ It created a sufficiently spooky atmosphere and walked that line of reality and supernatural. A fantastic haunted house storyline that slowly unfolds to a totally unpredictable ending. If I have one criticism, it’s that the story wasn’t complex enough. But I have noticed that about Vega’s writing. She likes short, to the point horrors that build intense imagery.

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleHendrick’s is a fun protagonist, moving to a new small town, enrolling in high school and dealing with some weird hallucinations that may or may not be connected to a troubled past. The town of Drearfield offers Hendricks a clean slate, one that she is determined to take advantage of. Straight off the bat she is a got-getter. Proactive. Despite past events, she is not wallowing in grief or self-pity. I instantly liked her. Hendricks was a battler right to the end.

We do get a lot of tropes however – the parents not believing or being involved in the paranormal storyline, the emo loner, the jock, the love triangle… it was a little bit cringey, but I have to admit, I enjoy those from time to time. Even with those tropes, the friends Hendricks makes at school does deconstruct the stereotypes a little, giving a taste of freshness to Vega’s writing style.

Eddie, the emo loner and next door neighbour, jilted from the ‘in’ crowd at school, knows more about the haunting than he’s letting on; and is one of the love interests for Hendircks. I enjoyed how Vega develops this character, even if it is somewhat predicable.

Our jock, Connor, seems to be the quintessential stereotype, turns out to have a heart of gold, oodles amount of patients, and once I got to see him interact with many of the other cast, came to favour him above all the rest… and it was interesting having him as Hendrick’s other suitor.

Notable mention: the not-quite-mean-girl, Portia played her role expertly. But I could take her or leave her, she was an integral part of the plot – as the tool for dragging our protagonist into unfamiliar situations. I felt like she needed a bit more development and wasn’t so stereotypical.

There are some triggers around torture, sexual assault and abuse, and definitely some gory scenes to boot.

Read easily in two sittings, and ties everything up nicely. Enjoyed the ending – that plot twist though… girl!

The dominant theme was about overcoming abuse and learning to stand up for yourself. And family.

Vega has cemented herself as one of my auto-buy authors. She’s highly recommended to those younger readers who love horror – like a Stephen King starter pack.

I thought this was going to be a standalone, but just found out there is a sequel slated for release in 2020 titled ‘The Unleashed.’  You can bet your first born I’m excited about this and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Overall feeling: Holy Haunted House!

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The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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

Book Review – ‘My Plain Jane’ (#2 The Lady Janies) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Another supernatural twist on a classic tale…

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Historical

No. of pages: 464

From Goodreads:

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

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Another hilarious ride through a re-imagined classic from authors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.

I did find the characters interesting and compelling, and the plot equally twisty and turny. Expect surprises, with ‘My Plain Jane’ but also mirroring the same tone to the original text this novel is inspired by.

While the authors are great at world building, the stand out aspect of ‘My Plain Jane’ is the complexity of the characters and their development. Historical mannerisms and social etiquette also add a comedic touch. I especially remember when Charlotte Bronte disguised herself as a footman and marvels how comfortable being dressed as a man is, and wonders why they aren’t sleeping all the time.

The story is told from three perspectives, that of Jane, Charlotte and Alexander. Jane can see ghosts and has a passion for writing. Everyone describes her as average, forgettable. Except for ghosts. The otherworldly spectres see Jane as beautiful and compelling. Charlotte is a fastidious beauty. The kind of always on the go perfectionist and Janes best friend. We do see a bit of jealousy, or sibling rivalry pop up between these two. And Alexander, an agent of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits of which he tries to recruit Jane for her ability to communicate (and see) ghosts.

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Helen, the sassy 14 year old ghost and best friend of Jane Eyre has to be my favourite character from the book. I’d love her running the narration or giving opinion of what is going on.

The ghosts and their mythology were a great addition to this tome and I wish there was a sequel following these characters. (Maybe in the Marys trilogy.)

We get a few nods to the original text, as well as a mention of the main characters from ‘My Lady Jane’ which I found delightful.

