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.

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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

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© 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.

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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

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© 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

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© 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

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© 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 – ‘Famous Last Words’ by Katie Alender

Moving into an old Hollywood starlet’s house in the hills and find it’s haunted – yes please!

Famous Last Words Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery

No. of pages: 320

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Willa is freaking out. It seems like she’s seeing things. Like a dead body in her swimming pool. Frantic messages on her walls. A reflection that is not her own. It’s almost as if someone — or something — is trying to send her a message. Meanwhile, a killer is stalking Los Angeles — a killer who reenacts famous movie murder scenes. Could Willa’s strange visions have to do with these unsolved murders? Or is she going crazy? And who can she confide in? There’s Marnie, her new friend who may not be totally trustworthy. And there’s Reed, who’s ridiculously handsome and seems to get Willa. There’s also Wyatt, who’s super smart but unhealthily obsessed with the Hollywood Killer.All Willa knows is, she has to confront the possible-ghost in her house, or she just might lose her mind . . . or her life.

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This novel has been on my TBR shelf for years. Years I tell you! So glad I have gotten around to reading ‘Famous Last Words’  because it has reminded me why I like reading this genre so much.

Katie Alender has a really cool writing style. It feels effortless. So many YA paranormal mysteries shoot off in tangents with info dumping or tripping the spooky fantastic, ‘Famous Last Words’ felt grounded in the story. Admittedly there were a few moments I wanted to eye-roll or shudder, but on the whole this was a delight to read. Alender has a sense of timing and comedy that I found charming.

For the most part I will say the novel was predictable. I had a hunch how it would turn out very early on, but with Alender’s writing style I was never 100% certain. So I still managed to stay engaged and get really sucked into the story.

Willa was a great protagonist. We didn’t get clues intentionally left out of the narrative to red-herring the reader. We uncover facts as she does. We get great character development. Though there is a little element of ‘out there’ to the plot, it felt grounded in plausibility, and I really liked the paranormal twist on the murder mystery. Willa does not feel like a waif or wallflower, nor does she feel like some high achieving super sleuth. Just a regular teen overcoming tragedy and attempting to fit into a new life moving to the Hollywood Hills with her mother and new stepfather.

There was great character building, all the cast had distinct personalities and it was easy to pick their voice from a crowd – it made reading ‘Famous Last Words’ effortless. The pacing did not lull once from the start of this first person narrative told through Willa’s eyes. I devoured this novel in two quick sittings.

Famous Last Words Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Once again it was great to see parental involvement in a YA mystery, though not as much as I would have liked. But on a side note the number of times Willa is asked if she was okay in the first half of this novel was a bit ridiculous. I may have been grinding my teeth after the third or fourth time.

We have two possible love interests: Wyatt an OCD loner nerd who was catnip to this reader gal; and Reed with a too-cute-to-be-good kind of vibe. The instant nature Willa and Reed’s attraction set off alarm bells to me. Duh-duh-duuuhhh!

And then we have Marnie, the friend who happens to be a compulsive liar and attention seeker, but with a streak of genuine-ness to her. For some reason this felt very Hollywood.

I enjoyed my time reading ‘Famous Last Words’ and would happily recommend this to younger readers whom love mystery and paranormal – older readers may not get as much out of it…

Overall feeling: A satisfyingly spooky mystery

Famous Last Words Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Famous Last Words Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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 – ‘Faerie Storm’ (#8 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A guilty pleasure that’s getting me back into fantasy.

Faerie Storm (#8 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Fantasy, Mystery

No. of pages: 268

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Be careful what you wish for…it might be inhabited by a demon.

When a case takes me to the wilderness of Northern Maine, I’m not even sure there’s a paranormal angle. Two girls walked into the woods one night and only one of them came back. She’s so traumatized by what she saw that she hasn’t spoken a word since.

The police come up empty-handed so the girl’s father hires me to find out what happened. Getting out of Dearmont for a while seems like a good idea—especially when there’s an ancient wizard trying to force me into using a cursed sword—so I pack the mosquito repellent and head north.

But when my client ends up dead, surrounded by occult symbols, I realize this is no vacation. Evil forces are at work here and someone is going to have to deal with them.

Guess that someone will have to be me.

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Another fun entertaining read from Adam Wright.

Faerie Storm’ follows another murder mystery and brings in a lot of characters both new and established in this series. We get a lot of world building, setting up to expand the Harbinger universe even wider (as Wright has a spin off franchise already slated with two novels for release in the Harbinger Academy series.)

