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

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 – ‘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.

Faerie Storm (#8 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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

Faerie Storm (#8 Harbinger P.I.) 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 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.

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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.

Book Review – ‘Midnight Blood’ (#6 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A hodge-podge of magical beings and elements – and I like it.

Midnight Blood (#6 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 242

From Goodreads:

If you love someone, set them free…If they come back, they could be a zombie

Someone is trying to kill Charles Hawthorne, one of the richest men in Maine. And they’re using magic to do it.

He suspects the members of his own family and hires me to check them out. I soon discover that Charles Hawthorne has a dark secret in his past; a secret that may have come back to haunt him.

With an ancient wizard bugging me to chase down the Midnight Cabal and two Shadow Watch agents who want to question me about my father, things are going to get crazy.

Oh, and Mallory’s back, along with some supernatural baggage.

Time to sharpen the swords…no, not that sword…and get to work!

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Another instalment of the P.I. Harbinger series. I really enjoyed this one. A quick, adventurous read. I had commented a little about some of the machismo/sexism that our protagonist Alec sometime exhibited, and it seemed to have been tossed out the window in ‘Midnight Blood’ and made it a much more pleasant read – though we do get a bit of this attitude (and classism) from one of the agencies clients in the story.

There is still that niggling notion of some of the overarching storylines that continue through many different volumes of this series, and how they aren’t moved forward enough for me to get any satisfaction – if they are sprinkled so lightly, the reader is going to start forgetting clues and not get invested in the story. It feels much like a tv episode where a case is wrapped up and a few points are hit for seasonal arcs. Its fun reading but is starting to get repetitive. I don’t want the Harbinger series to get stale and formulaic. Though Adam Wright’s writing is improving with each subsequent sequel.

Midnight Blood (#6 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There were no repetition of phrases (like in some of the prequels) in ‘Midnight Blood,’ the pacing was great, and the story flowed easily. I did find a number of small grammatical errors, but nothing worth noting. I couldn’t help but ponder on the switch to dual perspectives (following Alec’s assistant Felicity as she took over the case of ‘Midnight Blood’s plot) well after the halfway point when Alec’s narrative had been well established… it felt a bit amateurish.

There is still a bit of that convenience of calling on the rest of his ‘Scooby Gang,’ and them just falling in line, risking their lives. It was written better here, but still, there was little establishment or motivation to make it feel believable.

I really enjoyed Alec in this one, there wasn’t the predilection to describe women by their physical characteristics in a sexual manner, and they weren’t falling over themselves to jump his bones. It was a lovely reprieve. I think with that old James Bond-esque tone removed, I really got into the story instead of eye-rolling at the relationships/flings/flirting. Taking time to develop character and story has greatly benefited ‘Midnight Blood.’ Whatever romantic relationship Alec develops in the future, I hope it follows suit and build and grows from something, and not just a reaction to something or an impulse.

This did feel too short. The main storyline on the attempts of a wealthy man’s life through magical means was perfect, but I needed more from the three other plot lines, and maybe some more development in the relationships between the cast. It doesn’t give me any time to care about the people Alec has in his life if they are just cameos serving as a plot device to drive the story forward (without facing any difficulty.) We’re getting to the point now where there are six novels in this collection and I can’t recall or describe the different types of relationships between Alec and the different members of the Scooby gang. He has saved their lives, but I don’t feel that connection when reading the book. Mallory is a past love interest, and some scenes are great, and others, just meh. As for the Blackwell sisters… I really have no clue there, they just seem to be someone to turn to when you need a spell or teleported somewhere. They serve no other purpose in the story.

Midnight Blood’ is predictable – you know Alec is going to solve his case – he always does. I’d like to see him fail, or face some bigger hurdle to mix things up a bit. But this is still a fun read I’d recommend to fans and lovers of the paranormal detective genre.

Not bad, still a guilty pleasure. Looking forward to the next sequel ‘Twilight Heart.’

Overall feeling: Getting better – a gold star for you!

Midnight Blood (#6 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Midnight Blood (#6 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 – ‘Contagion’ (#1 Contagion) by Erin Bowman

A brilliant surprise of a read!

Contagion (#1 Contagion) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Horror

No. of pages: 432

From Goodreads:

It got in us.

After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

Most are dead.

But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.

Don’t set foot here again.

As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.

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I picked this up one evening intending to read a few chapters and get a feel for ‘Contagion.’ Skip to 3am and I was halfway through. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It was a little bit ‘Illuminae’ and a little bit ‘Alien.’ I was hooked from start to finish.

The only point that played against ‘Contagion’ for me is a tiny one. We get introduced to a lot of cast members in the debut chapters and it took a lot of concentration to keep it all straight. I nearly sketched up a diagram… but as the narrative began to focus on a small handful as the story progressed my enrapture increased exponentially. This is a real thrill ride.