The pacing felt slower in ‘My Plain Jane,’ I put this book down a number of times for rests. So too was the humour spread out much more. In comparison to ‘My Lady Jane’ where we got frequent asides to the reader, plenty of slapstick. I was always laughing… this felt sparse in ‘My Plain Jane.’

I think one thing that slowed the pace down for me is the continual head-jumping as multiple points of view are followed in ‘My Plain Jane.’ Changing with each chapter, their voices weren’t that distinct, and the authors had to establish a little about the character and the scene before moving the story forward – and many of the chapters are short – so I think this was the main culprit for the pace feeling slow. Especially in the first half of the novel. I think if the authors tackled several plot points in a chapter before switching point of view it would have driven the story further a lot quicker and given the reader enough time to connect to the narrator before hearing from another of the main cast.

The overall plot was very enjoyable. I’d re-read this for a lazy Sunday afternoon sipping hot tea on the porch to wind down from a busy week.

There is a great amount of predictability, given ‘My Plain Jane’ is a re-imagining of ‘Jane Eyre,’ but I felt this novel stood on its own, and the fuzzy memory I had of the original story still did not impede the surprises and twist of the storyline. I kinda liked the way it ended.

Another solid recommendation. A fun by-the-side for lovers of the classic novel.

Looking forward to the final book in this trilogy ‘My Calamity Jane,’ due for release sometime in 2020 and I also noted that there will be another trilogy for the Marys (the first set in the same universe as ‘My Lady Jane’) and am ecstatic to see these three authors collaborate on further novels in this tone. So much fun to read!

Overall feeling: fun and funny, but a bit flat

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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

Book Review – ‘School Spirits’ (Hex Hall Companion) by Rachel Hawkins

The Hex Hall Extended Universe…

School Spirits (#4 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 297

From Goodreads:

Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy’s mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who’s always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt? 

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Another great addition to the Hex Hall Universe. This time our protagonist is Izzy Brannick, Sophie’s younger monster-hunter-in-training cousin.

This was cute and in the same vein as the other Hex Hall novels. Izzy is struggling to prove herself, stumbling along and trying to hone her skills… as well as keep her cover as a regular high school student when she is anything but regular. Izzy has no idea about friendships, classes, and a plethora of other typical teen girl things. It was a fun, clumsy fish out of water story that dripped clues along the way in order to solve the mission Izzy had been tasked with.

School Spirits (#4 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI have to say that this novel feels a bit messy – only because it’s basically a standalone, but reads as the start to a new series. Not all plot points are tied up. Rachel Hawkins has stated that she is not writing any more on this collection, but it felt like she had a different intention when penning ‘School Spirits.’

I was also hoping there was going to be more presence of Sophie as well. The cast in ‘School Spirits’ is fairly compact. Izzy, her mum, Torin (the mirror enslaved warlock), and the three school friends all of whom are members of the P.M.S. (Paranormal Management Society.)

Still with all the aspects that I love about Hawkins writing: twists and turns in the plot, an ending I did not easily predict, fun interesting characters that hint to many hidden secrets waiting to be uncovered.

It saddens me that this the end to the Hex Hall collection. I felt like I was just starting to really get into it and then it ended… abruptly. With too many things left up in the air.

Fun easy read, I devoured it in a day accompanied with a bowl of cookies and a several cups of tea. Perfect for an autumn weekend.

Overall feeling: Got my motor running…

School Spirits (#4 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

School Spirits (#4 Hex Hall) 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 – ‘Spell Bound’ (#3 Hex Hall) by Rachel Hawkins

The final book in the Hex Hall trilogy brings all the gouls to the yard.

Spell Bound (#3 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 327

From Goodreads:

Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late?