This novel has really upped the ante, the stakes are higher, there is much more action, more intricate plot and plot points – Wright is really playing to his strengths in ‘Faerie Storm.’ It is the most engaged I’ve been in any of his novels so far. I am excited to see where his career goes if this level of development continues with each subsequent publication.

We don’t see a lot of growth or development with our protagonist, but he does overcome great obstacles and is changed because of it – the reason there isn’t a great character arc is because this is a serialised story. So we’re following different rules with this series. And what we get is fun escapist fiction that is action-orientated and a super-fast read. I managed to digest this tome in a matter of hours.

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There are still some grammatical errors – nothing a spell check would pick up, but a line editor should have. And the formatting of the physical book was off where the printed page is skewed too far to the right. I’ve seen these issues pop up in every other of Wrights novels so far, and I’m guessing it’s down to rushing through the writing/editing/publishing process and using a self-publishing platform. But those kinds of issues are slowly eliminated with experience. I am seeing a lot less mistakes, but yet to have a ‘perfect’ copy.

I’ve mentioned before that this series is a guilty pleasure read for me – it’s the kind of fantasy I can get into. High fantasy tomes are sometimes a bit too heavy and I get bored with excessive world building and long character backstories (or constant diversions into language, customs, etc.) Stick to the mythology and character development and a great plot. I like my read to have a clip of pacing.

There are a number of things set up for over-arcing storylines in the volumes in this franchise to come that sound exciting. I was a bit bummed we didn’t get a better resolution to the Cabal – that storyline is dragging a bit; but having said that it is the most excited for a sequel I’ve been since discovering Alec Harbinger P.I.  I’m really looking forward to ‘Night Hunt’ releasing in March 2020.

Adam Wrights writing style is improving. I’m seeing less repetition in common phrasing, less of the chauvinistic attitudes of our protagonist, less of the convenience and coincidence of the secondary cast (it’s still there, but less obvious) I’d still like to see some character development of all the cast, feel a stronger emotional connection, because if any of them were killed off at the moment (apart from Felicity) I’d be like, meh. And there was a bit of a rush at the end in setting the scene that felt disingenuous for the characters and setting. A small developmental editing tweak could have made it so much punchier. But I have to say this is best and by far the most engaging read in the series so far.

This one gets the MVP trophy!

Overall feeling: I want more, gimme more.

Faerie Storm (#8 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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 Haunted’ (#1 The Haunted) by Danielle Vega

The Grudge and Amytiville House all rolled into one.

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, Paranormal

No. of pages: 252

From Goodreads:

Hendricks Becker-O’Malley is new in town, and she’s bringing baggage with her. With a dark and wild past, Hendricks doesn’t think the small town her parents moved her to has much to offer her in terms of excitement. She plans on laying low, but when she’s suddenly welcomed into the popular crowd at school, things don’t go as expected.

Hendricks learns from her new friends that the fixer-upper her parents are so excited about is notorious in town. Local legend says it’s haunted. Hendricks doesn’t believe it. Until she’s forced to. Blood-curdling screams erupt from the basement, her little brother wakes up covered in scratches, and something, or someone pushes her dad down the stairs. With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don’t take her first.  

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A brilliant little fast-paced read that feels like you’re watching a horror movie.

Danielle Vega has done it again! I loved ‘The Haunted.’ It created a sufficiently spooky atmosphere and walked that line of reality and supernatural. A fantastic haunted house storyline that slowly unfolds to a totally unpredictable ending. If I have one criticism, it’s that the story wasn’t complex enough. But I have noticed that about Vega’s writing. She likes short, to the point horrors that build intense imagery.

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleHendrick’s is a fun protagonist, moving to a new small town, enrolling in high school and dealing with some weird hallucinations that may or may not be connected to a troubled past. The town of Drearfield offers Hendricks a clean slate, one that she is determined to take advantage of. Straight off the bat she is a got-getter. Proactive. Despite past events, she is not wallowing in grief or self-pity. I instantly liked her. Hendricks was a battler right to the end.

We do get a lot of tropes however – the parents not believing or being involved in the paranormal storyline, the emo loner, the jock, the love triangle… it was a little bit cringey, but I have to admit, I enjoy those from time to time. Even with those tropes, the friends Hendricks makes at school does deconstruct the stereotypes a little, giving a taste of freshness to Vega’s writing style.

