Book Review – ‘Lock Every Door’ by Riley Sager

A modern-day thriller with gothic undertones…

Genre: Y/A, Thriller, Mystery,

No. of pages: 370

They’ve offered you a luxury apartment, rent free. THE CATCH: you may not live long enough to enjoy it…

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents.

These are the only rules for Jules Larson’s new job as apartment sitter for an elusive resident of the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile private buildings and home to the rich and famous.

Recently heartbroken and practically homeless, Jules readily accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

Out of place among the extremely wealthy, Jules finds herself pulled toward other apartment sitter Ingrid. But Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her. Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story – but the next day, her new friend has vanished.

And then Jules discovers that Ingrid is not the first temporary resident to go missing…

Welcome to the Bartholomew…You may never leave.

I’ve really enjoyed Riley Sager’s work in the past and ‘Lock Every Door’ promises to be another chilling tale of a twisty murder mystery for an outwitting final girl. This book did not disappoint.

Our protagonist, Jules as an apartment sitter with a checkered past and sets up this novel nicely – though with the rules and regulations around this job immediately had flashing lights and sirens going off in my head. They were literally screaming ‘Run Girl!’ So the believability was on shaky ground from the get-go. What sort of haunted house ish was this set up? I don’t know if it was tongue-in-cheek, playing on the horror trope intentionally, or just lazy plotting.

The mystery part and tense ambience was written really well. I was making my list of suspects even before there was a murder to think of – and believe me there are plenty of suspects. I will say I had hunched out the mystery of sorts but then second-guessed myself because I thought it was too obvious; though the details of said mystery were way off, so it kept me interested and the pay-off was well worth the journey to get there.

The world building is executed with aplomb. Marrying the New York City and gothic tone of the Bartholomew were just perfection – sprinkle in a little bit of isolation and powerlessness for Jules and it paints the perfect landscape for this thriller. There is a heavy element of trying to impose the supernatural in ‘Lock Every Door’ that I feel wasn’t dealt with properly – it could have been so much more than it was.

I think some of the ridiculousness of the plot, combined with a missed opportunity is what held me back from being fully immersed in the story, but Sager’s writing style really shines.

I’m on the fence about recommending this one – it’s an entertaining read for sure, but there was something about this that just didn’t sell the story for me… so I’ll say a soft recommendation. Maybe for the reader who wants a taste of the mystery/thriller demographic but who doesn’t read a lot in that genre.

Overall feeling: Spooky-oooky

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

The type of diverse novel I’ve been longing to read. No hate. Just meetcute.

What If It's Us Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 437

From Goodreads:

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

This was such an adorable story. Arthur and Ben are deliciously, awkwardly cute. A realistic things-don’t-always-go-right sort of thing.

What if it’s us’ is everything I expected it to be. Well written characters, a meet cute oozing innocence, awkwardness and angst. I may have rated it higher, but in comparison to ‘Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda’ this didn’t hit me as hard… or have as much comedy. So it just missed out on a perfect score. But that is not to say that is any less of a captivating read.

Four hundred pages and still ‘What if it’s us’ flew by. I was always eager to see where the next chapter would take me. The alternating perspectives between Arthur and Ben lead off on two different storylines that happened to intertwine more and more as the novel progressed without rehashing information as we head-jumped into each narrative. I will say that the writing style did not differ too greatly between each perspective – if it weren’t for chapter titles and references I would have difficulty discerning whose voice was whose. I’d love to have seen some idiosyncrasies, habits, common word usage and tone separate the two perspectives a little more.

What If It's Us Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Arthur, the shorter college-bound nerd discovering his first love made me smile with his uncertainty in everything but love. His values in family and friendship. I think this is the first story where there is no bitchiness or bullying, so a surprisingly fun rom-com.

It felt like Ben had the biggest journey in this contemporary; discovering things about himself through introspection, friends, and of course, Arthur. He felt more like the stoic introvert that finally comes out of his shell.

It’s all about coming of age…

All of the secondary characters had their own stuff going on too: getting together, breaking up, fighting, and supporting each other. I really loved this aspect of ‘What if it’s us’ and really fleshed out the narrative.

It ends on the same note of the title as a question – like a true contemporary. One of hope that left me satisfied and hopeful myself.

The pacing is fairly steady. It’s not a fast read, but definitely does not feel like its dragging. The perfect timing for this type of genre.

Definitely recommend for lovers of stories of diversity, light romances, and New York City.

Overall feeling: A deliciously snuggy story

What If It's Us Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

What If It's Us Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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 – I’ll Get There It Better Be Worth The Trip by John Donovan

Unassuming New York brought to its knees by a dachshund!