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Still loving this trilogy, the humour, the sass, the magical goings-on. We still get a few unexpected twists, but for me this conclusion wasn’t as quite as fantastic as I thought it would be. It was still Hawkins’ phenomenal writing, and the epic battle scene was amazeballs, but it felt like it was over in the blink of an eye after a massive build-up. It was all kinds of crazy and culminated in epicness.. but it still felt like it was missing something. Maybe I was expecting more of an emotional note? Am I getting spoiled for choice in my reading habits and continually raising the bar in what amazes me? Who knows exactly. While I loved ‘Spell bound’ and found it thoroughly entertaining and clanged the bells for all things YA that I lurve, there was that little something when I finished that whispered in my head that I was needing something bigger…

Spell Bound (#3 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgOur protagonist Sophie was her usual sarcastic self, and I LOL’d many times at her witty one liners, though you get a sense of her beginning to put the humour-masking-fear reaction aside by the end of the novel, showing some of the growth her character is moving through. I did feel that some aspects of her story were rushed, and it felt like we jumped around a bit – location wise and narrative wise. Yes, the story was broken into three parts, but ‘Spell bound’ didn’t have the cohesion its predecessors had.

Cal felt a bit more like a prop in this story… he slowly blended into the background, as did Jenna, Sophie’s vampire best friend. But I can’t fault Hawkins – there was so much going on and the plot blasts forward so quickly that having these two more prominent in the narrative would have been detrimental to the story. The four of them (five if you count Elodie the ghost) formed the best little Scooby gang. I enjoyed this series more than I did the Rebel Belle trilogy.

We get all the answers to the mysteries, and then some. Snippets of backstories are brought to light in a very organic way. But there is still some elements of the mythology that are left floating in the ether, but on the whole this novel wrapped up the trilogy nicely. There is a companion novel, ‘School Spirits,’ which I am definitely going to purchase next. I’m interested in Izzy’s story and hopefully get some more exploration on the Council and Prodigium’s history in the Hex Hall Universe.

I was really impressed with Hawkins writing style, the quips, the description, the pacing. It felt compact, relevant and full of pop culture. I’m kinda wishing this was a longer series because I fell in love with all the characters so much. Maybe Hawkins will revisit Hex Hall again with another great adventure for our misshapen band of teen heroes?

I wonder is Hawkins had every intent to continue with this Universe with the addition of ‘School Spirits’ and much left unsaid – but nothing new has been written since the latest book was published in 2013. But highly recommend this collection, its fun, quick-paced, and quippy YA at its best.

Overall feeling: Fills me with 90’s nostalgia and all kinds of paranormal adventure.

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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 – ‘Demonglass’ (#2 Hex Hall) by Rachel Hawkins

Flip the script on Harry Potter and it could read very much like Demonglass.

Demon Glass (#2 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 359

From Goodreads:

Sophie Mercer thought she was a witch. That was the whole reason she was sent to Hex Hall, a reform school for delinquent Prodigium (a.k.a. witches, shape-shifters, and faeries). But then she discovered the family secret, and the fact that her hot crush, Archer Cross, is an agent for The Eye, a group bent on wiping Prodigium off the face of the earth.

Turns out, Sophie’s a demon, one of only two in the world-the other being her father. What’s worse, she has powers that threaten the lives of everyone she loves. Which is precisely why Sophie decides she must go to London for the Removal, a dangerous procedure that will either destroy her powers for good-or kill her. 

But once Sophie arrives, she makes a shocking discovery. Her new housemates? They’re demons too. Meaning, someone is raising demons in secret, with creepy plans to use their powers, and probably not for good. Meanwhile, The Eye is set on hunting Sophie down, and they’re using Archer to do it. But it’s not like she has feelings for him anymore. Does she?

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After a surprisingly enjoyable debut with ‘Hex Hall’ we get another well-paced, unexpected adventure with ‘Demonglass.’

Our protagonist Sophie felt a stronger character for me compared to her depiction in ‘Hex Hall.’ Growth in trusting herself and her instincts, in her growing relationship with her estranged Father, I was really invested in her story. And the sarcasm was a delight. I LOL’ed many times. ‘Demonglass’ was a joy to read.