Eddie, the emo loner and next door neighbour, jilted from the ‘in’ crowd at school, knows more about the haunting than he’s letting on; and is one of the love interests for Hendircks. I enjoyed how Vega develops this character, even if it is somewhat predicable.

Our jock, Connor, seems to be the quintessential stereotype, turns out to have a heart of gold, oodles amount of patients, and once I got to see him interact with many of the other cast, came to favour him above all the rest… and it was interesting having him as Hendrick’s other suitor.

Notable mention: the not-quite-mean-girl, Portia played her role expertly. But I could take her or leave her, she was an integral part of the plot – as the tool for dragging our protagonist into unfamiliar situations. I felt like she needed a bit more development and wasn’t so stereotypical.

There are some triggers around torture, sexual assault and abuse, and definitely some gory scenes to boot.

Read easily in two sittings, and ties everything up nicely. Enjoyed the ending – that plot twist though… girl!

The dominant theme was about overcoming abuse and learning to stand up for yourself. And family.

Vega has cemented herself as one of my auto-buy authors. She’s highly recommended to those younger readers who love horror – like a Stephen King starter pack.

I thought this was going to be a standalone, but just found out there is a sequel slated for release in 2020 titled ‘The Unleashed.’  You can bet your first born I’m excited about this and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Overall feeling: Holy Haunted House!

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 02 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 – ‘Twilight Heart’ (#7 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Sorceresses, witch portals, Excalibur… things are getting interesting.

Twilight Heart (#7 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 214

From Goodreads:

How do you mend a broken heart?…

Put it back into the sorceress it came out of.

There’s only one way to lift Mallory’s death curse and Alec will do anything to save his friend.

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I’m starting to sit on the fence with this series. While it falls under the category of ‘guilty pleasure’ for me – entertaining, easy, quick read full of action; Wright’s writing is not evolving, and each subsequent sequel is feeling episodic, repetitive and serialized.

These novels are tending towards being entirely plot driven. No character development. Still the secondary characters are used as tools to service the main character and drive the plot forward. I was trying to figure out what it was that was bothering me so much about this writing style, and then it hit me: the novel reads like a Cliff’s notes version of itself. Not enough time is spent on the meaty parts of the story (where we have opportunities for the characters to grow and change from the adversity they face) and in between these scenes is longer than necessary with descriptions of menial facts. I wanted more world building, more ambience. I’d like to see Wright dwell in the key plot points, turning points, and conclusion of the novel. ‘Twilight Heart’ felt a bit rushed.

BUT. Having said all that, the saving grace is that the material is quite entertaining. I love all the paranormal goings-on… though lately is getting a bit scattered. And you can read the entire book within 2-3 hours.

Angel Heart

I will say that Wright’s writing has improved – I’m not getting the repetition of typical phrases that cropped up a lot in previous novels. The language is engaging and he can insert humour in the perfect spots. I just wish he’d allow the story to unfold organically. I get a real sense of the author guiding the story along. He’s got all the tools to write an outstanding novel in this genre – I just wonder if he’s putting undue pressure on himself to churn out a certain number of novels in a year?

While sticking to the now established pattern of solving one key crime/mystery per novel, and dropping breadcrumbs of others in the last page or two of another, I feel a little cheated. Again we could get more exploration of the new clues and mysteries. Have them scattered throughout the novel to build a momentum so that when the teaser for the next novel is delivered it packs a punch. Leaves the reader with anticipation. Instead it feels like a ‘Oh by the way… The End’

I also found more grammatical errors that could have been picked up with a read-through.

So while I am enjoying these novels, I’d only recommend them to their niche demographic, and, if Wright doesn’t start developing his storytelling methods, I’m going to get bored and abandon his books completely.

Overall feeling: Fun, but it’s getting a little meh…

Twilight Heart (#7 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Twilight Heart (#7 Harbinger P.I.) 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 – ‘Immunity’ (#2 Contagion) by Erin Bowman

Bacteria fuelled telepathic zombies (sort of).

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Horror.

No. of pages: 434

From Goodreads:

They thought their nightmare was over, but Thea, Coen, and Nova’s rescue was only the beginning. After being imprisoned on a ship they thought was their ticket to safety, it’s clear that the threat they left behind isn’t as distant as they’d hoped—and this time the entire galaxy is at risk.

Now that threat is about to be unleashed as an act of political warfare. To prevent an interstellar catastrophe, the survivors must harness the evil they faced on the planet Achlys and learn to wield the only weapon they have left: themselves.