I'll Get There It Better Be Worth The Trip Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 228

From Goodreads:

When the grandmother who raised him dies, Davy Ross, a lonely thirteen-year-old boy, must move to Manhattan to live with his estranged mother. Between alcohol-infused lectures about her self-sacrifice and awkward visits with his distant father, Davy’s only comfort is his beloved dachshund Fred. Things start to look up when he and a boy from school become friends. But when their relationship takes an unexpected turn, Davy struggles to understand what happened and what it might mean. 

Page border by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I have mixed feelings for ‘I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip’ because upon finishing this book, I was delighted; but while reading, especially the first half, I was bored. But this is definitely a masterful title and something that will resonate with intelligent readers long after it’s finished.

The writing style is very blunt and staccatoed, it’s not an entirely unpleasant to read. Though, it felt so foreign to the types of books I generally read. It reads like a child has written it – which is very true to the inner voice of our protagonist Davy.

The star of this book is definitely Davy’s dog, Fred! He completely captured my heart and had me chuckling in many places. Who can resist an adorkable puppy?

Honourable mentions go to the realistic character portraits of the new best friend, Altschuler and Davy’s alcoholic mother. Both were painted in raw gritty colours through Davy’s eyes, and a story behind their behaviour is inferred. This made an intriguing read, not to have all the facts explained.

I'll Get There It Better Be Worth The Trip Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleA breakdown for the mediocre rating and the reason I found the first half less than exciting lies with how it felt very much like a recount of mundane facts. And on the surface that’s all it is. The perspective you gain upon finishing the novel will switch that all on its head. There is a lot of symbolism and metaphors, and it did take me a while to switch on to it all… mainly because I repeatedly put this book down (due to afore mentioned waning of attention).

Given this novel was written over 40 years ago, the tale still stands the test of time. I loved the description of the streets of New York, and Central Park – they jumped from the page just as brightly as Fred.

I went into this book not knowing anything other than it was about a boy and his dog and was considered a classic in LGBTQI+ Literature. It was nice. I guess I expected more to happen. ‘I’ll Get There, It Better Be Worth The Trip’ is quietly impactful. Much like life, it travels along innocently until something happens to shift your perspective: and that is the strong sense I garnered from this book.

It’s not necessarily a coming out story, but one of accepting loss and change. This fact alone sets it apart from the typical novel in this genre. At the beginning of the novel this theme is set up immediately when Davy’s Grandmother passes. The rest of the story line interprets the same narrative style in varying degrees.

It ends with a typical note seen in classic contemporaries, that … after a poignant moment, leaves you to draw your own conclusions. Which I like, and am starting to see a trend away from that in modern releases – not everything needs to be tied up in a pretty little bow.

A short novel with a lot of meaning, well worth the read – especially if you love dogs.

Overall feeling: I didn’t see that one coming!

I'll Get There It Better Be Worth The Trip Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

I'll Get There It Better Be Worth The Trip Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

 

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Film vs Novel – Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

I think this film has dyslexia…

Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist Film vs Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

I loved the novel, and am of the opinion that it is definitely the best of what Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written together. It is gritty, artsy and embodies the soul of New York and garage bands. The characters are all painted with bright colours and flaws making them all loveable in individual ways.

Nick 06

The film captures that same spirit, and while I enjoyed it, was a little taken aback as they mashed some of the sequences of the novel with others. Dialogue came from different people and scenes took place in different settings. I was also disappointed that some of my favourite scenes from the book were not included in the film. Overall I thought the picture was so-so, nowhere near as poignant as the book.

Although the narrative is witty, and such edgy symbolism is planted throughout, ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ suffered from two of my biggest turn-offs in books: the flashback, and excessive embellishment of a scene (otherwise known as mental wanderings). I think if it hadn’t exceeded my expectations in all other areas I would have abandoned it early on.

All of the cast in the movie gave me issue – Kat Dennings and Ari Graynor (Norah and Caroline respectively) felt too mature for this, even though I agree Kat played the lead expertly. I could see how her humour embodies much of Norah’s character, but we never got to really see her shine. Michael Cera was a genius casting choice, although I had pictured Nick much differently, Michael really captured the nonchalance of Nick perfectly. One scene in the book where he and Thom talk about The Beatles and are holding hands was cute, but it got ruined in the movie for me, when, I only presume for comedic purposes – Nick is seen by some passers-by and breaks the hand hold. In the book, Nick really does not care about sexual orientation or being touchy-feely with anyone… dropping Thom’s hand felt like the screenwriters had just flown in the face of everything Nick is (to get a laugh from the audience). He had so many other comedic moments in the story – why not use one of those instead of making him seem homophobic?

