Book Review – ‘Hunted’ by Meagan Spooner

A Beauty and the Beast re-telling with a modern attitude.

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

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast? 

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Meagan Spooner tackles a Beauty and the Beast re-telling with ‘Hunted,’ delivering another fantastic incarnation, breathing life into one of my all-time favourite fairy tales.

Hunted Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleWe follow protagonist Yeva, affectionately called Beauty, while she tries to find her place in the world. She wants more than getting married off in her small village. We see Yeva longing for the forest and hunting with her father. Once tragedy strikes, she begins to embrace the role she’s always wanted… but is it more of an escape than survival?

I loved how we don’t get another bookish beauty with this re-imagining. Yeva stands her own in a male-only occupation. Combined with her mental strength and desire for something more leads her down a darkened path.

Enter the beast.

Spooners reinvented beast is much darker than some other versions I’ve read. He has a duality to him that is distinct and warring for dominance. The mythology in this version feels older than what we get in the Disney version. There is no pretty flower or need to have Beauty fall in love with him to break the spell. This was so much more fun to read. I highly recommend you give this title a go.

The pacing is pretty good – slow in some parts – but only because it is keeping with the cadence of the popular tale. But I did complete ‘Hunted’ in two sittings and was not bored or disinterested in the slower parts enough to put it down and take a break.

We get some prominent themes in ‘Hunted’ which I found delightful. It’s not about romance, more around facing our animalistic nature and thirst for more.

Forget about a Gaston-type character in ‘Hunted’ in the traditional sense. There is no stereotypical fame obsessed machismo set to make Yeva his own. Which was another aspect to this novel that really appealed to me.

Spooners writing style and world building create a picturesque landscape that doesn’t drag too much with details, but keeps the story klipping along at a decent pace.

I’m a little of two minds over the ending. I felt like I wanted something bigger. Only because there were a few parts that I wanted resolved better – but that’s just because I love the big dramatic endings. Especially in the fairy tale genre. But on the whole I’m not mad at reading ‘Hunted.’ I went in dubious, because, you know – yet another Beauty and the Beast re-telling *yawn* But Spooner really got me excited for old becoming new again.

Totally recommend.

Overall feeling: Sucked into the adventure

Hunted Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Hunted 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 – ‘Shadow Land’ (#5 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Delectable Detective and Punchy Paranormals but some Morbid Machismo….

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

When a child goes missing, his mother asks me to help. After all, she believes he was taken by a monster and that’s my field of expertise. The search leads to the storm drains of Dearmont; not a good place to be when you’ve seen as many horror movies as I have. 

Turns out the monstrous kidnapper is also responsible for the mysterious disappearance of a patient from a psychiatric hospital nearby. And as I investigate further, I’m pushed into the waiting arms of an old nemesis. 

Missing children, fishy creatures, and icy curses are all in a day’s work for Harbinger P.I. But when Mister Scary shows up, the hardest job is staying alive.

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 I’m loving Adam Wright’s take on the paranormal, or preternatural as referred to in this series. There is always so much going on that I’m hooked and addicted to finding out what is going on. There is always more than one mystery to solve, an antagonist or two to fight or run away from. Wright’s concepts are fun and engaging.

However there is still one of the biggest gripes in ‘Shadow Land’ that I have had with this series front and centre – again with our protagonist Preternatural Detective, Alec having things fall into his lap, or his assistant Felicity doing them for him. I know a lot of detective work is boring and something we don’t necessarily want to read, but coming up with ideas and uncovering clues are prime aspects to test the protagonist and drive the story forward – watch any detective show on television for numerous engaging examples. This was a big miss for me.

I’m still getting a sexist vibe, and a little of that ‘things conveniently happening’ around Alec’s treatment of the cast, in addition to secondary characters popping into the story when relevant to the plot, but otherwise ignored… it feels like they’re being used but not developed, not allowed to become complex. It feels like lazy writing… so many missed opportunities.

But the narrative improved after the half way mark.

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We re-visit the on-again, off-again thing with Alec and Felicity… its feeling tired. Was it done to drag their relationship out over a few more books? Something was missing in the tension between these two with ‘Shadow Land.’ And it was awkward – not between the characters Alec and Felicity, but in the writing. As much as I enjoy this world and the characters, I question whether Wright is rushing through the writing-publishing process to keep the momentum of sales for the Harbinger P.I. series instead of taking a little extra time to polish the manuscript.

