Book Review – ‘The Memory of Death’ (#3.5 Death Works Trilogy) by Trent Jamieson

This is the way you breathe new life into a series…

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, novella

No. of pages: 94

He thought he’d return from Hell a hero. But things are never easy when your business is Death.

Steven de Selby gave up his love, his life, and his lucrative position as Head of Mortmax, the corporation in charge of Death. Then he found himself banished to the briny depths of hell. But hell has never held him before …

Now Steven’s back from hell, after escaping from the cruel Death of the Water, but he’s not sure how or why, or even if. No-one at Mortmax trusts him, and he’s running out of time to prove he is who he says he is.

Steven is about to discover that hell really is other people, and the worst of them may well be himself.

There seems to be some confusion over this novella. The cover is calling it Death Works novel #4, yet Goodreads has it labelled as #3.5 – I guess Trent Jamieson is the only one who can clear all this up. And I’m wondering if the franchise ends here – will the story continue, or has interest and marketability of the Death Works franchise dried up? It has become a guilty pleasure for me. The references to Brisbane and its surrounds are my back yard. And I kind of like paranormal tomes that deal with various incarnations of Grim Reapers and the subject of the afterlife. Jamieson has a wit and irony about this world and protagonist Steven de Selby that I find alluring.

The Memory of Death’ sees Steven (in parts) dragged from The Death of Water where we saw his ending in ‘The Business of Death.’ Going into more detail will spoil happenings for this novella. But it sets up an interesting premise for this franchise to move forward. Turns the relationships of the characters on their head. It is such a genius twist that it renewed my interest and has me hoping that this is not the end.

A lot happens in this short novella. I did wish the first half was a bit punchier and clearer. It takes a beat for the reader to get enough information to make sense of things. In that sense it was disorientating for me and I kept putting the book down for a rest. Not something you want to hear about a novella. But once the story got its legs, it was in short, brilliant. So the pacing went from faltering to light-speed.

Steven de Selby has an arc of sorts – more like a reconstitution. He’s the same but not. I liked in ‘The Business of Death’ how he went dry – gave up drinking completely because it was starting to become a problem for him. I was not all too happy to see him start up that habit again. His relationship with Lissa is completely different, and the engagement is brought up but there is hope that it can get back on track – for which I am greatful. I was really starting to ship these two.

I was astounded and delighted to read a preview from ‘The Carnival of Death’ touted as the Death Works novel #5. This is a great under hyped series that I am happy to recommend to all my friends. There is even a bind-up of the trilogy available… I’m just praying that Jamieson continues this series because it’s a little taste of home and a little taste of weird.

Overall feeling: Don’t say it’s over…

© 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 Business of Death’ (#3 Death Works) by Trent Jamieson

This series gets better and better – talk about apocalyptic endings!

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

No. of pages: 225

Life is tough at the top when work is a matter of life or death.

It’s one thing to run Mortmax International as head of a team, but it’s quite another to rule alone. Staff fatalities have left Steven by himself on the Throne of Death, and there’s no time to get comfortable. The Stirrer god’s arrival is imminent, threatening life as we know it. Plus Steven has managed to mortally offend the only ally strong enough to help out.

And how can he ask someone to marry him when the End of Days seems inevitable? As if they’re going to think he’s committed. The portents don’t look good as a comet burns vast and looming in the sky and Steven can almost hear a dark clock ticking. He will have to play nice if he wants his ally back, and must address the madness of the Hungry Death within himself if he even has a chance at defeating the Stirrer god.

If he fails, Hell and Earth are doomed and wedding bells will be quite out of the question.

This was the cinematic ending (sort-of) I had been anticipating. I say sort-of because, though touted as a trilogy, there is a forth novella in this series, which supposedly re-boots the Mortmax universe. Leaving the series open for more possible sequels, or just concluding with a more open-ended and hopeful tone. The ending of ‘The Business of Death’ concluded with a PERIODT. It’s very final. Very satisfying in a romantic sort of way if you follow the tone set throughout the series, it makes sense. But I can see some readers not getting the sayonara they wanted.