Nick (Michael Cera), Caroline (Ari Graynor) and Norah (Kat Dennings) star in Columbia Pictures and Mandate Pictures' comedy Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist.

Nick (Michael Cera), Caroline (Ari Graynor) and Norah (Kat Dennings) star in Columbia Pictures and Mandate Pictures’ comedy Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

It’s a little hard to compare the story of the movie when it was such a jumbaliah of the written word. I longed to see Norah pushing Nick into the closet, catch more of Norah’s physical comedy and deadpan punchlines… and although the movie was great, it left out so much of what I found endearing. So it’s another novel for the win!

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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 – Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

A Christmas Scavenger Hunt full of Hipsters and Ho Ho Ho!

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 260

From Goodreads:

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

16-year-old Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on her favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. Dash, in a bad mood during the holidays, happens to be the first guy to pick up the notebook and rise to its challenges.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I picked this up after reading ‘Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List’ and jumped in without any prior knowledge, lucky I did, because if I knew it was a Christmas themed novel I may not have bothered. Usually Holiday Season novels are cheesy or full of saccharine reminiscing and good will. But ‘Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares’ bucked the trend and left me chortling in my chair.

This is an innocent little book, with a scavenger hunt through the streets of New York, pitting both Dash and Lily into some strange places and meeting equally obscure people. I loved the cast of characters, and while it amused me to no end the antics they got up to, in the back of my mind I was always concerned about their safety. It is mentioned in the book, but the lack of adult supervision allows them to step out of their comfort zones and makes for an interesting read.

Both Dash and Lily have their own amount of quirk, and while I did not relate to either character all that much, I did relate to the dares they offered up. It reminded me of some of the things I got up to with my friends in high school.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares’ is a light read – I completed it in an afternoon – with a witty narrative that had me laughing many, many times. I would rate it above ‘Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List’ just from the sheer light-hearted comedy which runs from cover to cover. It is, on the most part predictable, but the adventures these characters had come out of left field… I kept thinking what crazy thing they will do next.

Recommended for a younger audience and readers who want to reminisce over their silly teen years, or want a sweet Christmas tale.

Overall feeling: Like a yummy cup of eggnog.

Dash and Lilys Book Of Dares Book Review Pick 03 by Casey Carlisle

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.

Film vs Novel – Younger

Younger Film vs Novel Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleI feel uncomfortable making this comparison – mostly because I got such extreme and opposing emotions from both. And that was completely unexpected.

Firstly the storyline in the TV series felt much more realistic. The situation. The motivation of Alice’s character, and the characters of the supporting cast. The show set up Alice as a determined mother trying to piece her life together and regain a foothold in the workforce… even if she had to get creative to do it. The tone set was serious with some light-hearted goodness through and through.

With the novel, I got the distinct impression that a bitter old lady was at the keyboard trying to make her point that getting old was not a bad thing… and it rubbed me the wrong way. The whole way Alice came about her decision to portray a younger version of herself felt unjustified and wishy-washy. It continued for a great length in the book.

You do get some of the funnier moments from the novel translated on to the small screen (well, all of the funnier moments), and I have to admit – the tv show is much, much funnier. I think that was another disappointment after reading the book – I expected so much more.

It’s not that it is a terrible read. In fact I enjoyed the book magnanimously – I did not put it down. The narrative is light and easy to relate to. I had issues with some of Alice’s decisions and behaviour at times, and at others, quietly whispering ‘YES!’

There was some stereotyping in the novel that annoyed the hell out of me – and the ending, although satisfying, it did little to challenge those preconceived personality types. Where in the tv series, you meet these characters, presumably fitting in the box, two-dimensional-types, and then are completely toss all judgements out the window by the end of an episode, because they have completely redeemed themselves and shown you so many more layers… and I think that is what the book lacked most of all.

The screen version of Alice, played by Sutton Foster, added more tension to the tv series than the character in the book – her reason to keep her secret is compelling in every episode, where in the book she was playing pretended and it did not feel like she had a s much to lose.

Younger 02

The conclusion of the book picked up the pace and I loved the last five – six chapters. But I found the ending of season one of the tv show much more satisfying, even though it resolved a lot less of the storyline… The main reason is because of the growth of the characters and their chemistry between each other. The novel was a little trite, where the show makes them work for it…

So it’s definitely the tv show for the win! But I recommend both.

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.