Upon reaching the end of the book I wasn’t totally satisfied – there were so many new clues and elements introduced in ‘Shadow Land,’ and less than half were resolved. Great for getting me to continue with the series, but reflects badly on this novel alone. Plus, we end on a cliff hanger which was incentive enough for me to want to pick up ‘Midnight Blood’ – but some more resolution to the Mr Scary storyline would have been good – or the Cabal… just saying.

I was a little perturbed by the death of a paranormal towards the end as well – though it was explained – it felt unjustified, and frankly, rushed.

But the writing style is pleasant, and I like the folklore references. I wish we would delve more into the mythology of things. We are starting to get there as Alec was more involved in the research with Felicity. It’s nice to see he can actually do some detective work for himself because he tends to outsource a lot and spend much of the time wandering around thinking.

The pacing is good and the plot jumps all over the place as well. The point of view briefly switches to Sheriff Cantrell and then is daughter Amy (a deputy) interrupting the flow of a narrative and follow a story arc. It was interesting, and in the past few novels Wright has started to add in different characters perspectives… it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it should be though. And we jump from first person to third person narrative.

I did guess the puzzle to the main case solved in ‘Shadow Land’ in the first couple of chapters. I don’t know how, or why, maybe I’m getting tuned into Wright’s mind. So I guess that’s also why this wasn’t such an impactful novel for me.

Still, this is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the supernatural elements and Wright’s take on the world of things that go bump in the night. Also, where has all the thing about Felicity becoming a fully-fledged P.I. gone? She’s back to acting like a glorified secretary again, and the sizzle between these two has left the pages. And it might be the feminist in me, but I’d really like to see Felicity play the hero apart from Alec, and not constantly running around providing answers before Alec even knew he needed them… how about he do it for himself and let her get into the action!

Still a really fun and interesting world. Wright puts his little twists on the preternatural that I find engaging and fascinating.

Overall feeling: Trying to ignore the flaws…

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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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 – ‘Dead Ground’ (#4 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

The Preternatural Investigator is at it again….

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

When my old friend Jim Walker asks me to fly up to Canada and take a look at a strange murder case, it sounds like a good excuse for barbecue and brewskis. 

But the party gets crashed by a pit-load of demons and things take a turn for the worse. Throw a faerie queen and a couple of ancient vampires into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. 

Time to sharpen the stakes and start slaying the undead. 

Because if you gaze long into a vampire’s eyes, the vampire gazes also into you. 

Then it glamors you. And kills you.

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Another instalment in the Harbinger P.I. series sees great twists at the end which redeemed this book in my eyes despite some issues I had in developing the plot and secondary characters. We get a heavy dose of paranormal happenings – witches, fairies, vampires, magical swords and spells.

There’s still more of the machismo that urks me in the narrative, but I am beginning to enjoy this series like b-grade 80’s horror films… there is something camp about it, and find it entertaining despite its faults. There is something addictive and compelling about the Harbinger series.

I wish there was more character development to help me care more about the characters. I’m starting to fall into a speed reading mentality just to find out what is going on because I’m not forming any attachments. This distinct lack of development of characters pulled in to aid protagonist Alex Harbinger in his quest, or in their relationships – they simply came to his aid without question whenever he asked. Even if it meant they could lose their lives. To this end it felt like they were merely a plot device, like Adam Wright couldn’t be bothered taking to time to grow a back story and help the reader develop an emotional attachment to the characters. Overall this was the biggest issue I had with the story.

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To this end, while full of action and fast paced, I felt a little despondent at times. It was feeling a little repetitive. Again not enough is resolved and only little seeds of clues are mentioned for an overarching plot for the series. Much of what stood out to me about the prequels.

The books feel like they’ve been rushed to publish and not given the benefit of a good editor. Nonetheless, I’m becoming a fan and will continue to support the author. I am noticing improvements in his writing with each book in the series. It is starting to become a guilty pleasure with me. I have issues with the writing, but the concept, and potential of Adam Wright keeps me intrigued and coming back for more.

Really interested to see what his next release ‘Midnight Blood’ brings. I know Adam Wright has stated that its publication date has been pushed back because he’s moving house before the final edits, so maybe a fresh set of eyes and experience so far will push this sequel even further.

As much as I enjoy this series, I would only recommend it sparingly, but they are quick, adventurous, fun reads.

