Book Review – ‘Final Girls’ by Riley Sager

Three girls survive separate serial killers – and now they are connected by a new murderous threat.

Genre: Y/A, Thriller, Mystery,

No. of pages: 340

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

This was a thrilling and interesting read. I wasn’t quite sold on ‘Final Girls’ because I had difficulty relating to the protagonist, and she was always doing irrational things – stupid behaviour typical of pulp horror movie classics. In that way, ‘Final Girls’ is an entertaining homage to the genre; but for me, it was simply frustrating. I like my heroines intelligent, aware, and proactive. Quincy came across as volatile, reactive, and whiny.

It was on the cusp of being predictable – maybe because I’d already heard there was a twist, so I was really paying attention to the narrative. I wouldn’t say I predicted the ending, but I definitely pegged the murderer in my top two suspects… though the backstory to how this came about was a complete surprise. So Riley Sager definitely got me a good one. I have to admit his writing skills are right up there with the best. He can craft tension, suspense, and a reveal with expertise.

I already mentioned that Qunicy was not my favourite protagonist. It was like if she had just taken a step back and followed some common sense, most of this book would not have happened – which feels like a flimsy plot device for ‘Final Girls.’ It feels like this did a disservice to Sager’s writing, because he clearly has the chops to construct engaging prose.

Jeff, Quincy’s husband, really felt superfluous to the plot, I even found myself questioning why he was in the book in the first place. He did not feel like her husband, but merely a plot device.

Sam was wrong from the start – again a lot of frustration blossomed because of her character, and on the surface, she did not match the profile of a final girl… and this was dragged through the entirety of the novel. We do get some development of her character through conversations and Quincy’s research, but I feel like we should have gotten a more realised character in the beginning. It would have provided much more impact when sequential reveals happen later.

Coop was a really interesting character and I liked the tension built between him and the other characters.

There was a lot of jumping around the timeline through repressed memories resurfacing and flashbacks in conjunction with the current timeline, I’m not usually a fan of this storytelling device, amnesia is such a tired device, but it framed the plot really well. Though there was a bit too much compartmentalisation going on for me. Quincy intentionally kept her memories, and the people in her life, apart… which was another source of my frustration.

This many-times-mentioned frustration was good and bad. Good, in that is kept me interested and eager to uncover the truths behind my suspicions; and bad in that some plausibility was on flimsy ground.

I loved the concept of ‘Final Girls’ it had me enrapt from the first page and I am keen to read more from Riley Sager, he really knows how to exude atmosphere from the page. There was a reveal in every chapter, so the pacing was set at a cracking pace from start to finish.

Compelling read I recommend to all. On a side not, with Universal Studios having optioned this title for a film. I’m looking forward to how this story translates to the big screen.

Overall feeling: idiocy and jump scares galore…

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Night Hunt’ (#9 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A faltering, flat instalment for the series.

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

No. of pages: 201

The night is dark…and full of paranormal killers.

If Jason, Michael, and Freddy were merged into one being and given supernatural powers, the result would be something like Mister Scary. He’s been carrying out his murders from the Shadow Land for way too long now. It’s time to put him down.

It was fun to delve into the Harbinger franchise once again – this is a guilty pleasure read for me. Adam Wright has a great imagination and can weave the familiar and unfamiliar with ease. Thought to be honest, I felt like I was reading one of my high schoolers papers. At the end of Chapter 2 the last three pages were repeated again at the start of Chapter three. There were obvious grammatical errors and missing words that hampered an immersive experience. Additionally, Wrights writing style seemed to have devolved. This manuscript felt rushed into publication. There was a lot of telling and little showing, an awful amount of repetition, and a serendipity of events that seemed to fall together without an obstacle. ‘Night Hunt’ read like a first draft, still needing a bit of development and editing. It was really disappointing as this series has wormed its way under my skin.

The structure of the story is another episodic instalment to the franchise, ending in a cliff-hanger for more novels to come. Again, there is too much introduced in ‘Night Hunt’ that was not resolved to give me complete satisfaction, and the writing felt immature. Don’t introduce too many elements in your story that you intend to resolve in a sequel – it puts readers off. And it makes the author appear amateurish.

