Book Review – ‘Slide’ by Jill Hathaway

Interesting.

Slide Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery

No. of pages: 250

From Goodreads:

Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth–her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting distant lately, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

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I really enjoyed this book, but there was something about it that felt juvenile and incomplete. This is a short novel, but I really had to force myself to read it at times… and others, I couldn’t put it down. The pacing is all over the place.

I can’t help but compare it to the ‘Wake’ trilogy by Lisa McMann. The same concept, similar characters (but less profanity.) Where the Wake trilogy was gritty, dark with flawed characters, ‘Slide’ was light, easily read, and skimmed around the edges of the difficult. It could have been so much more gripping, but the author did not take us down these dark alleys, favouring an after-school-special feel.

Sylvia “Vee” was a likeable character for our protagonist, her inner musings relate to the thoughts all of us have through the torturous teen years. I’m not sure if she was meant to come off as grungy or emo with chipped black fingernails and pink hair, but none of that came through in the narrative. She was more Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne.

It still astounds me that she did not even attempt to speak to an adult, whether it be her father or a police officer when faced with the seriousness of a murder of someone close to her. And with the events that happened after that, it’s a wonder she was even able to function. Especially since she was eating caffeine pills like candy – do you have any idea what those things do to your body and brain chemistry with long-term use? It lost the magic and realism from that point.

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While I loved the mystery of this storyline, and the pacing finally being sorted out in the second half of the novel – there was too much wrong with it contextually. Facts that should have been researched. Maybe this should have been set in an alternate universe to give a better, more impactful setting for the novel to take place.

I really loved Sylvia’s younger sister Mattie – how she behaved and coped with the shock of her friend’s death. That was painted so realistically that I just about applauded. Two thumbs up.

Zane as the leather jacket clad best friend (and outsider) was a little cliché. At least he wasn’t brooding or controlling or overly jealous. He was right on the cusp of me rolling my eyes. On the whole, I like him, but there was no stand out attraction to his character. I felt there could have been a bigger altercation between him and Sylvia so we could see what he was made of.

Sylvia’s Dad – NOW let me do an eyeroll! He annoyed me from start to finish. That’s all I’m going to say, not only to avoid spoilers, but to stop me from devolving into a massive and unflattering rant…

One thing that really annoyed me is that every time Sylvia did her thing, sliding into someone’s head, it always seemed to be at the exact right moment for her to grab a clue to the mystery she was trying to work out. It is a kind of surveillance right? What happened to those times where the subject was doing nothing of consequence? It felt too convenient for me. Detective work is a lot of long hours researching and waiting for something to turn up. Sylvia had all of the clues handed to her. *face palm*

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I was waiting to find out about the mythology of Sylvia’s ability, or even her theories as to how she came to have this ability, but there was nada. I do like how she finally started to embrace it and begin to get a modicum of control. That was pretty cool.

For me to give it a higher rating it would need a few tweaks, a dash of tension and angst and about a hundred pages longer to explore the themes and mythology. Maybe it gets touched on in the second novel ‘Impostor,’ but guessing from the title, it may just be another light mystery.

I’m on the fence about whether I’d recommend this, with so many other engaging books out there, it’s not a big miss. But I’ll reserve judgement until I read the second instalment to see if it can sway my opinion either way.

Overall feeling: Of two minds

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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 – Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

Equal parts mystery and spookiness in this uniquely haunting tale.

 Cryers Cross Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery

No. of pages: 233

From Goodreads:

Kendall loves her life in small town Cryer’s Cross, Montana, but she also longs for something more. She knows the chances of going to school in New York are small, but she’s not the type to give up easily. Even though it will mean leaving Nico, the world’s sweetest boyfriend, behind.

But when Cryer’s Cross is rocked by unspeakable tragedy, Kendall shoves her dreams aside and focuses on just one goal: help find her missing friends. Even if it means spending time with the one boy she shouldn’t get close to… the one boy who makes her question everything she feels for Nico.

Determined to help and to stay true to the boy she’s always loved, Kendall keeps up the search—and stumbles upon some frightening local history. She knows she can’t stop digging, but Kendall is about to find out just how far the townspeople will go to keep their secrets buried….

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After enjoying ‘Dead to You’ and it completely restoring my faith in Lisa McMann, I decided to give ‘Cryer’s Cross’ a go – the only other title of hers remaining unread on my shelves. No disappointment here. While it did not blow me away, ‘Cryer’s Cross’ is a pleasantly spooky supernatural tale.

What I’ve found as typical with Lisa McMann, some sort of mental illness comes into play within the plot – in this case, OCD affecting our protagonist, Kendall. McMann’s descriptions of how this disorder affects behaviour and thought patterns is bang on, and despite this affliction, I found Kendall to be a compelling character. Growing up in a small town surrounded by boys, she’s a bit sporty, a bit country, but still a girl. She is a quite hero. Cherishing her town, her friends and her family. It is endearing.

