Book Review – ‘Dark Matter’ by Blake Crouch

Mind-bending and expanding. Sci-fi at it’s best.

dark-matter-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Science Fiction, Mystery

No. of pages: 340

From Goodreads:

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

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Dark Matter’ turned out to live up to all the hype I’ve been hearing. Although I was starting to doubt the great reviews I’d read because it takes half of the novel for things to get heated up, but when they do, it takes off in a fiery blast.

The protagonist, Jason, was the type of character that took me a while to warm up to. I guess because he flailed about so much. Reacting to the bizarre. But what else could he do? There was so much of it thrown at him in the first half that we didn’t get to know him. It wasn’t until his strength and hope started to get tested (along with his sanity) that I started to connect with him.

Amanda, fellow traveler, I felt could have been more poignant to the story – she added some psychologist wisdom as to the psyche and the multiverse, and even about the impact of facing infinity… I feel there was a missed opportunity to drive home a point at the heart of this novel – fear, inevitability and infinitesimally small nature of things. Mind blown. Instead she felt more or less like a non-event. With enjoying her take on the situation I wanted more of her in the story than we got.

Jason’s wife and son really make the narrative with their added perspective. And it’s needed because this novel gets hella cray-cray. You’ll understand when you read it.

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Dark Matter’ got waaay better after the half way mark, as I mentioned earlier, getting to know Jason, and setting up the premise of the science behind ‘Dark Matter’ takes a while. But once you get past that hump it is extremely engaging – I stayed up late to finish it. The tension and pacing were expertly crafted.

I had difficulty with any predictions on how it was going to turn out- the nature of the science and the bleak tone of the novel just leaves you with a feeling of despondency. Why? And it’s a marvellous experience to be kept on the edge of your seat. Bravo Blake Crouch!

It still only feels like we’ve scratched the surface too – that’s how massive the concept to this novel is. I think I sat there staring off into space for a while after finishing, trying to take it all in.

Dark Matter’ has a brilliant ending. Very satisfying. Highly entertaining. I’d been told it was great, and it certainly did not disappoint. There is even a little moral lesson from Jason’s wife that I thought added something extra.

There is something distinctly masculine and dry about Blake’s writing style – I found myself frequently putting this book down for a rest. The story is certainly amazing, action packed, and science nerd porn. Chock full of all the elements I love in a story, but there was something about the narrative which didn’t grab me straight away when I started reading ‘Dark Matter.’ Definitely recommend it though, especially if you like your more obtuse science fiction references.

Overall feeling: my brain! My brain!

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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 – ‘Losing Lila’ by Sarah Alderson

Felt like it was straight from the scripts of a CW show…

Losing Lila Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 346

From Goodreads:

Alex and Lila are on the run, desperately trying to stay one step ahead of the Unit, which is somehow tracking their every move. While Alex is determined to keep Lila safe and her ability secret at any cost, Lila’s only thought is of finding a way back to California so she can rescue her brother and mother from the military base where they’re being held.

Struggling to control both her growing power and her deepening feelings for Alex, Lila decides the time has finally come to stop running and start fighting. Together with Alex, Demos, and the others she’s come to think of as family, Lila plans not only to save her brother and mum, but also to completely destroy the Unit and everything it stands for. But the plan requires Lila to return to California alone, andto make friends with the enemy – and in doing so, she risks losing everything: Alex, her family… even her life.  

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I really liked this follow up to ‘Hunting Lila.’ A group of teens with special abilities on the run from a maniacal Military Contract Organisation. Winner, winner chicken dinner.

It was great to see our protagonist Lila get a little more independence; although that was counteracted by her swooning and needing Alex (her love interest and brothers best friend) all the time. It felt a little weak. It was compounded by the narrative tone and actions of Lila (and Suki) which came of as childish far too often. But I had less problems stopping me from enjoying the novel than I did in the first book of the series ‘Hunting Lila.’

Losing Lila’ is very much like a Disney or NickTeen movie of the week. Saccharine sweet, moments of stereotypical teen behaviour mixed with an action infused plot. I do class it as a guilty pleasure though, I got caught up in the subterfuge, the development of their psychic abilities, and was floored by a few of the plot twists I didn’t see coming.

The story itself is engaging. I think if the comical notes of the story were approached differently, they could have pulled the story along in that Buffy-like pun in the middle of action style.

The element of family, and how it was woven into the storyline was fun; and I appreciated how bonds are tested and reshaped. Though there was some moments where I thought it was too premeditated by the author.

I think I like the relationship between Lila and Alex the least, even if they are the main characters in ‘Losing Lila.’ There was no tension and build up, it moved right into this desperate place that felt like it lacked substance – it was the 10 year old girl’s version of love.

Great follow up and conclusion to the series, probably better suited to a younger tween audience, but still an interesting way to spend a winter’s day tucked up on the couch with a light action-filled book.