I really enjoyed the magical elements and setting of the story. But just about every character had no or little development; and again Alec assembled the ‘Scooby Squad’ magically and without argument – it was all too convenient. I really need to start seeing some character driven stories and not plot driven ones. If he continues to follow his current writing style I fear the sequels are going to be interesting but altogether flat.

The action scenes were crafted well, but too short, and again suffered from serendipity – it means you can sense the hand of the author guiding the story instead of it unfolding organically. You want to keep you reader engaged as much as possible.

There is still a great effort in creating suitable spooky ambiance for certain scenes, but I feel Wright could go a little further so we can attach an emotional connection to really hammer home the following scenes.

I see real potential in Wright as a writer, but hope that ‘Night Hunt’ is just a small falter in the development of his writing career. While entertaining, it did not feel up to his regular standard… and I want to see him, and this series, improve with each instalment.

In all honesty, after reading ‘Night Hunt’ I wouldn’t recommend this to a friend. It pains me to say there was so much going on with grammar, character development, and lack of editing that I didn’t get to really enjoy the story.

Not such a glowing review, but a hopeful one.

Overall feeling: Disappointed, but with a glimmer of hope.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars’ (#2 Empress of a Thousand Skies) by Rhoda Belleza

A disappointing sequel.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 359

Empress

With a revolution brewing, Rhee is faced with a choice: make a deal with her enemy, Nero, or denounce him and risk losing her crown.

Fugitive

Framed assassin Alyosha has one goal in mind: kill Nero. But to get his revenge, Aly may have to travel back to the very place he thought he’d left forever—home.

Princess

Kara knows that a single piece of technology located on the uninhabitable planet Wraeta may be the key to remembering—and erasing—the princess she once was.

Madman

Villainous media star Nero is out for blood, and he’ll go to any means necessary to control the galaxy.

Vicious politics and high-stakes action culminate in an epic showdown that will determine the fate of the universe.

Where ‘Empress of a Thousand Stars’ kicked off the action fairly early, ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars’ took a little time to find it’s legs – which is disappointing because of the cliff-hanger the first book concluded on – and the situation that ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars’ commenced on – there was no need for my interest to wane, but I was continually putting the novel down every 4-5 pages. I think Rhoda Belleza needed to pay closer attention to her character motivation and development, make them more compelling if the action was not in the forefront, because. Frankly, when not faced with certain death, both leads were a little forgettable.

On the surface ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars’ has everything to make this a captivating read: plenty of action and a clipped pace, lots of interesting characters, misinformation and miscommunication, politics and backstabbing, rebellion and drama all in a setting of a distant galaxy and spaceships… not to mention a royal linage. However, this book was laboriously difficult to read. With constantly switching perspectives, frequent telling instead of showing, and SQUIRREL!! I really wanted to like ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars,’ I cut it a lot of breaks, but for some reason this series took a nosedive for me after the debut.

It took me quite a long time of pondering over the above issues to figure out why I wasn’t engaged with ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars.’ Was I just not in a reading mood? Did I have reader’s burn-out? Did my tastes suddenly change mid series? Really, I was surprised. I love science fiction and really enjoyed ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies,’ so why was my reading experience such a polar opposite for this sequel. There is plenty of action to push the pace forward, so why was I putting the book down so frequently after a few pages, or a chapter here and there? The answer – this is a plot centric novel. It didn’t give you enough time to sit with the characters, live in their skin and get a feel for their character and motivation. Instead it was a brief description (telling the reader) the protagonists’ sentiments, and then they were too busy reacting to some drama, explosion, attempted assassination… SQUIRREL! The action is great, but if you are not connecting with the character it doesn’t mean much, just a read bit of emotionless writing.

I can feel the potential in every line of this novel, and I’m uncertain if there were different editors that worked on this sequel as from ‘Empress of a Thousand Stars,’ because the underlying tone was slightly off. Maybe it was rushed to publication by the whole team to capitalize on the success of the series launch? Who knows, but the end result is that I really did not enjoy this as much as ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies.’ It look me over a month to read the book. And a few weeks after that to figure out why I was so distracted.

The plot is pretty great, I honestly felt like I was lost in a Star Wars saga.