Nico, her kind-of boyfriend is equally as endearing, and it was beautiful to read how they interacted with each other. He is so devoted to her.

The new student in Kendall’s tiny school, Jacián was a mixed bag for me: although cliché, I did end up liking him. Kendall’s narrative can lead opinion swinging from left to right. Though, upon reflection I’m not sure I was sold on their ‘ship.

I liked how the mystery is built around a missing girl, feared kidnapped and quite possibly murdered.

The story line also develops organically with a slow burn. Such a constant intriguing pace with an easy to read narrative that kept me glued to the page and I completed this novel in one sitting.

The plot is mostly predictable. I didn’t get any surprises. But the conclusion is something else. It was very satisfying and equally creepy.

I am unsure if another reader would get more of the feels from this, and while there is definitely a lot of emotion wrapped between the book covers, it did not have me tearing up, or the hair raising along my arms – though there were hints of it.

Really enjoy McMann’s stand alones much more than I do her series. And would recommend this for a cozy afternoon on the front porch 🙂

Overall feeling: Just as good as an episode of Doctor Who

Cryers Cross Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

 Cryers Cross Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – Dead to You by Lisa McMann

An echo from the past can haunt you in unimaginable ways.

 Dead to You Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery

No. of pages: 243

From Goodreads:

Some memories are better left untouched.

Ethan was abducted from his front yard when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family.

It’s a miracle… at first.

Then the tensions start to build. His reintroduction to his old life isn’t going smoothly, and his family is tearing apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he’d be able to put the pieces back together.

But there’s something that’s keeping his memory blocked.

Something unspeakable… 

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This is now officially my favourite Lisa McMann title to date. ‘Dead to You’ had a more mature voice and such a simple yet strong vibe throughout that it totally sucked me in.

Ethan’s narrative is authentic and completely drew me into his world. His family also exuded realism, dysfunction and all.

Dead to You Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleEveryone escapes into a fantasy world, and when Ethan returns to his family after nine years of being abducted, foster care and living on the streets, at first that fantasy becomes real… before the struggles of memory, relationships and high school begin to weigh in.

This is very clever, in hindsight, clues to working out the mystery are glaringly obvious. But initially I hadn’t paid them much attention. Also there is a psychological element underlying this story. Lis McMann has always had some sort of challenge around metal illness in her books, but none done as well as this.

Although it’s kind of predictable in the sense that I knew what was coming, but not in how it was delivered. And I love surprises! ‘Dead to You’ has managed to redeem McMann for me, as my interest was starting to wane in her writing.

Apart from our protagonist, Ethan, the rest of the cast has much to offer: his little sister Gracie is adorable; the brother Blake is cautious and stubborn; and Mum and Dad are so gentle about Ethan’s re-introduction to the family it was heartbreaking. A love interest in Cami was amazing too. There was so much love and support around Ethan I was really cheering for him to resolve the tension and get his happily ever after.

Dead to You’ has an easy flow and distinctly adolescent male narrative that I flew through in a day. It gave me plenty of feels and was a refreshing reading experience. Recommended for lovers of McMann’s work or those looking for a quick mystery to while away the afternoon with.

Overall feeling: Like watching a car crash – you can’t help but stare

Dead to You Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Dead to You Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – Bang by Lisa McMann

Getting more bang for your buck… not so much.

Bang Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle Genre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 241

From Goodreads:

Jules should be happy. She saved a lot of people’s lives and she’s finally with Sawyer, pretty much the guy of her dreams. But the nightmare’s not over, because she somehow managed to pass the psycho vision stuff to Sawyer. Excellent.

Feeling responsible for what he’s going through and knowing that people’s lives are at stake, Jules is determined to help him figure it all out. But Sawyer’s vision is so awful he can barely describe it, much less make sense of it. All he can tell her is there’s a gun, and eleven ear-splitting shots. Bang.

Jules and Sawyer have to work out the details fast, because the visions are getting worse and that means only one thing: time is running out. But every clue they see takes them down the wrong path. If they can’t prevent the vision from happening, lives will be lost. And they may be among the casualties… 

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Having been entertained by the debut of this series, it wasn’t long before I picked up this novel. Though, not as good as ‘Crash,’ ‘Bang’ continues the viral visions being passed on to Jules’ boyfriend Sawyer and another mystery to be unravelled in order to save lives.

The first half floundered to get the easy flow narrative from the first novel back. Too many dot com jokes and slang thrown in… but once the story got legs, I began enjoying it again. There are comical moments, but I was left wondering if Lisa McMann was trying to inject some youthful slang or simply slogged a dead horse with the colloquialisms, a minor detail, but it was off-putting to me.

This time the risk was higher, the mystery of the vision harder to unravel… and more family drama. It was great to see some more character development of the cast, and each of the so-called perfect siblings jump down off their pedestal.