In this instalment, Steven de Selby has gotten another promotion to Orcus as the managing directors of the worlds regional chapters of Pomps (grims) committed suicide, and transferring their collective power to Steven so he would stand a chance in fighting off a war of the coming Stirrer god. A god. One who rules over the dead, who is forcing an apocalypse and plans to decimate and take over the Earth.

There is all the sarcastic wit I’ve come to love from this series. I liken it to the Buffy franchise with the dark comedic tone. There were a few elements that held me back from truly getting sucked into the narrative this time around however: the first half of the novel is clunky. It didn’t have that flow, which made it feel like the plot was floundering even though it wasn’t. Because of this the pacing was patchy and I put the book down a lot. When things start to get really interesting in the second half the plot is magnificent, though I was pulled from the narrative again with really short and consecutive chapters. It was almost like Trent Jamieson really struggled in writing this conclusion. But that is the worst of it – some pacing and formatting issues. Jamieson’s writing is a pleasure to read, he can weave a great plot, surprise you, make you holler and laugh, and craft appealing and flawed characters, all wrapped up in Australiana – set in and around Brisbane (where I currently reside.) So the story strongly resonated with me, and I was so proud to have this calibre of writing come from my home town.

I was surprised to see even more character development from Steven as a main character, drying out from his alcohol addiction, facing death at least four times with consternation. He wasn’t this confident hero, blustering with bravado, Steven is a normal man, out of his depth, floundering for a victory with nothing but his determination. I really loved this trait and had me rooting for the underdog all the way through this series. I feel like we have an undervalued writer and under-hyped series on our hands. I’d really like to see this collection get more exposure internationally. A strong recommendation from me.

Overall feeling: Seriously cinematic!

© 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 Love Interest’ by Cale Dietrich

A great satire with heart.

The Love Interest Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 377

From Goodreads:

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

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This book far exceeded my expectations. I’ve see blazing reviews and some flaming ones, and after reading the blurb, I was definitely interested, but didn’t have lofty predictions. Some parts of the book are cheesy, some ironic, but I didn’t expect the subtext of hopeless desperation through most of the novel. I was in tears more than once because of the helplessness that the characters faced, but still managed to have hope. It was heartbreaking.

The Love Interest’ does a great job of presenting stereotypes and tropes and throwing them into the harsh light of day to show that they really don’t exist. The characters have layers and motivations and aren’t simply the label that has been given to them.

The Love Interest Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgCaden is a fun protagonist. He is determined, a little stubborn, but compassionate. It was a great mix, and I was relieved that even with the fact that he is the protagonist – he also is not. That he is not ‘the chosen one’ or ‘the solo hero of the world.’ It takes a team – and you get a strong sense of that.

Dylan (‘Dyl’) kept surprising me… and for all the right reasons. I think he is my favourite character from this story. We never truly know his motivations because the novel is told only from Caden’s perspective, and this narrative adds delicious tension – as it does between all the cast – for each are pretending, hiding secrets, tenuous with trust. As hard as it was to peg Dylan, he also felt the most genuine.

Our female love interest, and target of the boy spies, Juliet fell a bit flat for me. She has skills and towards the second half of the book really shines; but during the first half felt more like a prop to tell Caden and Dyl’s story.

I think the only thing holding me back from giving this a perfect score is that I would have loved to see more complexity in the female characters, and maybe a bit more angst develop between the Caden and Dyl. But that’s me being picky, because I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Love Interest.’

There are a number of plot twists and events that I did not see coming. I was literally questioning “What?” out loud and re-reading the paragraph. It’s been a while since a book had done that to me, so I have to applaud Cale Dietrich in causing me alarm. Brilliant!

I think the reason behind such polarising reviews is because on the subtext of irony – on the surface it’s a love triangle, Dyl and Caden are gorgeous teens, parentless, and forced into becoming spies for a corporation – it’s very YA. But underlying that plot, the narrative flies in the face of all those tropes. Right up to the last page. It is amusing, touching and poignant.

Dietrich’s writing style is effortless, I read the book in one sitting, fully engaged the entire was through. I did have a slight pet peeve of the boys calling each other ‘man’ in their dialogue with frequency – like when girls get called ‘babe’ or ‘baby,’ it’s just something I find irritating. But that’s my personal problem and didn’t disrupt my enjoyment of ‘The Love Interest.’

