I like this quote it reminds we of the saying ‘like attracts like.’ It also makes me remember my mother saying that if you surround yourself with happy successful people, you will become happy and successful… I don’t know how much of it is true, but I think they all relate to finding your tribe – people who hold the same values and goals as you do. That way you can support each other in this journey through life.

Book Review – ‘The Nest’ by Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen

Expertly recapturing the books I loved in my youth.

The Nest Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Magical Realism

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

For some kids summer is a sun-soaked season of fun. But for Steve, it’s just another season of worries. Worries about his sick newborn baby brother who is fighting to survive, worries about his parents who are struggling to cope, even worries about the wasp’s nest looming ominously from the eaves. So when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve thinks his prayers have been answered.

All he has to do is say “Yes.” But “yes” is a powerful word. It is also a dangerous one. And once it is uttered, can it be taken back? 


I’m not one to read middle-grade novels, but I’d heard from many sources that ‘The Nest’ was quite extraordinary. It reminded me heavily of ‘Challenger Deep’ by Neal Shusterman. That magical realism seated in some mental illness like anxiety.

The Nest’ deals with our protagonist Steven communicating with other worldly beings (wasps) that give him a status quo on life and the survival of his ill newborn brother. The whole family are trying to deal with the difficulties the infant faces, as well as their own demons. It may be Steve’s overactive imagination that brings the dreams, or mental illness manifest in the form of delusion. But we are treated to almost psychic predictions. These are then pitted against Councillors and Psychiatrists, and other adult figures with justifications. But in the mind of Steve, we never know what to believe. This theme is front and centre throughout the entire novel, as well as Steve’s fear: that if he comes completely clean about what is going on in his head, he’ll be committed to a Sanatorium.

The set up and narrative balances on the edge of fantasy and reality is done expertly and had me salivating with joy.

We see his character develop as he discerns fantasy from reality, and finding strength within to battle his personal and very real physical threats that circle him and newborn brother Theo. It’s a subtle journey.

I will say the last third of the novel really amps up the tension and pace. I could not take my eyes from the page, curling up my legs and twitching nervously. It was quite a surprise for a middle grade novel, such visceral images and such a menacing ambience. It carries that same creepy air you get from Roald Dahl novels.

Some charcoal, or possible pencil, illustrations are scattered throughout the novel in scribbly texture, one shade of grey that add to the unsettling tone.

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I was attracted by the cover art at first, and under the dust jacket holds another version of the cover, just as beautiful. The presentation of this novel is stunning. Deckled edges, thick solid hardback. Such a gorgeous addition to my library.

And the story is haunting, the kind of thing that stays with you for a while after. I would tend to say only the more mature end of middle grade would be able to digest this tome. The story is light, but the meaning dense. I could imagine kids feeling itchy and glancing about like a skittish horse at small movements looking for flying insects.

A short novel, I read in half a day, the prose is a little rich, so it is either educational for its target audience, leaning towards a discussion afterward, or meant for those hard core younger readers. Possibly something you could read aloud in a classroom as well.

Maybe if I was a lot younger I would give this a much higher rating, but for me, it lacked a little complexity – because that’s the type of book I’m used to reading. But I’d definitely recommend this solely for the experience.

Overall feeling: Blew me away.

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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.


#bookporn The Nest by Casey Carlisle.jpg

Love me some magical realism… a weird tale about how nothing is perfect.

Inspired about the packaging – and the fact I’d just cleared away a paper wasp nest from this stump a few weeks earlier. It was too close to the house and I’m allergic. Ahh nature – you tease me. I’d much rather read about it in a book. 😉

Book Review – ‘Cruel Beauty’ by Roasmund Hodge

A magical and disorientating re-telling.

cruel-beauty-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love. 


For the first half of this ‘Cruel Beauty,’ I squirmed uncomfortably, not for anything that was written, but the writing style was elaborate and fanciful and took a considerable time to relax into. I’m also not a huge fan of re-tellings, and this one was a little too close to the original to stop me from pulling comparisons. But this book is a fantastic beast in its own right and I’m glad I gave it a chance.