We kept getting set up for a murder, or kidnapping, some cliff-hanger at the end of a chapter from a characters perspective, and then switch to another protagonist only to have that cliff-hanger immediately spoiled. I think this was another aspect dulling the experience for me. There was no anticipation, the surprises ruined immediately. There was only a glorious twist at the end that I did not see coming.

On the whole this was pretty meh for me. Though I do want to re-read this at some point in the future and readdress my review just to see if my opinion stands, because I’m really surprised I did not enjoy this more.

On a side note, there were grammatical errors in the last few chapters, like the editor had gotten tired and not seen the task through to the end. I really feel like the editing team let down this concluding novel for the ‘Empress of a Thousand Stars’ duology.

If pressed right now, I’d say skip this series… but will revisit my opinion once I get around to a re-read.

Overall feeling: Disappointing.

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Too Late’ by Colleen Hoover

A surprising departure from Colleen Hoover’s regular fare that brought all the negative feelings.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 394

Sloan will go through hell and back for those she loves.

And she does, every single day.

After finding herself stuck in a relationship with the dangerous and morally corrupt Asa Jackson, Sloan will do whatever it takes to get by until she’s able to find a way out.

Nothing will get in her way.

Nothing except Carter.

Sloan is the best thing to ever happen to Asa. And if you ask Asa, he’d say he’s the best thing to ever happen to Sloan. Despite Sloan’s disapproval of Asa’s sinister lifestyle, he does exactly what he needs to do in order to stay a step ahead in his business. He also does exactly what he needs to do in order to stay a step ahead of Sloan.

Nothing will get in his way.

Nothing except Carter.

The best way I can sum up my initial reaction to ‘Too Late’ is 10% titillation 90% revulsion. This book was triggering for me on so many levels. Colleen Hoover stated in the forward that this novel had a darker tone, (and why she released it under the moniker C. Hoover and not her full name to address the departure from her usual publications) and while none of the content actually surprised me, it had my inner feminist, protector, and fellow human being screaming and rattling a metaphorical cage. 

This is also not typically a novel. It’s a series of blog posts and chapters published in order they were written. So there was no weaving of a masterful plot, no going back and redrafting or editing. This was a stream of consciousness. Word vomit. Just for her enjoyment to escape the woes of what she was currently working on – get a reprieve from the tension and pressure. 

I admired how Colleen Hoover gets into the mind of antagonist Asa. And it certainly drew out a lot of passionate emotions from me. Which is sort of the point really – it’s just that they weren’t particularly nice emotions. 

Additionally, I’m not about violent sex, domination, abuse, or well, ‎sex scenes that don’t service the plot. Erotica or titillation just for the sake of it makes me feel like the author is taking a cheap shot. The easy road. Like they couldn’t come up with something more substantial and meaningful to attract a reader. Like sex in advertising. It works, but it’s not something that I find all that appealing. 

So how do you discuss a novel that’s not quite a novel? I’m just going off entertainment value. I was engrossed – and then grossed out. I had to keep putting the book down because I felt ill, like I was going to throw up. And angry. Frustrated. You get it… not a lot of happy feelings. So I was not entertained. It was like driving past a car crash on the side of the road. Such an awful thing to witness, crumpled metal and blood splatter, flashing lights of police cars and ambulances; and you know you shouldn’t look because there’s a chance you could see something that will scar you for life, but you just can’t seem to tear your eyes away.

Given the nature of this being a series of blog posts there isn’t really a structure to the story. There are entire chunks of the novel that are essentially flashbacks. Our protagonist Sloan is painted as a hero for surviving, and choosing to live through a controlling, abusive relationship. This triggers me so badly my thoughts and words turn into rambling passionate nonsense. Add to that, undercover cop and love interest, Carter, tipped as the knight in shining armour… well the characters felt flat to me, and unrealistic. Even the way the story was resolved had me eye-rolling; if this scenario played out in real life ALL the characters would be in jail.

I guess this novel did a great task in getting a strong emotional reaction out of me. For that I have to applaud Colleen Hoover. But for the story itself – well, it’s not your traditional mode of telling a story. The plot is a dog’s breakfast. The scenario did not feel researched thoroughly, and all the characters were (for me) completely unlikeable.

On the whole, ‘Too Late’ rubbed me the wrong way, and as conscious as I am to give this a proper review without letting my emotions take control of me, I can’t recommend this to anyone other than those interested in explicit sex scenes and rape scenarios.