The overall plot is, for the most part, easily predictable. However, Deitrich crafts angst beautifully, teasing you over and over again driving the story forward with a thrilling pace. I was also honestly surprised at the amount of action and James Bond styled gadgets. So while guessing the end was easy – the journey to get there is filled with surprises, laughter, tears, and hot bodies.

Although having a gay protagonist is not anything ground-breaking, it felt genius in this context. It was also dealt with in a respectful manner, and in a way anyone coming to terms with their sexuality should be treated. There was no fear or discrimination against their orientation, and it left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. I was really invested in the boys pairing up.

I was a little ‘iffy’ on the world building, and the relevancy for the organisation – and indeed the use of agents like Caden and Dyl. It is all so much overkill. But that too is a sarcastic pun at YA tropes. So you can either take it literally, of view it in the tone it is written, dripping with derision and satire.

Definitely giving ‘The Love Interest’ two thumbs up, and recommend this to all my friends. It’s a great adventure with tones of love and irony.

Overall feeling: tickled my fancy.

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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.

Book Review – ‘Beauty Queens’ by Libba Bray

Sarcasm all wrapped up in a pretty pink bow.

Beauty Queens Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Adventure

No. of pages: 396

From Goodreads:

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

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At first I thought ‘Beauty Queens’ was going to be a steaming pile of bat guano given the over exaggerated aspect of the narrative with immature and shallow characters, but then it got sarcastic, funny and ironic… and then a little weird.

Beauty Queens’ is unlike anything else I’ve read before, some parts, and bits of the dialogue were like eating glass because of the low-brow idiocy, and others shine with brilliant satire – though one would not work without the other… it’s campy & sarcastic. It’s also dramatic, enthusiastic, hyperactive, and flamboyant.

Following a collection of teenaged vapid beauty pageant contestants in a reality television show who survive their airplane crashing on a tropical island – some of the girls continue in pageant mode, while others break out of character and form survival skills on an unforgiving island.

Each character is unique and brings a lot to the table as far a diversity and comedy. Libba Bray includes a transsexual and lesbian character in her cast of unlikely marooned teens. Later, the addition of a group of boys – from a pirate television show, which is produced by the same team that mastheads the pageant: The Company.

It was a little difficult to get into at first because it has such a unique narrative style, after which I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek, over the top antics of ‘Beauty Queens.’ This is all about hi-jinx! Don’t expect anything serious from this novel, except for a big case of sparkly ponies, eye-rolling, and snorting.

We have ‘ads’ interspersed in between chapters as well, like a word from our sponsor – The Company (again) that added a fun touch.

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At first I thought it was going to feel immature, like it was pitched to a young tween market, but then with some of the references and content, I discovered that it wasn’t taking itself seriously at all. It was like a drag queen had taken over the stage and was entertaining me with vicious quips, reading the audience, and strutting her stuff while downing a VB. It’s obtuse and entertaining

I may have rated it higher if it allowed me to connect with any of the characters, or had some realism in it to help me care. Instead it was like a really long episode of a teen SNL cast. And on a side note – there is a hilarious epilogue that is the icing on the cake.

I loved the funny, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. But I am really looking forward to picking up another title by Libba Bray…

Overall feeling: sugar sweet, like vomiting confetti

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

Book Review – Managing Death by Trent Jamieson

Dude has more than nine lives!

Managing Death Book Review by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Urban Fantasy

No. of pages: 327

From Goodreads:

It’s not easy being Death. For starters, people keep dying. And then, they keep getting up again.

Steven de Selby got promoted. This makes the increasing number of stirrers (and the disturbing rumors of a zombie god rising sometime soon) his problem. That time management seminar he keeps meaning to take would also remind him that he’s got a Death Moot to plan, a Christmas party to organize, and an end-of-the-world thing to avert.

Steven must start managing Death, before Death starts managing him, or this time the Apocalypse will be more than Regional.

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After being so excited over the debut of this series, I picked up the next in the franchise with eager hands… Trent Jamieson’s novel approach to the Grim Reaper with this urban fantasy set in the streets of Brisbane, Australia; saw Steven De Selby once again face enemies gunning to knock him off his throne as a General Manager in the Death Business.