Nyx was a fun character to read. She was hateful and resentful as well as determined and righteous. Not a wilting flower, or a warrior, but a fallible human being, and I really liked that. She wasn’t afraid to speak the truth, get a little snarky, or even a bit devious.

cruel-beauty-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleI did find all the mention of Gods and mythology confusing at times, as I also did with the aspect of the Prince’s *cough-Beast’s-cough* house. The whole setting was so imaginary and malleable that it was disorientating and difficult to track the nature of the plot. But in hindsight, it exactly does what it is supposed to do for the tale. The narrative has a magical tone to it which reminds me of old Irish fairie tales.

The weird love triangle thing between the Prince, the Shadow, and Nyx felt a little forced and manufactured, and the beginning of the relationships did not feel as if they grew organically. But I do like how, even with teasing of an unreliable narrator, there were reasons not to trust any of the characters in this novel.

I was guessing and flip-flopping in opinions on everyone. Which was both a good and a bad thing. I like to be kept on my toes… but not so much as there isn’t a solid grounding in either the main character or her quest. There was such a feeling of being untethered through most of the novel, that it stopped me from truly enjoying it. Only towards the end, when aspects of the plot started to draw together did I truly revel in ‘Cruel Beauty.’

The novel is beautifully written, completely matching the genre and tone, but not a style I enjoyed reading too much. I felt like I was back a University wading through the works of Chaucer at times. Some readers will love this, but for my personal taste, I found it annoying and slowed the pace of the storyline.

It had a strong high-fantasy vibe, rather than nostalgic for the original tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and is probably why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have. I really have to be in the mood to digest high fantasy, and like reading my world built, and quest painted out in clear concise language. Even now, after completing the novel I can’t clearly define the universe and role of the Gods, or the magic system used.

With the over-indulgence in the writing style playing against it, ‘Cruel Beauty’ did a wonderful job at painting a scene, my imagination ran wild with the fantastical places and magical/dream-like elements.

On the whole it was an okay read – I loved the last quarter and had an ‘aww’ moment at the end. The first half needs to drive the story along more forcefully, and the development of the world more concise for me to get into it, which would probably remove about fifty pages from its length and pick up the pacing.

I liked this take on the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and have seen the mixed reviews. I guess if you love fairy tales, and high fantasy, ‘Cruel Beauty’ is one for you; otherwise you might be a little confused like I was.

Overall feeling: okay, interesting, pretty good…




© 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 – ‘Fly on the Wall’ by E. Lockhart

A cheeky contemporary for younger audiences that has commendable insight on injustice.

Fly on the Wall Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 182

From Goodreads:

At the Manhattan School of Art and Music, where everyone is unique and everyone is ‘different’, Gretchen Yee feels ordinary. It doesn’t help that she’s known as the girl who sits alone at lunch, drawing pictures of her favourite superhero, just so she won’t have to talk to anyone. Her best (and only real) friend is there for her, but that’s only if she’s not busy – she’s always busy! 

It’s no surprise that Gretchen isn’t exactly successful in the boy department. Her ex-boyfriend is a cold-fish-sometimes-flirty ex who she can’t stop bumping into. Plus, she has a massive crush on a boy named, Titus but is too scared to make the first move. One minute he seems like a sensitive guy, the next, he’s a completely different person when he’s with his friends. She can’t seem to figure boys out!

Gretchen has one wish: to be a fly on the wall in the boy’s locker room. What are boys really like? What do they talk about?

This is the story of how one girl’s wish came true.


Fly on the Wall’ is a fun contemporary with a magical realism twist.
Gretchen, our protagonist, feels like she is on the outside of everything and everyone at school. Like she’s in a holding pattern for life. Stagnant. Biracial and not quite arsty enough to be one of the Art Rats, and not generic enough to fit in to a normal crowd at a regular high school, Gretchen feels trapped.

fly-on-the-wall-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleWhen her parents break some big news, and she is frustrated about things going down at school. Gretchen  wishes she could see what goes on behind closed doors, get answers that seem hidden from her… and then it happens… literally! She becomes a fly on the wall, stuck in the boys locker room. She gets to see them naked, their “gerkins” up close, and all their emotional politics laid bare. It’s pretty hilarious and cool.

It gives Gretchen perspective. A look into other people’s lives at their most
vulnerable. And she learns some lessons. As well as some valuable truths that will help her out of the rut she’s been in.

