Book Review – ‘Heartstopper : Volume Three’ (#3 Heartstopper) by Alice Oseman

Love is in the air with a field trip to Paris.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA+, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 384

 The Heartstopper gang go on a school trip to Paris! Not only are Nick and Charlie navigating a new city, but also telling more people about their relationship AND learning more about the challenges each other are facing in private…

Meanwhile Tao and Elle will face their feelings for each other, Tara and Darcy share more about their relationship origin story, and the teachers supervising the trip seem… rather close…?

This volume of ‘Heartstopper’ just upped the adorable factor! We start to get developed side characters and their own arcs, there’s more complexity in the plot, and Charlie and Nick are facing greater challenges. Again this is not a self-encapsulated story, rather just an episode in the growing closeness of Charlie and Nick.

The representation is handled with kitten gloves, but does not water down the fears minority groups face. ‘Heartstopper’ still manages to encapsulate that innocent charm from the previous volumes.

’Heartstopper : Volume Three’ deals with more issues around Nick’s coming out to a wider circle of people, and the pair heading off on a school trip to Paris. There they also start to address intimacy, and how far they are willing to go… and getting close to using the ‘L’ word. It’s nice to read a story that builds the relationship at a more realistic pace and have frank honest discussions about becoming intimate, and comfort levels. It feels like such an intelligent approach and is a great example for today’s youth. I’m sick of the trope when teens get into relationships and weeks later (sometimes much sooner) they sleep together and it’s a magical experience and like a love they could never imagined. That is so unrealistic and robs the characters of being able to grow the foundations of real (loving and intimate) relationships.

Queer relationships from others characters in Charlie and Nick’s immediate circle are also getting air time in the narrative, again giving examples of the many different hues of the rainbow. Tao and Elle. Tara and Darcy. Mr. Ajayi and Mr. Farouk.

We also get a touch on the bullying that Nick suffers from his older brother, and I’m interested to see how the family is going to handle this issue. There is a little more about Charlie and his eating disorder. And the friendship dynamics the pair face in their separate friend circles. There is a lot to unpack from these graphic novels – Such a master of subtext and frank observations on the issues raised.

I’m loving the complexity and scope of this series now, and am eagerly ready to jump into Volume 4. Also with all the updates coming in about the screen adaptation by Netflix with casting and shots from filming on set, I’m incredibly eager to see what they churn out. Looks like we are getting eight 30 minute episodes, but no release date as yet.

Again, ‘Heartstopper : Volume Three’ was another quick paced tome I finished in about an hour. So sweet. I’ve become a major stan.

Overall feeling: Gushing over this!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘If We Were Us’ by K. L. Walther

Cute premise, but flat delivery.

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 368

Everyone at the prestigious Bexley School believes that Sage Morgan and Charlie Carmichael are meant to be….that it’s just a matter of time until they realize that they are actually in love.

When Luke Morrissey shows up on the Bexley campus his presence immediately shakes things up. Charlie and Luke are drawn to each other the moment they meet, giving Sage the opportunity to steal away to spend time with Charlie’s twin brother, Nick.

But Charlie is afraid of what others will think if he accepts that he has much more than a friendship with Luke. And Sage fears that things with Nick are getting too serious too quickly. The duo will need to rely on each other and their lifelong friendship to figure things out with the boys they love.

I had a lot of hopes for ‘If We Were Us,’ the blurb sounded like this would be a cute contemporary with a touch of diversity, and the cover art matches some similar titles in this genre, but that comparison left me wanting a whole lot more from this story. The narrative felt discombobulated. A lot of info dumping. And the fist chapters introduces a lot of characters on the way side. I felt like I was scrambling to catch up and make sense of what was happening in those opening scenes. The tone did not grab me… felt like smarmy teen characters without any likeable traits. ‘If We Were Us’ was really difficult to get into.  The story is told in alternating perspectives between the ‘it’ couple Charlie and Sage. But there was something about the way closeted Charlie was written did not feel genuine – I feel like an #ownvoices author would have done him a lot more justice. 

The pacing was really slow. So much info dumping. A lot of telling and not showing. The narrative felt flat – like a bunch of descriptions of college students going about their menial lives without any strong emotion behind it. It also did not feel like an authentic coming out. K.L. Walther missed so many nuances that on #ownvoices author would have given the story, or even an author who had done some proper research into real-life experiences of young adults coming out in college. On the plus side, there were some good scenes dealing with anxiety near the end, and the overall plot was cute – but it took way too long to get there, and the entire plot was handed to the reader in the first few chapters… no surprises were dealt along the way. This story would have greatly benefited from some sub-plots, a few unexpected twists, less descriptions of college life and more emotion driven scenes.