While ‘Managing Death’ wasn’t as good as the first book, it maintained all the elements I enjoyed in ‘Death Most Definite’ except for the romance between Steven and Lissa. Their relationship is still in the forefront of the story line, but had lack-luster shine in comparison to the first book in the series. I liked the edgy, snarky thing they had going with an undercurrent of true passion – it didn’t have that same feel in this novel. I guess because there was just so much going on. Talk about action and politics… we had it in spades. I’m not alluding world politics, I’m talking Death politics… and that’s a whole other ballgame; and it has to be read to be believed.

With Jamieson’s writing style, it was graphically and gloriously colorful as always, however the exposition dragged in parts. Also it felt like there was a lot of repetition in the narrative in rehashing history or facts… once is enough! (But many sequels suffer this fate, but it was a little too much for me.)

The build-up felt slower, despite there being a lot of action (I blame the unnecessary rehashing). I nearly got fed up with it, but the story managed to keep my interest with its twists and turns.

Still loving the mythology, as I did with the first novel. You get more in ‘Managing Death,’ and deeper into the story behind Death and its origins, plus heaps more of the fantasy aspect. Totally enrapturing.

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The climax nearly blew me away, and it’s certainly a compelling reading.  I was twitching and tense (and one scene with a razor left me green to the gills – look out for that one).

I have mixed feelings about the next book, I am pining for the tone set out in the first book. Initially the Deathworks series was meant to be a trilogy, but have since found out number 4 is already published and Trent is hard at work on installments 5 & 6… so let’s see where it leads us. I’ve yet to get copies of the next book(s) but will read and review as soon as I do.

Not the outstanding follow-up I was hoping for, but one Hell of a story! (Pun intended) And I can see it’s setting things up for a much more interesting plot… dun, dun, duuuuuuhh!

Overall feeling: Sensory overload!

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

Book Review – Death Most Definite

Death Most Definite Book Review by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

Steven de Selby has a hangover. Bright lights, loud noise, and lots of exercise are the last thing he wants. But that’s exactly what he gets when someone starts shooting at him.

Steven is no stranger to death-Mr. D’s his boss after all-but when a dead girl saves him from sharing her fate, he finds himself on the wrong end of the barrel. His job is to guide the restless dead to the underworld but now his clients are his own colleagues, friends, and family.

Mr. D’s gone missing and with no one in charge, the dead start to rise, the living are hunted, and the whole city teeters on the brink of a regional apocalypse-unless Steven can shake his hangover, not fall for the dead girl, and find out what happened to his boss- that is, Death himself.

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I happened across this book at the airport and bought it to while away the hours spent soaring across the Australian sky with no prior knowledge what this book was about and was happily surprised. ‘Death Most Definite’ is a gem! And the start of a the Death Works Trilogy!

An elegant twist on a Grimm Reaper, Trent Jamieson builds a supernatural world on top of Brisbane, Queensland with great artistry. It was also great to read an urban fantasy where the protagonist, (and most of the cast for that matter) are close to their family. Steven gives a satirical narration with a refreshing realistic take on events. He’s not afraid to cry at loss, feel love and express it, or get pissed off and kick something. Steven felt so real to me.

Trent Jamieson has an easy going writing style and I never found myself pulled out of the narrative. He expertly builds the story and pace, I barely put down the book and the ending delivers a fantastic pay off. I am so happy I have discovered this author! Such rich, well thought out characters that deliver quirks and failings in full technicolour. With a great sense of irony and comedic timing I embarrassed myself repeatedly in parts when I barked a laugh out loud while reading this on the plane, tram and in the park.

The flow of the novel is somewhat predictable in the sense of it fitting into the typical horror genre format; but the particulars are unique and entertaining.

If you loved ‘The Mortal Instruments,’ you may want to give this series a go.. it’s grittier but has all the elements I loved from Clary’s world and comes from a masculine point of view with a great dose of Australiana. Additionally any fans of the film ‘R.I.P.D’ staring Ryan Reynolds will enjoy this extravagant tale.

Highly recommend this to anyone with a fetish for the supernatural and/or afterlife. I’ve already added the second installment of this series ‘Managing Death’ (Death Works Trilogy) to my reading pile.

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© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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.