Again, the way the visions could be paused, rewound and zoomed in on annoyed me…. And also the fact they play like a movie trailer. It cheapens the mysticism around the visions. Also I would have liked to have some of the mythology explored – like the guys trying to find out where they came from, what they mean, and if in fact there was some sort of familial connection.

A more political tone was reached as well, and I appreciated how it was dealt with – even if the circumstances were shocking. With the risk of a shooting in a school, a hate crime against LGBTQI+ is a great topic to explore in that it is shedding light on an ongoing issue in society. Yes, the hatred is distasteful, but it’s out there. With that said, the issue was glossed over a bit, and just about completely discarded in the following novel ‘Gasp’ – I was sure there would be some repercussions or trauma associated with the incident.

Jules begins to come off a little righteous, as does Sawyer. I understand they need to solve the mystery in order to stave off crippling visions, but I wanted to see the darker side explored.

Still a quick easy read, many valid and entertaining happen, but somewhat lacklustre for me. Mostly predictable, but still some plot twists to keep you gripped to the page. I have high hopes for ‘Gasp’ as it wraps up this trilogy.

Overall feeling: is that all?

Bang Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Bang Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – Crash by Lisa McMann

Pizza, premonition and pining

Crash Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, Paranormal

No. of pages: 233

From Goodreads:

Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that.

What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode…and nine body bags in the snow.

The vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more she sees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows. Someone she has been in love with for as long as she can remember.

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After enjoying the Wake trilogy, I thought I’d give some other titles in Lisa McMann’s catalogue a try, and ‘Crash,’ the first in the Visions trilogy, surprised me.

Where some of the elements I did not like in ‘Fade,’ ‘Wake’ and ‘Gone’ were left behind, like the swearing and slang, ‘Crash’ was less grittier, the narrative had an ease that let me settle into Jules’ world, and I loved the premise of precognition and trying to stave off foretold events.

While this is far from an original storyline, I nonetheless enjoyed it immensely. I laughed and cried (so many surprise feels) with such a light-hearted narrative after the seriousness of Janie and Cabel in the Wake trilogy.

Crash Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI drew issue around Jules’ visions though – it’s one thing to have them; another to be able to stop, rewind and pause them like a video tape. That part had me going hmmmm…

Even though this is a short novel, I did feel that the build up to the climax was a little slow – whether the tension dropped off in places, or there was too much contemplation, I haven’t quite decided upon, but I only mention it because I remember feeling ‘hurry up and get to the good stuff already’ once or twice. I’m so impatient :p

I liked the Romeo and Juliet-esque aspect to Jules and Sawyers relationship, and how her visions makes it even more complicated.

While there were no surprises in the overall plot, I got great delight from the wit and sub plot reveals, for some reason after reading the Wake trilogy it wasn’t something I expected – glad I was wrong.

Obviously targeted for the teen market, but a great simple, guilty pleasure read for the older demographic. I completed it in one sitting – a great way to unwind after a big morning completing household chores.

Overall feeling: Pretty cool.

Crash Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Crash Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – Gone by Lisa McMann

Bringing new meaning to sleeping your life away.

Gone Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, Paranormal

No. of pages: 214

From Goodreads:

Things should be great for Janie—she has graduated from high school and is spending her summer with Cabel, the guy she’s totally in love with. But deep down she’s panicking about how she’s going to survive her future when getting sucked into other people’s dreams is really starting to take its toll.
Things get even more complicated when she meets her father for the very first time—and he’s in a coma. As Janie uncovers his secret past, she begins to realize that the choice thought she had has more dire consequences than she ever imagined. 

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It took me a while to pick up this final book in the Wake Trilogy… mainly because, even though I enjoyed the first two books, I wasn’t all that invested in the story. That, and I wasn’t sure if this conclusion would do the series any justice.

Well, ‘Gone’ totally blew my expectations away.

I enjoyed this much more than the other two – maybe because there was less forced lexicon to connect with the YA audience, maybe because it wasn’t so over the top, or maybe because a lot of questions got answered. It has been two years since I read the previous novel, ‘Fade,’ and I think the break did me some good.

There is always plenty of action and controversy in these novels. And yes, the writing style annoyed me, but ‘Gone’ was better in all accounts in comparison to the previous two instalments.

I enjoy the bitter-sweet of this series – how Janie’s ability comes at a cost, and she has to weigh her conscious over whether to use it for good, bad or try and supress it. It gives her an inner strength that I really respect. In the start of the series, Cabel was continually coming to her rescue, but by this book, they were in more of a symbiotic, equal relationship.

I have a love/hate affection with this series. The premise is great, but the writing style, juvenile; and some of the mechanics in the plot a little too convenient or fantastic. The mythology of Janie’s ability is organic, and I loved how it is spread throughout all three books, and some questions don’t really get answers, although we get some resolution in Janie’s acceptance of her fate.