If We Were Us’ was okay, but not one I want to recommend to anyone. It felt like the author was trying too hard to look young, or appeal to a young audience and missed all the best things about that age – the uncertainty, angst, the adventure. And the college life was a little white-privileged experience to me.

Protagonist Charlie was stubborn and annoying, self-sabotaging. While interesting because of these conflicts, I found myself wanting some part of his personality and passion (outside of the relationship) to balance this character out. But unfortunately that’s all we got. So that, combined with the ‘telling’ of history and college, Charlie didn’t feel like he developed too much, his story felt flat despite his journey with anxiety and coming out.

Sage, though fiercely loyal, had little going for her other than pining for Nick. I grind my teeth thinking that female characters commonly come across as all about the love interest. I wanted more dimension form Sage. She felt like she was written as a much younger version of herself, like she was 13 or 14 years old.

This story was solely two dimensional about their relationships… there was no other complexity to the story or to the characters.

I also wanted to take out my red pen in parts because the editor had seriously let the author down with some amateur sentence structure. There was nothing particularly individual about K.L. Walther’s writing that made her stand out. This felt like I was reading one of my year 11 student’s English prose. I know this sounds harsh, but a decent editor/publisher team would have worked with and developed the story to shine Walther in her best light. I feel like they really dropped the ball with this one. I can see the bones of a good writer – hints of interesting and engaging characters, perplexing situations, a romantic notion, imaginative settings – it just needed to be pulled together more effectively. A good developmental editor would have pointed out the pacing issues and maybe suggested to increase the level of complexity for the plot.

It was a struggle to read apart from a few chapters near the end when all of a sudden there was tension… but besides that, ‘If It Were Us’ was relatively boring… and ultimately forgettable. Given this was K.L. Walther’s first published novel, I’m expecting her writing prowess to grow and develop and am interested to see how it presents in her second novel ‘The Summer of Broken Rules’ and the fact that it is not dealing with queer characters may play in her favour, but I’m not going to be rushing out to purchase it.

Overall feeling: a bit of a snooze-fest.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Heartstopper : Volume 2’ by Alice Oseman

A gentle tale of discovering feelings.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 320

Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t.

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself.

I liked volume 2 more than the debut. There is still that overwhelming cuteness in the narrative that simply captures your heart. Nick and Charlie are adorable innocence personified.

In this sequel, we see Nick and Charlie grow closer and come out, forming friendships with other LBGTQIA+ youth. Where Vol. 1 deals more with Charlie’s anxiety over his feelings for Nick and worries about getting his heart broken; this edition deals with Nick coming to terms with his feelings and coming out to those close to him. It’s all about Nick sorting things out in his head.

Again another quick read, and it’s getting me to like the graphic novel medium. I recently heard that there is a screen adaptation underway, and I am really excited to see that comes to fruition.

The plot isn’t all that complicated, we get some resolution to an issue, but this is really an episode in a much bigger tale. So don’t expect any theatrics or magical reveals, ‘Heartstopper’ remains true to its core about LGBTQIA+ representation and the story of Charlie and Nick navigating the world and their relationship. We do get new introduced elements which will no doubt get explored in following editions of this series. And it all got me hooked!

The presentation of this story in graphic novel form lends to a fast paced storyline. It took me just over an hour to complete the novel in full. And ‘Heartstopper’ has got me wanting to venture into Alice Oseman’s back catalogue.

Again, the story is easy to predict, but we do get a few little bumps in the road that I did not foresee that were a joy to read.

There’s not a lot to say without spoiling or repeating what’s in Volume 2, it’s a sweet progression of Nick and Charlies love for each other that I found endearing. Love the rainbow representation and I’ll recommending this to all my friends. It’s also accessible to younger audiences, not only because of its medium, but because it tackles issues of identity and community in a gentle way.

Overall feeling: Beautiful.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Heartstopper : Volume 1’ by Alice Oseman

Heart-warming innocence.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 278

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

I was encouraged to pick this up from many, many of my friends recommending this. I’m not one to read a lot of illustrated novels, but ‘Heartstopper’ is charming in its innocence. We meet Charlie, an out gay year 10 student who gets paired with a year 11 student, Nick in peer group for school. They become friends and need to learn to navigate their new feelings and what they mean. Charlie is determined not to fall for a straight boy, and Nick is surprised by his attraction to Charlie.