It put me in an awful reading slump and I kind of want those two weeks back.

Overall feeling: Hell No!

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Stiletto’ (#2 The Checquy Files) by Daniel O’Malley

Supernaturally powered spies and medically advanced group of body modifiers team up against a foe while solving murders… it’s outrageous and I love it!

Genre: Science Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery

No. of pages: 583

When secret organizations are forced to merge after years of enmity and bloodshed, only one person has the fearsome powers—and the bureaucratic finesse—to get the job done. Facing her greatest challenge yet, Rook Myfanwy Thomas must broker a deal between two bitter adversaries:

The Checquy—the centuries-old covert British organization that protects society from supernatural
threats, and…

The Grafters—a centuries-old supernatural threat.

But as bizarre attacks sweep London, threatening to sabotage negotiations, old hatreds flare. Surrounded by spies, only the Rook and two women, who absolutely hate each other, can seek out the culprits before they trigger a devastating otherworldly war.

This took me a long time to read because there is a lot of filler. The pacing is slow. I am in love with Daniel O’Malley’s writing though, he is fantastic with world building and crafts some interesting and intriguing characters. The imagination that has gone into creating the universe of The Checquy astounds me.

I’m really excited to see where this series is going. Book three is already in edits and book four is underway so we should get some publication dates towards the end of this year.

On a side note, I’m not surprised the television adaptation got cancelled. To be honest, it took out all of the aspects that make this collection so much fun. The irony and comedy, the way-out there elements and wild paranormal powers. Instead it concentrated on political subterfuge and the spy elements, and they executed the powers in a way that felt bland. While I enjoyed the show, it did not deliver on all the facets that made ‘The Rook’ great.

Stiletto’ picks up shortly after events that took place in ‘The Rook’ and introduce some new perspectives. We still follow Myfawny, but the main storyline is told from the perspectives of Grafter, Odette Leliefeld, and Pawn, Felicity Clements.

With the Grafter contingent, a sworn enemy of the Checquy, wanting to amalgamate their organisations. But what the Checquy don’t know is that the Grafters (or Wetenschappelijk Broederschap van Naruurkundigen – Broederschap for short) have an enemy that is systematically wiping them out; and now with the tentative ground of the two organisations navigating tensions and mistrust, their threats have doubled. So much intrigue, subterfuge, and diplomacy mixed in with paranormal powers, events and, medical technology to create a melting pot of tension.

Felicity is a soldier. Work is her life. She is assigned cases to eliminate paranormal threats (or hotspots) and now also assigned as Odette’s bodyguard/minder/liaison. We get a sense of her Spartan life, the only luxury she indulges in is her pet dog. She flat shares with two other Pawns in a tiny converted town house. She is a rule follower, down the line straight man but has a close relationship with the others with whom she grew up with in the Estate. They are her new family.

Odette is a prodigy with medical ‘grafter’ surgery. She is all about her work and an indulgent Broederschap upbringing. A bit of a party girl. A girly-girl. So the juxtaposition of class, society, and being bound by rules and hierarchy clashes between Odette and Felicity (and the Checquy.) But she adapts to the change because it’s what her ancestor and leader of the Broederschap wants.

Myfawny is still adjusting to her new role (and memory loss) but we see her much stronger and competent than she was in ‘The Rook.’

I capital-L-Love the outlandish paranormal events! And despite Daniel O’Malley’s tendency to indulge in filler, his writing is something I’m envious of. So while, extremely well written, ‘Stiletto’ suffers from a huge pacing issue. The plot is intricate and we see several arcs unfolding tangentially, though I did get a slight episodic feel from the novel. There are some marvellous plot twists throughout which took me by surprise and a few threads are left hanging for the next instalment, though there is a real sense of accomplishment for ‘Stiletto.’

I’d love to recommend this to everyone – but if you did not care for ‘The Rook,’ ‘Stiletto’ is much the same fare. You need to have patience and enjoy exploring the universe of the Checquy without worrying about the plot moving forward at a strong pace. I really enjoyed this – the only real issue I had was with the amount of filler, but it did not detract too much from my revelling in the escapist nature of O’Malley’s writing style.