The real crux that lifted this book above the rest for me was that there is more character development and spiritual dilemma, moving away from the action/conspiracy centred story lines in the start of the series.

While not an outstanding novel, it provides a satisfactory culmination to Janie’s predicament, and we really get to see her shine. A great fast paced read with a paranormal twist.

Overall feeling: Yes!

Gone Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Gone Book Review Pic 02 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.

Book Review – ‘Fade’ by Lisa McMann

Falling asleep was the least of my worries…

Spring 09, Final

Genre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

SOME NIGHTMARES NEVER END.

For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. They’re just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck.

Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody’s talking. When Janie taps into a classmate’s violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open — but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie’s in way over her head, and Cabe’s shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.

Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability — and it’s bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a dream catcher sealed, but what’s to come is way darker than she’d feared….

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Fade surpassed Wake in bucket loads for me – more action, more mythology about Janie’s ability, and more Cabel yumminess!

The pretence of walking through other people’s dreams fascinated me, and the fact that Janie could use it in a way to read people’s minds was even better. Uncovering more about her ability and folklore behind it equally grabbed my attention, and was glad we got to explore Janie’s special talents further than in Wake.

Janie has really embraced her power in this sequel – both physically and supernaturally – combining to match her already established mental strength from Wake. It was excellent to see a character in a book give a big dose of proactive behaviour.

We see her embrace her situation –claim her power. Not only her gift, but train her body to its peak performance… even when faced with inevitable disability. It’s this kind of fighting spirit that kept me reading.

Cabel really is the James Dean of McMann’s world. He had undeniable swagger and maturity that leaps off the page. The way he is there foe Janie is amazing. Despite the failings (for me) with the language and writing style, the romance of these two characters outshines any of that to bring this book home.

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We deal with some more controversial topics in this instalment, like its predecessor, and at its heart Fade is like a detective novel.

Extremely fast read, colourful language (as in the first instalment) and each arc in the storyline is explored thoroughly. I may have rated Fade higher if it weren’t for Lisa McMann’s writing style – for personal preference, short abrupt sentences and throwing in slang and superlatives may give it a ‘young’ and edgy feel, but it kept dragging me from the story.

Overall reaction: Well, that was unexpected…

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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 – Wake

Wake Lisa McMann by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people’s dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie’s seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can’t tell anybody about what she does they’d never believe her, or worse, they’d think she’s a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn’t wand and can’t control.

Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else’s twisted psyche. She is a participant.

This is a weird little book that quite frankly, I loved to bits. Its premise is unusual, lending to an original storyline. The main characters are flawed in that anti-hero way, giving depth to what could have turned out to be a disaster.

If I wanted to get technical and pick this book to pieces, you probably wouldn’t read it, but judged solely on its entertainment value, it rates high on my metre. Yes, the language is choppy and reads like a teen girls journal (but that is the target market right?) and some of the plot points a little unrealistic; but it is a fantasy, so you need to roll with the punches.

Wake’ was a very quick read – I completed it in one night. Its style is quite abrupt and in your face, so don’t expect an eloquent tale of a reluctant hero. I hate to say, but it almost feels like a first draft, where you are scrambling to get down the story before an edit to have it flowing properly. Having said that, I feel the writing style adds to the ambience and subject matter. As Janie, the main character, is pulled in and out of consciousness, so is the reader.

Girl sleeping in classI can’t say I predicted the direction of this novel all that expertly, and it felt as clunky as the writing, and often dwelled in that ‘after-school-special’ feeling with some of the topics thrown in the storyline. Given all these faults, ‘Wake’ still captured my imagination.

Janie’s narration, and her living situation were a little difficult to relate to. I know in YA books the parents aren’t that present, but it felt unrealistic in this case and had me glancing sideways at times thinking ‘Oh brother!

Cabel, the new guy (well, re-invented) and Janie have this “come here, no, go away relationship,” which was annoying, but managed to pay off at the conclusion of the novel. I’m still not certain I wholly liked the development of these two, but I think it came down the writing style of Lisa McMann, rather than the plot. If you can get past the slips of realism they are actually a cute and complimentary pair.

Carrie, Janie’s rebellious best friend brings some great colour (and language), although their friendship felt more like it was out of convenience than some deep connection. Nonetheless she is a great voice of reason in the novel and is one of my favourite characters.

I would still recommend this read, such an imaginative premise, dealing with complicated and taboo issues unabashedly. Being such a quick read I can overlook some of the issues I had about its style (hence 3 kisses instead of 2) and jumped into the second instalment of this series, ‘Fade,’ soon after. (I will say I enjoyed this sequel far better – be sure to keep an eye out for that review!)

A good little read when you have insomnia :p

Wake Book Review by Casey Carlisle

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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.