I love the language and narrative style. Though, ‘Fly on the Wall’ has a simplistic plot and targeted to younger audiences. The storyline is not much of a mystery and fairly predictable; but fun and witty. This was an enjoyable quick read with loads of character development.

I loved how it tackled discrimination, machismo, and archaic views on patriarchy, and ultimately instigated change.  Also, I liked how it explores female sexuality and how it’s okay to feel want. To feel horny or sexual attraction. Not an awakening, just an awareness and acceptance that we are all humans and have desires. Refreshing for a YA novel to deal with sex, desire and body image without being sexualised.

Overall feeling: weird and surprising.




 © 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 – ‘Challenger Deep’ by Neal Shusterman

This book played with my brain…

Challenger Deep Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Contemporary, magical realism

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.   

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On face value, I thought ‘Challenger Deep’ was about a psychological analogy between exploring the deep and discovering inner strength. And it is that, but you don’t get any real life adventure of the underwater world – it’s all in the protagonist’s head. And from a marine biologist aficionado, I felt a little duped.

From part way in, I found ‘Challenger Deep’ tedious to read, switching from realms and dreams – I wanted to be entertained, but didn’t get that. The narrative went all over the place and I found myself getting bored. In hindsight I understand there is a purpose to this style or narrative. The frequent tangents bulging with symbolism are meant to reflect Caden, (our protagonist) mental state, but for me it bogged down the pace and plot. It almost gave me a headache.

Neal Shusterman has done a marvellous job in describing the working mind of a person suffering mental illness, and can see where ‘Challenger Deep’ had received all of its accolades; but this just wasn’t the read for me.

I just have to mention there is a short paragraph on the topic of suicide (in the last quarter) that Caden inwardly muses upon, which I thought was excellent and poignant. This is by no means a horrible book, though, I would have liked to have seen it at least half as long; or have another aspect of the story introduced that isn’t touched by Caden’s illness. The only way I can describe my feelings over this book is that it was like peering through those glass bricks, where the view on the other side is warped and blurred to the point of bare recognition. Yes, that is the whole point of this novel, but I completed it with a sense of wanting more.

I may have rated it lower if not for such a spot on picture of a mentally ill person; and giving it a positive, uplifting spin. Ground-breaking really. But I guess in tackling such a topic, you fall into the danger zone of unrelatable characters – and that’s what happened to me.

Overall, I loved the message and depiction of a youngster in the grips of a manic episode, but if there was another aspect to this story which broke up all of the craziness and given me something to gain more of an outside perspective (and sub-plot). Sadly, I found myself not enjoying this book at all. It took a great deal of will power to finish it. And as a result would only recommend it to a more high-brow, critical reader.

Overall feeling: You really take a trip down the rabbit hole…

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Challenger Deep 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 – ‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness

Something to make you shiver and cringe… but also give you a big warm hug.

A Monster Calls Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, Magical Realism

No. of pages: 216

From Goodreads:

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

A Monster Calls’ is haunting and beautiful. I think it sheds a light on a lot of unexpected feelings around guilt, loss and grief and lets you know that it’s okay. It delivers that eerie folk tale in a modern setting, familiar to the works of The Brothers Grimm, Roald Dahl and Emily Carroll.

Our protagonist, Connor’s behaviour and reactions tell a story of their own, and then upon finishing the novel, take on a different meaning with hindsight.

I got a little angry for Connor, at the helplessness of his situation and at the apparent apathy of many of the adults around him. Not that they weren’t sympathetic, but that they didn’t show him how important he was.

In that manner, this book struck a personal chord with me. I too have suffered through a similar experience with my mother, and I have had my own battle with cancer. A lot of memories were dredged up, both pleasant and gut-wrenching.

The Yew Tree Monster had the hairs standing up on the back of my neck a few times and was truly terrifying. Not an easy feat, so I commend Patrick Ness on creating an atmosphere that really creeped me out.

I liked the splattered and scratchy ink illustrations, all in black and white adding to the tone of the narrative.


For such a dark book it carries a lot of hope. Really impressed. Highly recommended.

Best Patrick Ness book I’ve read to date – can’t wait to see if it translates the big screen with the movie due for imminent release.

Overall reaction: Holy crow!

A Monster Calls Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

A Monster Calls Book Review Pic 04 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.