This is a long book (583 pages), and having purchased the hardcover version (with heavy stock pages) it was a pain in the ass to read at times because the book is so heavy and cumbersome to read. But with my few gripes, I have become addicted to Daniel O’Malley and this series. Eagerly awaiting future adventures and craziness!

Overall feeling: Deliciously outlandish!

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies’ (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) by Rhoda Belleza

A light sci-fi fantasy that took me on a wild ride.

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 314

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Crown Princess Rhiannon Ta’an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

This was better than I was expecting after the first few pages. I’d been recommended this through a number of blogs I follow and with it popping up in recommended books on both Amazon and Goodreads – so I caved. That first chapter I was not holding out much hope… with a whole lot of jargon, strange places, and weird names dumped on the reader I started to get that overwhelming feeling like when you read high fantasy. It’s all so foreign, and I just wanted something to relate to. But it ended after that; it was just dipping your toe into the pool thinking the water is cold, but after stepping in your body adjusts and your floating weightless in a new exotic world.

The next thing that grabbed me was the pacing. It was like every chapter had a cliff hanger of some sort. There was action from start to finish. I pretty much read this entire novel in one sitting.

The one irk I had with ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies’ was the world building – chiefly that of the plausibility of the solar system, broken into four quadrants, every planet populated with life… umm, the physics and science of the universe proves that this is not possible. But, once I got over that and settled into the drama of it all, I really found a pace with ‘Empress of a Thousand Skies’ and really enjoyed the story. It reminds me of Star Wars, but on a smaller scale. It’s got that childlike impossibility and imagination woven into a tapestry of comedy, love, and soap opera.

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Told in dual perspectives (apart from the last chapter) from Rhee (Rhiannon Ta’an) a survivor from an assassination attempt to wipe out the royal family; and Aly (Alyosha Myraz) a dark skinned soldier and television star. They both get caught up in murder schemes, a chase, fight for survival, and exposing the truth to lead a rebellion against a nefarious faction trying to replace the royal families rule over the solar system. There is a mix of naivety, grit, competence, and luck as the pair follow their own paths, cross, divert, ending in some major twist and turns.

For the most part the main plot is fairly predictable, Rhoda Belleza does not try hard to hide clues early on in the text, so many of the reveals are more a confirmation of intellectual guesses; but there were a couple of twists that took me by surprise. The best part though that detracts from this ease of foresight, was the action and pacing. Honestly, the writing style of Belleza had me totally gripped. I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes in the future – if it is a more realistic or plausible setting, she could knock it out of the park.

This is the debut in a duology of novels, and does not really end with a solid conclusion, rather ‘dot, dot, dot… tune in next week and see how our band of heroes get out of this one!’ So I was quick to jump online and put an order in for the concluding novel ‘Blood of a Thousand Stars.’

I’d definitely recommend this to those who love light sci-fi, fantasy, and YA. If you’re in to hard sci-fi you may find this a little ridiculous. A surprising read that gave me a fun day of reading.

Overall feeling: Yay for space operas!

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Empress of a Thousand Skies (#1 Empress of a Thousand Skies) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Life Expectancy’ by Dean Koontz

Fun and weird characters, murder, humour and a twist I didn’t see coming.

Life Expectancy Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Thriller, Mystery

No. of pages: 401

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Jimmy Tock comes into the world on the very night his grandfather leaves it. As a violent storm rages outside the hospital, Rudy Tock spends long hours walking the corridors between the expectant fathers’ waiting room and his dying father’s bedside. It’s a strange vigil made all the stranger when, at the very height of the storm’s fury, Josef Tock suddenly sits up in bed and speaks coherently for the first and last time since his stroke.

What he says before he dies is that there will be five dark days in the life of his grandson—five dates whose terrible events Jimmy will have to prepare himself to face. The first is to occur in his twentieth year; the second in his twenty-third year; the third in his twenty-eighth; the fourth in his twenty-ninth; the fifth in his thirtieth.

Rudy is all too ready to discount his father’s last words as a dying man’s delusional rambling. But then he discovers that Josef also predicted the time of his grandson’s birth to the minute, as well as his exact height and weight, and the fact that Jimmy would be born with syndactyly—the unexplained anomal of fused digits—on his left foot. Suddenly the old man’s predictions take on a chilling significance.