Overall feeling: *eating popcorn*
Losing Lila Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Losing Lila Book Review Pic 03 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 – Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

A paranormal cat and mouse with great potential.

Hunting Lila Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 318

From Goodreads:

17-year-old Lila has two secrets she’s prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she’s been in love with her brother’s best friend, Alex, since forever.

After a mugging exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust—her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organization called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they’ve found them.

In a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realizes that she is not alone—there are others out there just like her—people with special powers—and her mother’s killer is one of them…  

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Hunting Lila’ is a fun adventure with a group of individuals possessing psy(chic) abilities pitted against a military group – and Lila is caught in-between. Certainly a great premise, and a very enjoyable novel, but it fell a little flat for me.

It’s hard to place why it felt unremarkable – quite possibly it was a little too busy – with so much going on in plot and sub-plot, where character development became secondary.

There was also an element of instalove between Lila and Alex – I found that kind of infuriating. But he was a nice piece of eye candy to read about.

The story had an air of the superficial as well – everyone was gorgeous, everyone was a hero – whether they had special abilities or military training and gadgets, a lot of the ordinary and the relatable just wasn’t there.

Plus, half of the cast intrinsic to the story line were introduced in the second act.

Now that the yucky stuff is done and dusted, let me share what I appreciated about ‘Hunting Lila:’

I loved the different types of psychic abilities – telepaths, astral projectors, a psychokenosist, telekinetics, sifters, all reminding me of the graphic novel (and subsequent film adaptation) ‘Push.’ This had a very strong X-Men Origins vibe.

Lila, our protagonist is very relatable in the beginning and I felt all of her choices during the actions scenes made complete sense. It was the decisions pertaining to her love interest that had my hackles up. Lila is cute, spunky, somewhat naive and has the potential to be a great character and force of nature. She does tend to flounder a bit and I’m excited to see where Sarah Alderson takes Lila in this trilogy.

Jack, Lila’s brother added a fun dynamic into the romance between her and Alex, as well to the bait-and-switch scenario.

But I think ultimately, the military aspect felt unrealistic, as did the change of heart Lila comes to – I hungered for more angst and tribulation for her predicament.

The twist at the end was a great surprise amongst a sea of predictability. This would fall more into my ‘guilty pleasure’ category, and something I’m on the fence about recommending to others. While I enjoyed ‘Hunting Lila,’ and there is certainly a lot to revel in, it didn’t have that spark.

I have a hunch what is going to happen in the second book for this series, and I will pick it up as I am still interested to see where this story will go. Let’s hope that it is even better than ‘Hunting Lila’ and redeems the author in my eyes. Bring on ‘Losing Lila!’

Overall feeling: A bit of a love/hate relationship for me.

 Hunting Lila Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Hunting Lila Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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 – Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Can K-pop be Graceful?

Hello I Love You Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can’t stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can’t deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she’ll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.

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I picked this up because I’ve had a good run of contemporaries lately – and I love k-pop… it should’ve been a winning formula for me, but unfortunately it was only so-so. Later, discovering that it had been compared to ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ was glad I hadn’t read that comment, because I would have been even more disappointed. Though, having no expectations, ‘Hello, I Love You’ was a pleasant easy read that left me with a smile on my face.

Starting off with a premise that grabbed my attention – country music virtuoso is sent to boarding school in a foreign country where she doesn’t even speak the language. Grace is a fish out of water with her big blonde hair and struggles with homesickness to find her place in this unfamiliar region. Sophie embodies much of the K-Wave phenomena: pop culture dominating for overseas export (fighting!) Then there’s Jason… who suffered much of the typical misunderstood bad boy trope so familiar in YA. He didn’t treat Grace particularly well either – all of those points had me disliking this character most of all and I lost much of my investment in his story arc.

Hello I Love You Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

With pop culture intimately wrapped up in the story, you had to expect an amount of superficial – which came in the form of Sophie – and she lost a bit of realism for me. As well did Grace when she succumbed to Sophie’s will; I wanted to see Grace take her own journey, rather than be lead about by Sophie so much.

Katie M. Stout has a soft writing style, like the understated manner of the Asian culture itself, but I was hoping to get some edge to it from the pop side of things, or maybe something more melodic and sophisticated nodding to Korean History… but it was fun to read nonetheless. I think there were a number of points that could have enriched this story because if fell a little flat for me. Don’t get me wrong, there is substance, and what is there packs a punch, but it wasn’t enough. ‘Hello, I Love You’ ultimately felt somewhat immature – perfect for a run of the mill YA Audience.

There was too much coincidence with the story line and it came off as corny rather than kismet. I think with characters that were fleshed out more and not so typical of this genre I’d have been convinced that the outcome was destiny rather than some after school special.

Overall, I did like the book, the clash of culture, the trappings of fame and plenty of angst. I’d only recommend to a younger audience and lovers of contemporary romances.

Overall feeling: bubble-gum pop cute

Hello I Love You Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Hello I Love You Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© 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.