We get many different perspectives in the novel, some only lasting for a paragraph or two. Normally I would find this jarring, but it drove the story forward, each new member bringing something unique to the storyline, or revealing a plot point. The main characters we end following the most, however are intern scientist Thea (to a Dr. Tarlow – who is also important to this story), Black Quarry survivor Coen, student pilot Nova, and young ambitious captain Dylan. They all have their secrets and all have an individual drive to be where they are. ‘Contagion’ reads a lot like a mystery thriller as each of their back stories comes to light. I loved Erin Bowman’s writing style, it totally captivated my attention from start to finish. The cast all have their own arcs and have changed by the conclusion of the novel. Bowman did not miss a beat. She has made me an instant fan from this book alone.

Contagion (#1 Contagion) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Be warned – ‘Contagion’ ends on a cliff hanger. You might want to pick up the sequel ‘Immunity’ straight away… if you’re one that does not have a lot of patience.

There were many plot twist revealed in ‘Contagion.’ Many I did not see coming, and I loved the surprise! I had a few predictions, but none of what I thought came about (well one sort of did, but that’s another story.)

This novel plays with themes of trust, fear and paranoia, the science of how epidemics come about, isolation, zombies (of sorts), and greedy corporations.

An excellent read that I am giving the highest recommendation.

Overall feeling: Holy fuzzknuckle what a ride!

Contagion (#1 Contagion) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Contagion (#1 Contagion) 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 – ‘Risk’ by Fleur Ferris

Realistic fiction with a scary scenario.

Risk Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Mystery, Thriller, Realistic Fiction

No. of pages: 279

From Goodreads:

Taylor and Sierra have been best friends for their whole lives. But Taylor’s fed up. Why does Sierra always get what – and who – she wants? From kissing Taylor’s crush to stealing the guy they both met online for herself, Sierra doesn’t seem to notice when she hurts her friends.

So when Sierra says Jacob Jones is the one and asks her friends to cover for her while she goes to meet him for the first time, Taylor rolls her eyes. 

But Sierra doesn’t come back when she said she would.

One day. Two days. Three . . .

What if Taylor’s worrying for nothing? What if Sierra’s just being Sierra, forgetting about everyone else to spend time with her new guy? 

When Taylor finally tells Sierra’s mum that her daughter is missing, Taylor and her friends are thrown into a dark world they never even knew existed.

Can Taylor find Sierra’s abductor in time? Or should she be looking for a killer?

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This is a brilliant book – more so for the experience of a young girl falling victim to an online predator and all of the education this tale supplies. Being honest, I put this book down halfway through because I was getting really frustrated with the protagonist Taylor and her best friend Sierra. They were annoyingly stupid, secretive, and well… realistically teen girls. I just wanted to shake them and force them to wake up to how idiotic and reckless their behavior was. Maybe if I had read this in my early teens when I was the target market for ’Risk,’ but maybe not. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the risky behavior of the girls involved. So I see putting the book down for a while not as a sign of bad writing, pacing, or character development; but of how immersed I was in the story. The strength of my emotional reaction to the situation.

Upon picking up the book again, it was evident that the narrative quickly changed and the pace stepped up even more. If I had only read another 20 pages before putting it down the first time, the tone of the novel would have completely changed. From stupid-stubborn-reckless teen girls obsessed with boys, to a high-stakes murder mystery. I was really taken on a ride with ‘Risk.’ It brought up some of my past friendships, memories of my childhood, of living in Melbourne, and of a depressing time when my Mother passed. I was triggered. But in a good way.

Risk’ follows Taylor’s story and involvement in her best friend Sierra’s relationship with a boy she meets online, her eventual abduction and the events that follow on thereafter. The scary part is that is all feels too real, so conceivable. Taylor and Sierra are so quintessentially those teen girls that long for this epic love story, pushing their parents away because, like, they don’t get it. They don’t realise their parents are looking out for them. The girls just want the romance. They don’t realise that they are ripe for an experienced child predator to step in with a routine, ‘grooming’ the girls to a meet up in real life. And that’s when the real scary stuff kicks in.

Risk Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I think the thing that has stayed with me the most after reading ‘Risk’ is how it affected everyone else. The novel follows friends, family, teachers, police, and the general public’s reactions as well as our main cast. It’s something that adds gravitas and seriousness to the storyline. This is where the education and awareness steps front and centre as a theme to really kick you in the guts.

Getting into the nitty-gritty of my reading experience, I guess I wanted more sophistication. From the characters and the plot. A quicker set up of the storyline in the beginning and further exploration of the mystery. Sleuthing out the online predator. But that’s only because I’m waaay out of the target demographic and loved the detective-styled second half of the novel.

This is no cliché’d after-school special on the dangers of online dating. ‘Risk’ is visceral and based in a real world scenario. I can see it as a valuable addition to a high school English curriculums reading list. It has some great discussion topics and educates in a way that is not depressingly obvious. Certainly a gem in the rough and something I want to give to all the young readers I know.

Overall feeling: a shake up and a wake up

Risk Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Risk Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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

Delectable Detective and Punchy Paranormals but some Morbid Machismo….

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

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the narrative improved after the half way mark.

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlilse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall feeling: Trying to ignore the flaws…

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

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

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.