The murky feelings that I had for love interest Archer faded and were transferred to the other challenger for Sophie’s affections, Cal – although I liked the fact that they respected her enough not to impose their feelings on her, there was still a bit of passive aggressive behaviour that annoyed me. Plus a love triangle trope… I was hoping it would get a little bit more interesting and original.

Cal started to turn into the brooding love interest trope, but I liked how he managed to brush his bruised ego aside when it counted.

Archer was dreamy. I was always invested in his story, and his pairing with Sophie…. keen to see where this goes, he’s starting to prove his true intentions.

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I was never bored, and compelled to continue reading. The pacing is great. Hawkins writing style felt a little more on trend, there was plenty of snarky banter and teen slang that added that something extra to the narrative.

The plot twist was masterful. I had no idea what was coming and was totally engrossed. Though it does end on a cliff hanger, and many plot points aren’t resolved – you kind of need to jump right into the third instalment ‘Spell Bound.’ I’m really excited to see what comes next. Especially given Hawkins talent for plot twists that show up out of the blue.

Definitely recommend this one!

Overall feeling: Sassy, snarky and so entertaining

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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 – ‘Hex Hall’ (#1 Hex Hall) by Rachel Hawkins

A paranormal plot with punch.

Hex Hall (#1 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 323

From Goodreads:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tag-along ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

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For some reason I did not connect that this was the same author that had written the ‘Rebel Belle’ trilogy – more stupid me! I had a lot of fun reading that Palladin adventure, and so too did I enjoy this witchy-demon-magic boarding school romp through the grounds of Hecate Hall.

I’d seen this book pop up in my recommendations repeatedly on several different sites – but something about the cover art, and it being a witch-based tale had me dismissing it. But because I was looking for some quick reads to help reach my reading goals back in 2017 (futilely) ‘Hex Hall’ fit the bill… and I was pleasantly surprised. This was not some mass produced paranormal romance I’d predicted. While still in the YA wheelhouse of tone, our protagonist Sophie had some wit and humour that kept me engaged, and I never felt bored for a moment. With a murder mystery entwined into the storyline, a romance, a fish-out-of-water arc, I was always waiting to see what would unfold on the next page. Needless to say this novel was a wonderful surprise and an engaging read. I’m definitely looking forward to adding the rest of this collection to my library as soon as possible.

Hex Hall (#1 Hex Hall) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleHex Hall’ has a Harry Potteresque feel. A prodigy magic user/outsider protagonist with a mystery to solve about their past. A magical boarding school with spells and student hijinks. A bully, some beasties and ghosts, wacky teachers and classes, and of course a library. But Sophie stands on her own – there is no Scooby Gang with a like-minded Hermione or Ronald, she does her own research, practices and develops skills and uncovers answers solo. I felt there could have been a bit more establishment of her character for me to connect with her quicker, and there are many tropes that gave this a I’ve-read-this-before vibe. But still, I was entertained and armoured by Sophie and her stumbling existence at Hecate Hall.

Qudos to Sophie’s roommate/vampire/best friend Jenna, by far my favourite character from the novel. She was sarcastic, juxtaposing and quirky… just as a best friend should be. I’m eager to see where this friendship will go in the series.

The writing style lends to an easy read, the tone is very teen-girl, I wanted a bit more sophistication, but it would have not hit its target market and confused readers. Hawkins writing is bang on for the demographic. And as a huge lover of all things YA, was charmed by this story. As there are new challenges and clues mixed with humour constantly scattered every page or so, it keeps the pace and tension building right to the end, and can quite easily be completed in one sitting, however I broke it in two, consuming it over lazy afternoons accompanied by a hot cup of tea.

There is enough of a mystery solved and plenty of resolution to feel like you get a pay-off at the end of the novel, even though this is a debut to a series. Plus, there are enough good teasers to leave you wanting to read on and get your hands on the next book. I’m definitely eager to dive right into ‘Demonglass’ as soon as possible. A super fun read and something I’d recommend to lovers of YA, and light witchy-toned books!

Overall feeling: Wowzer!

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