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This was a great conclusion to the series. Plenty of action. Copious twists and turns. All the sci-fi things that I love!

We follow the three escapees from Achlys: Thea, Coen and Nova, and introduce Amber as well as Naree – all taking pivotal roles in not only a political war, but one against the spread of the deadly bacteria.

We get the omnipresent perspective and insights into all the characters, and I like how the sections of the novel were broken up into locations.

The only thing that didn’t quite ring true for me was the pacing. Thea and Coen spent half the novel locked up in a cell, so it sapped all the action and pacing out of the novel.

There is slightly more romance and some of it tied into the Psychrobater achli with bonding pairs, but that felt a little forced rather than borne from a biological imperative, so it felt a little corny – as too did the telepathy. But the latter was a major plot point for the story so I can forgive these interesting side effects of the contagion.

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

While ‘Immunity’ is heavily plot driven, we get some character development as well. With everything the teens have to overcome and sacrifice, they grow up real fast and start taking into account the safety of planets above their own. Also having a spectrum of cultural backgrounds and sexuality as something every day and matter of fact was refreshing.

I absolutely loved Erin Bowman’s writing style and am definitely picking up her taken trilogy next. Hopeful I have discovered my next auto-but sci-fi author.

I can’t say I predicted this series all too well, I was always surprised by the plot twists and loved how Erin Bowman can craft a reveal.

Totally recommend this to sci-fi geeks like me everywhere, but the pacing wasn’t as good as the debut.

Overall feeling: Oh My SpaceOpera!

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wreck 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 – ‘Wreck’ by Fleur Ferris

Uncovering secrets is a dangerous job.

Wreck Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 288

From Goodreads:

Tamara Bennett is going to be the first journalist to strictly report only good news. Finished with high school, Tamara is ready to say goodbye to her sleepy little town and part-time job at the local paper. O-weeks awaits, which means parties, cute boys and settling into student res with her best friend Relle. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when she arrives home to find her house ransacked and her life in danger. What is this mysterious note? And why does it mean so much to one of Australia’s most powerful media moguls? Caught between a bitter rivalry and dangerous family secret, who can Tamara trust? Or should she trust herself?

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Wreck’ roped me in straight away. Told in dual perspectives, alternating chapters between present day 18 year old Tamara, about to commence O-Week at a Melbourne University; and five years in the past from the 13 year old son of a media mogul William. It starts off with a bang – Tamara being burgled, attacked, held at gunpoint; and William navigating away from an abusive older brother and a ship unsuccessfully navigating a violent storm, about to succumb to the dark ocean. From that point it was hard to put this novel down. I read it in one sitting. It felt like it went fast. The pacing was fantastic, action and mystery at every turn.

I think this is the best Fleur Ferris novel I’ve read to date. And it gets even more props for being set mostly in Melbourne, Australia. A place I like to call home. We get a real sense of Australian life and culture without it feeling stereotyped in Ferris’ writing style. Tamara likes to surf and cares about our beaches, clearing rubbish when she can. Thongs are a big thing: that’s flip flops for my American readers. And we get the some local colloquialisms too. It helped me strongly identify with the main characters.

Tamara is an aspiring journalist, determined, righteous, and full of optimism. We get a strong sense that her character development is all about overcoming fear and uncovering the truth, something strongly tied to her journalistic integrity. William comes across as desperate and scattered, a victim. But there is a softer, more rational side to him. This novel is more about his redemption.

Wreck Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

One thing that really stood out to me with ‘Wreck,’ is that instead of the trend in YA where the characters isolate themselves from people of authority whose job it is to police, investigate, protect with flimsy rationale or convoluted circumstances, ‘Wreck’ embraces the adults and brings them into the story. It was truly refreshing and added a layer of realism to the narrative. And gave the protagonists a major helping of intelligence in my opinion.

There was instant hate and frustration at the antagonist of the story from the get-go. Knox makes the perfect villain, though I would have liked to have seen him a more rounded character instead of his only motivation being jealousy and greed.

Wreck’ is easily predictable for me, not like the uncertainty of ‘Found.’ Though it is a great ride right to the end. There was one thread left hanging that I felt was essential to the story. While it is resolved in principal, I felt it needed a stronger resolution and a more emotional ending to really pack a punch. That said, Fleur Ferris as cemented herself as one of my favorite authors. I really hope she keeps writing YA thriller/mysteries.

Definitely recommend this one to all!

Overall feeling: Ay Chihuahua!

Wreck Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wreck 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.