Book Review – ‘Perception’ (#2 Clarity) by Kim Harrington

A great follow-up novel for a YA paranormal mystery, but I wanted a little something more…

Perception (#2 Clarity) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance

No. of pages: 275

From Goodreads:

When you can see things others can’t, what do you do when someone’s watching you? 

Everybody knows about Clarity “Clare” Fern. She’s the psychic girl in school, the one who can place her hands on something and see hidden visions from the past. 

Only Clare would rather not be a celebrity. She prefers hanging back, observing. Her gift is not a game to her. 

But then someone starts playing with her head . . . and heart. Messages and gifts from a secret admirer crop up everywhere Clare turns. Could they be from Gabriel, the gorgeous boy who gets Clare’s pulse racing? Or from Justin, Clare’s hopeful ex-boyfriend who’d do anything to win her back? 

One thing is certain. Clare needs to solve this mystery, and soon. Because the messages are becoming sinister, and a girl in town has suddenly disappeared.

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This was a nice little parcelled story. Another murder mystery in the same vein of the debut ‘Clarity.’ I did sleuth out the killer very early on though – but the author Kim Harrington has a way of providing clues but not spilling the beans. A fun, if somewhat formulaic YA paranormal mystery.

The tone of ‘Perception’ felt a touch more mature than ‘Clarity.’ And while there were some burning unanswered questions from the debut still lingering by the end of ‘Perception’ – and after doing a little research – I discovered there were plans for more books in this series, but due to poor sales it has been abandoned. It felt like that kind-of-okay television show you were just getting in to and it gets cancelled. Grrr!

Our protagonist, Clare has all of her usual spunk from ‘Clarity,’ but with an increased number of complications to deal with. This really added some tension and helped her character mature. Yay! Way to up the anty Harrington! I enjoyed reading her journey.

But I wanted to bash my head against the desk repeatedly over the love triangle trope. So overdone. But at least it wasn’t filled with swoony, angsty behaviour. Thank the lord. Clare approached her options logistically. Believing in letting her feeling progress naturally to make a decision between her ex, Justin, and the new guy Gabriel.

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I will say that Clare’s family unit is still going strong, and to have her mother play a present and involved parental role resonated with me. I sing praises for YA books having family units as a strong theme within the narrative.

I would have liked a pun about Mrs Vaddja (the fortune teller from ‘Clarity’) in the final lines… it would have fit. But that’s the writer/editor coming out in me. Additionally, there were some mysteries touched on again that never progressed – I would have like a few more clues scattered in to progress the arcs. Maybe it would have made this book perform better in sales and increased interest in a sequel? A few breadcrumbs isn’t going to entice readers to wait for the next book in the series with butt-clenching excitement… you need to start building and establishing an over-arcing storyline solidly grounded in each novel in the series. As a reader I appreciate a well thought out and paced development throughout a series.

Percertion,’ and ‘Clarity’ for that matter aren’t what I would call favourites – I feel there is something missing from the narrative. Maybe Clare feels a little too distant with her romantic relationships to connect with the target market? Maybe their psychic gifts weren’t utilised in a spooky enough way to hook their readers? It was more of a murder mystery aimed at a tween market. Again, I saw so much potential in this series – and in Harrington as a writer.

I was initially attracted to this series when it popped up in my recommendations on Goodreads because of the stunning cover artwork. After reading the blurb I was definitely intrigued. This collection definitely has all the attention grabbing gravitas – it just needed a few tweaks to turn it into best seller material.

A fun read, but a lukewarm feeling upon completion. There are so many fantastic elements but were either not explored enough, or not put together properly to make this an outstanding read… so I won’t count Harrington out yet.

Her following publications seem to be more middle grade though, so I don’t see myself picking up any more of her titles unless she releases another YA or adult novel. But it was the perfect move for her writing style and I can see her garnering a lot of success.

An enjoyable series to read, but I can see why it has been discontinued.

Overall feeling: Entertaining and underwhelming all at the same time.

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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 – ‘Clarity’ (#1 Clarity) by Kim Harrington

Psychic teen hunts down killer with cute boys at her side…

Clarity (#1 Clarity) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance

No. of pages: 246

From Goodreads:

When you can see things others can’t, where do you look for the truth?

This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats.

Clarity “Clare” Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It’s a gift. 

And a curse.

When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare’s ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case–but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare’s brother–who has supernatural gifts of his own–becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?

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I enjoyed all the elements of this novel. It hit the right tone of paranormal and mystery for me. I can also happily say that it was not so predictable – I had no idea who the killer was, even right up until the reveal… and I pride myself at being able to preconceive these things. So it is a joy when an author can stump me.

Clarity (#1 Clarity) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgClare ‘Clarity’ Fern was an interesting protagonist, but the freaky outsider trope is nothing new. Neither is the love triangle which looked like it was forming. For some reason Clare, and the storyline felt very ‘done.’ Nothing about ‘Clarity’ felt original. Don’t get me wrong. It is highly entertaining in an episodic after-school-special kind of way. But expect cliché and stereotypes. Clare is strong-willed, level headed and takes in the world with a sense of sarcasm and irony. She is definitely a fun character to read.

Both Justin and Gabriel – the ex and the new hot guy were also fun to read – though I never felt like we really get into their heads. Maybe it’s the sparse form of the narrative, or that I failed to get an emotional connection with them. My biggest connection came in the form of Perry (Periwinkle,) Clare’s man-whore brother. He was funny, oblivious, and so… well teen guy. I wonder if he will develop as a character in the sequel ‘Perception?

Clarity’ felt very much an average read. The writing style, though breezy and totally encapsulating the tone of a teenage psychic, did not embellish much outside the essential. I wanted more description of the landscape, of feelings, and of the visions. Some showmanship if you will. This felt like a bare-bones narrative. I guess because of this approach the pacing was maintained from one scene to the next, focusing on the clues and misdirection.

There are plenty of easter eggs planted for the follow-up, but there is also enough solved in ‘Clarity’ to make you feel satisfied at the end. I’m definitely intrigued to see what ‘Perception’ brings. But I hope Harrington’s writing style improves to paint a more colourful canvas to keep me engaged. The formation of a mystery story line is masterful, her characters delightful, I’m just wanting to be dragged more into Clare’s world.

I’d recommend this more for the younger end of the YA market as the language choice, content, and structure is geared more towards a tween reader. A great starter novel for those wanting to test the waters of paranormal mystery.

Overall feeling: Pretty good

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Clarity (#1 Clarity) 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.

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.