Overall feeling: Big on imagination, little on execution

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) 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 – ‘Dark Magic’ (#3 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Your Preternatural Investigator is at it again.

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 231

From Goodreads:

Zombies on Main Street. Not my finest moment. 

The police aren’t exactly thrilled with me, but when a cold case heats up and starts to stink of the supernatural, suddenly the sheriff is in my office offering me a job. 

When the case hits boiling point, I’m dealing with monsters, black magic, and ritual killings. I even have to call on the two craziest witches in town for help. Things must be bad if the Blackwell sisters are my only hope for survival. 

Maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. After all, those who fight monsters should beware that the monsters aren’t frog-faced, soul-eating demons.

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As campy as the Harbinger P.I. series is, I was still lost and entertained in this paranormal tale. I wish Adam Wright would bust away from the tropes typical to this genre and raise this collection to another level, but nonetheless, the multiple mysteries and collection of cast members are both endearing and captivating.

Harbinger didn’t seem as chauvinistic in ‘Dark Magic‘ and we get many kick ass moments from his female co-stars. We also see plot points introduced in the previous two books resolved – but there are plenty more loose threads leading up to even more mysteries to be solved in future sequels.

The climax was all things apocalyptic, Wright is definitely upping the ante and improving with each installment of this series.

I feel I wanted some more development on the ongoing story lines, only because I wanted a bigger hook to have me reaching for the next sequel, ‘Dead Ground.’ Wright’s books are falling into the category of reading I associate with the likes of Clive Cussler : adventurous, entertaining, with a strong masculine sense to the writing style and not to be taken too seriously.

With our protagonist Alec healing from a gunshot wound and straight into hand to hand combat… and even a shower afterward – the author should think a little before writing implausible scenarios to prevent the reader getting pulled from the story with a wtf moment.

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlilse

Still an element of misogyny- kinda like James Bond and Moneypenny- the male swoops in to save the day and solve the mystery where the female companion does all the hard work behind the scenes and fetches coffee. And of course the male lead has any number of attractive females around him, all trying to land him in bed.

Unfortunately I identified some spelling and grammatical errors that could have been solved with a simple read-through from an editor. But this is an entertaining collection and I am able to forgive a few oversights. Plus the cover art has been eye-catching and spooky, really capturing what Alec Harbinger is all about.

Dark Magic’ has great pacing with multiple storylines that kept me hooked. Beginning to love the magical mythology, it is unlike nothing I’ve read before, it’s intricate and we’ll realised. Bring on book four!

Overall feeling: *knowing smirk*

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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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 – ‘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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© 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 – ‘Buried Memory’ (#2 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Paranormal gumshoe strikes again.

Buried Memory (#2 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 226

From Goodreads:

Whoever said that nothing ever happens in a small town clearly never visited Dearmont, Maine. It’s getting hotter than hell around here. When the dead start crawling out of their graves, you know something’s up. 

If there’s one thing I hate more than zombies, it’s having my memories erased by magic. That’s a real bummer, right? So when I get a chance to break the spell that’s locked away part of my mind, I take it, even if it means dabbling with ancient Egyptian sorcery. 

Big mistake. 

Sometimes you shouldn’t go poking at things that are buried. 

Because you end up having to deal with an army of the dead.

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This only felt like a mild improvement from the first novel. I wasn’t so much into the camp sexist machinations of our protagonist Alec. While I enjoyed the paranormal angle and his solving of mysterious cases, the machismo and constant attractive women swirling around him, eager to do his bidding had the feminist in me grinding my teeth.

The second half of the book was much better – it was so focused on the action, the author had no chance to waste on bravado and cliché. I don’t mind a bit of campy b-grade horror, but I really wanted something a little more original. I was going to say in the review for the debut that it reminded me of Charlene Harris of Sookie Stackhouse fame (but I have not read those novels and feel like it would be an insult) and again, I got that niggle, how there was an interwoven plot of mystical creatures and battles to be won.

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The arc with Alec’s assistant, Felicity, was cool. As too, the plot twist with his ‘flirtation-friend’ Mallory – both formidable women in their own right, but I feel like the author does not give them the space to really shine. ‘Buried Memory’ is still steeped in that Private Eye 1950’s era of a tough, wisecracking gumshoe who gets all the dames.