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It has been a while since I’ve indulged in a Dean Koontz creation, and ‘Life Expectancy’ reminded me of all the things I love about his writing. Witty banter, fun and weird characters, a good chase, serendipity, and some obtuse cyclical element that you never expect.

Life Expectancy’ is a deliciously weird tale intertwined with prophecy, mad men, fate, and family. We get different sections of the novel centred around the dates Jimmy Tock’s grandfather foretold as days of great importance and sorrow.

Jimmy Tock, born in an electric storm at the same moment as the child of a weird man, who then goes on a killing spree through the country hospital kicks this story off with a bloody mess and dragged me into the narrative with ease. The different parts jump to the dates that Grandad Tock magic-eight-balled for Jimmy to look out for and keep the pace of this novel cranked up to maximum. Even when Jimmy meets love interest Lorrie, we get instant great chemistry, and I became besotted with the pair from the get-go. True to Koontz’s writing style, there is a brilliant mix of comedy (humour) and horror (needless death and destruction) that was cinematic in form.

Life Expectancy Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

We don’t just get one bad guy either… antagonists that are sociopathically driven to enforce their justified point of view, all interwoven together in a crazy plot really threw me for a six. It was such a delicious delight to have these little unexpected twists.

The quaint backdrop of Snow Village – somehow reminding me of the set from ‘The Ghost Whisperer’ television show. A small town with a square, around which all the important buildings orientate. It just goes to show the descriptive abilities of Koontz’s writing style.

Because I’m such a fan of Dean Koontz and read countless of his tomes, I can say with confidence I predicted the ending pretty early one – however, there were a few surprising serendipities to that ending. And they were doozies. A one-two punch that had me making googly eyes at the page.

This hits the sweet spot of all the things I enjoy about Dean Koontz’s writing and happily recommend ‘Life Expectancy’ for your TBR.

Overall feeling: This!

Life Expectancy Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Life Expectancy Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘One of Us is Lying’ (#1 One of Us is Lying) by Karen McManus

A murder in the middle of The Breakfast Club.

One of Us is Lying (#1 One of Us is Lying) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery, LGBT

No. of pages: 361

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Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

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This feels difficult for me to rate and review. It has been hyped so much, and many friends, and bloggers I follow have raved about ‘One of Us is Lying.’ On the whole, this was well written and the plot unfolded masterfully. We get interesting fleshed-out characters and tension is maintained from beginning to end. We follow four protagonists, the narrative jumps to each of their perspectives frequently, so at the start I was all over the place and even had to jot down some notes to get the characters straight in my head – because not only do we get the four protagonists, but their friends and families as well. I struggled to fall into the world of ‘One of Us is Lying.’ It felt like it took half the novel for things to really get going. I put this novel down and read 3 others before picking it up again. But after the halfway point I was totally gripped.

I think because it took so long to develop so many characters, and set the scene, the first half suffered pacing issues with my reading experience. I was also frustrated with some of the things which happened in the novel – like the police or press contacting the kids directly; and even the kids fraternizing with each other after the fact. In real life, police can have their case thrown out the window, or even get suspended for questioning a minor without a parent or guardian present. News reporters risk jail for questioning an unaccompanied minor. And parents should be locking these kids up and keeping them away from each other – I mean we’re dealing with murder here. Hello? Is anybody in there? *knocking on your skull*

One of Us is Lying (#1 One of Us is Lying) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI understand what Karen M. McManus was doing, and I appreciate how she crafts a story. But having a background as a high school teacher and a person of authority, some aspects triggered me and pulled me from the narrative. I wish I could have just enjoyed it like fiction instead of poking holes in the plot.

With each cast member having a secret was a great tool for developing each character, and by default, giving them a nuance and point of interest. It is the kind of writing tool that attracted me to the novel in the first place.

I won’t say I easily predicted the story, but I will say I had some very strong hunches about some characters that proved to be true. I say this because I can’t pinpoint any facts that foretold the way the plot was going to unfold… it was just little things, character reactions which tingled my spidey senses that got me thinking. I have to hand it to McManus in structuring a marvellous mystery.

Her writing style is top notch and easy to read, but I would have liked some more separation between the character voices. If not for the name of each character in the title heading I may not have known who we were following. She could have used particular words and sentence structure unique to each character to differentiate and aid in identify differing points of view.