One thing did puzzle me though – given it is a detective novel, shouldn’t he solve some cases? He did in the first novel…. but in ‘Buried Memory’ when the Deputy asked him to look into the church that her dead mother had gotten involved with before her demise… well, after he palmed it off (as I find he tends to do a lot) was simply completely forgotten. Where was the plot of this story going? Instead we got an entirely different direction. I got a little steamed actually. There wasn’t even mention of it at the end of the book like it would be continued in the next instalment ‘Dark Magic.’

I’m starting to find, even though I feel the stories a little gauche, they are still engaging and highly entertaining in a ‘Vampire Diaries’ kind of way. I have a morbid fascination to find out what happens next – but I wouldn’t quite call it a guilty pleasure. I really feel if this collection of novels had a good content edit and a more feminine viewpoint inserted into the narrative they would be stellar reads.

Wright can construct a great action scene, build tension and pace, and manage to give you an unpleasant shiver over something unknown in the dark. So he has a lot of elements going for him and this collection of novels. Plus they are all around the 200 page mark in length, so easy to read in half a day. Not a great investment to get a fun, nostalgic kick.

So, I’d only recommend to those who love paranormal detective novels with plenty of machismo and campy fun. It’s totally like a b-grade horror noir film on the pages, and not to be taken too seriously. With all the nit-picking I’ve done to this series, the books are engaging, entertaining and highly addictive.

Here’s to seeing what kind of trouble Alec Harbinger P.I. gets into next…

Overall feeling: Things that go bump in the night…

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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 – A Court of Mist and Fury (#3 A Court of Thorns and Roses) by Sarah J. Maas

A great story, a beautiful romance and lots of fae.

A Court of Wings and Ruin Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 699

From Goodreads:

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.  

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Started off better than I had anticipated. Very impressed. I have to stay I enjoyed this book far more than the previous 2 in this series.

I loved reading Feyre. Although she did feel predictable – I guessed her actions well in advance. But she was ballsy and did not let a man define her (much.) And I liked how the element of family played a strong part of who she is in this instalment. She always wore her decisions, good or bad. It is an admirable quality and helped me connect and invest in her story.

While I loved the relationship between Feyre and Rhys, his character seems to have evolved into a Mr Goody-two-shoes. Where was that scary darkness that he let us glimpse in the first two books? It gave him an edge. So while a great culmination in their story, I was starting to get a little bored with Rhys.

The shining part of this book, as minor as it is, was Suriel. It tugged on my heart strings and even had many tears falling at the beauty of Feyre’s interaction with it in the forest.

A Court of Wings and Ruin Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgMaas is still a fan of overusing the phrase “a mask of…” to describe facial expression and emotion. Almost wanted to turn it into a drinking game. I’m finding frequent repetition of descriptions and qualifiers, which is disappointing because a good editor should have picked these issues up.

I was put off by the overt erotica in some parts – it was fine when it added something to the plot or character development, but the rest just left me feeling… itchy. The graphic content felt like it was included to service Sarah J. Maas’ opinion on the ultimate sexual relationship – how a male should put the woman’s needs first. And left the whole experience a little contrived.

There was a focus on gender within the narrative, and people being coupled off, which while cute and expected in YA, I was hoping for a little more grit and daring. Especially in a fantasy genre where you can push the envelope a bit further.

The second half of the book was much easier to read than the first half – I guess the story arc with Tamlin bogged things down for me. Focusing more on political manoeuvring than action. Though I understand it a necessary part of the overall storyline. As we needed to see some sort of resolution between these two.

Mass’ writing style, especially when setting a scene, painted the landscape with such rich language I was truly impressed.  There was a lot too it. A lot happened. The pace just kept driving forward. Though there were some spots where it felt a little slow. As a lot went down, the cast grew, transformed, challenged, I really can’t comment too much about them without giving away any spoilers – but enough to say I really enjoyed the journey of all the secondary cast members. With such a wide and varied collection of characters, it was easy to track and identify each one.

Have developed a great fondness for this collection.

A Court of Wings and Ruin’ is a big book – I frequently got aching hands trying to hold this slab of paper up. The typesetting and formatting is of a comfortable size and layout so that not too much is cramped on to one page and you find yourself re-reading a line of text. Love the cover art and how it ties into the previous two novels. But it is reminding me that I’ll read books over 600 pages in e-book format so that they are easier to hold.

What started out as a Beauty and the Beast re-telling grew into an epic fae fantasy I’d recommend to lovers of this genre, Romance and female warrior protagonists.

Overall feeling: Brilliant ending!

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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.