I think the other thing that contributed to this rating is that I did not connect/relate to any of the protagonists. I mean I cared about them, but there was no deep emotional bond with any of the cast. I felt like an observer rather than getting to experience the predicament through their eyes, this level of separation kept me from really getting into ‘One of Us if Lying.’

I’m going to be picking up the sequel ‘One of Us is Next,’ and now that I am familiar with the characters and the scene is set, having understood their history, I’ll should be able to forge a stronger connection, and ultimately, enjoy the read more.

I’m really looking forward to the television series adaptation currently in development, the visual format is better suited for following so many main cast and with a longer format of a full season of television allowing the story to unfold slowly, yet keeping up the pace… it opens the possibility that I may like the tv show better.

A fun read and one I’m happy to recommend.

Overall feeling: Had me raising an eyebrow…

One of Us is Lying (#1 One of Us is Lying) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

One of Us is Lying (#1 One of Us is Lying) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘The Millionaire’s Wife’ by Shalini Boland

Easy to read B-grade mystery thriller.

The Millionaire's Wife Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 298

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Everyone has their secrets. But this one could destroy your marriage.

When Anna Blackwell opens an email from an unknown sender, the shocking image attached shatters her perfect world. A woman has been killed. And Anna knows who did it. The past is catching up with her.

Is it her turn next?

To protect herself and her husband Will, she must tell him the terrible truth about her first love. But as the secrets of her life unravel, Anna begins to realise that she is not the only one who has been living a lie.

Anna doesn’t know who to turn to: her best friend, her parents, her husband. But she knows that her ex-lover is dangerous and she must stop him, before it’s too late…

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I’ve read a few titles from Shalini Boland so far and am really enjoying her writing, the books seem to be light mystery/thriller, fast paced and easy to read. Great weekend escape!

The first half of ‘The Millionaire’s Wife’ jumps around the timeline in alternating chapters; then the second half is sequential… although it unfolds an interesting story, I would have liked the format to have been consistent throughout.  Also, I feel there was a missed opportunity for a flashback at the end maybe, to something antagonist Fin said or did to foreshadow the novels events to bring the narrative in a full circle.

Our protagonist Anna is a little frustrating, she seems flaky and hides too much from the people around her. I get that Boland does this to create mystery and forge the plot, but I wanted to throw popcorn at the pages. Anna also exhibited some good instincts and wasn’t the stereotypical waif common in this genre, so that helped balance out some of my frustration. But on the whole I found aspects of her character unrealistic. It destroyed the fantasy… aw, poor me. Anna did have some character growth and showed grit towards the end, but there was something about her that didn’t quite sell the story. The altruist in me wanted to see justice for her bad decisions – and it would have made sense in the tone of ‘The Millionaire’s Wife.’

The Millionaire's Wife Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Will, Anna’s husband… umm. I want to say he’s a bit of a chump. The dude is lovely and all, but he’s whipped. Some of his reactions, the things that are done to him… mate run for the hills and never look back.

The big disappointment was antagonist Fin – I predicted his entire storyline a few pages in. Your everyday variety douchebag. Seriously it was like he had neon signs floating above his head flashing ‘Bad Guy!’ Even the blurb gives the plot away. Facepalm.

Anna’s bf, Sian came across as a lovely gal… until I was rolling my eyes. (read the book, you’ll understand.)

I had a big issue with plausibility – there were many character reactions and behaviours that didn’t sit well with me. The story felt intentionally crafted. I like my mysteries to unfold organically, get surprised, but I got none of that unfortunately (apart from the twist at the end.)

But there is a certain scene that had me sobbing. Boland can craft an emotional moment. After all is said and done, I do enjoy her writing. This read like one of those midday movies you caught when you were home sick from school.

The pacing for ‘The Millionaire’s Wife’ is fantastic and I read it in two short sittings. It had a bit of a spoony ending. This did not feel as strong for me in comparison to what I’ve read from Boland prior, I think it was the fault around some of the plain stupidity of a few characters.

Gagging for the cover art though – one of my favourites from this genre.

On the fence about recommending this one – maybe good for a teen demographic or those just dipping their toes into this genre, or die-hard Shalini Boland stans.

Overall feeling: Monday Midday Mystery Movie kind of vibes

The Millionaire's Wife Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Millionaire's Wife Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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.