‘Heartstopper’ is cute! The story is paired back and sticks to the main storyline without too much dramatics. I’ve read manga in the past, where it’s melodramatic and packs a lot into the narrative – ‘Heartstopper’ keeps the main couple in its crosshairs from start to finish. In this fashion, I found the novel to be a little, well, plain. I wanted stronger emotion and some more plot. But I guess that is the charm of ‘Heartstopper,’ it’s a light romance of two boys finding each other in high school.

We get some character development from both boys, it’s not a lot, but enough to have me invested in their story and I have already ordered the rest of the published volumes to find out what happens next.

The illustrations are expressive and have a stylistic grungy aspect to set it apart from the common manga fare. I kind of wanted a more finished look on the page though – but that is a personal preference on my behalf. ‘Heartstopper’ is a happy addition to my library.

Because of the graphic novel treatment I flew through this novel in about an hour, the scenes weren’t too emotional and the characterisation in the illustrations didn’t really have me starting at the page to soak up tone or additional undertones in the scenes. This is paired back, simple, fitting of quiet and understated Charlie and Nick’s slow burn relationship.

It ends on a cliff hanger, so be prepared to invest in this series as a whole.

If you like queer stories and graphic novels without all the melodrama than this one is for you. Excited to hear it is being adapted for a Netflix series and eager to see their take on Charlie and Nick’s story.

Overall feeling: First kiss angst!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Hot Dog Girl’ by Jennifer Dugan

A cute coming out tale for the younger end of the YA demographic.

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 309

Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:

* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.

* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.

* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.

* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

A massively cute and summery tale.

To be honest it took a lot to get me into the flow of this novel. Mainly due to the tone of ‘Hot Dog Girl.’ It felt like it was geared towards the younger end of the YA market. The language, dialogue, and attitudes of the cast felt immature and I frequently got bored and put the book down while getting through the first two-thirds of the novel. In fact, I read another four books while getting over this hump. I also think some pacing issues added to this. It took so long to get to the point, or for interesting things to happen. Not to say this was badly written or structured poorly, it wasn’t. Once the story got its legs ‘Hot Dog Girl’ was truly endearing. I cried, I laughed, the last section of the story had me completely rapt.

The rest of the time it was like I had that frustrated patience you get when young children in your care are around and just babbling non-stop and you’re pretending that you are interested in whatever short-attention-span thing they are carrying on about, but internally you are just praying for the torture to end. That’s what the majority of ‘Hot Dog Girl’ was for me.

Lou as a protagonist is immature, not very self-aware, doesn’t listen, and schemes like a twelve year old girl to get her own way. Living in her head was a special place in hell for me. But it was lovely to see her grow and mature by the end of the novel… but not something I want to relive anytime soon.

Seeley, to counter Lou, was stoic, and to be honest I didn’t feel all that interesting. So too was the other love interest in this triangle: the diving pirate, Nick.

The only character of interest was antagonist Jessa, though she was painted as ‘miss perfect’ that can usually come off as a flat character, she managed to have layers and a bit of sass that kept me engaged with the story.

The plot did feel very simple, and as soon as the inciting incident kicked in, I predicted the ending very easily. Jennifer Duggan’s writing style is effortless, and I would love to read something else of hers without such an immature tone to see if I enjoy her books more. It is glaringly obvious I am not the target demographic for ‘Hot Dog Girl,’ but considering I usually enjoy other fare for this target market, I was surprised at my reaction to this story.

The bisexual and lesbian representation is adorable. It was a joy to read differing sexual orientations in an environment of love and acceptance, like it is commonplace; and how the characters sexual orientation is not the main character trait, but merely an aside… as it is in real life.

The romance is like fairy floss, which in the setting of an amusement park, felt apt. I just wish there was some more complexity for the plot, characters, a more mature tone fit for the age of the protagonist, and the inciting incident happened earlier in the novel to kick the pace of the novel from the first or second chapter.

Hot Dog Girl’ even with the issues I had over my reading experience has wormed its way into my heart. I’d recommend it to those who crave bisexual rep, love Sapphic romances, or those younger YA readers looking for a cute romance.

Overall feeling: sluggish summer entanglement!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Dispel Illusion’ (#3 Impossible Times) by Mark Lawrence

Awesome conclusion for this trilogy of novellas.

Dispel Illusion (#3 Impossible Times) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 234

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Sometimes being wrong is the right answer.

Nick Hayes’s genius is in wringing out the universe’s secrets. It’s a talent that’s allowed him to carve paths through time. But the worst part is that he knows how his story will end. He’s seen it with his own eyes. And every year that passes, every breakthrough he makes, brings him a step closer. Mia’s accident is waiting for them both in 2011. If it happens then he’s out of choices.

Then a chance 1992 discovery reveals that this seeker of truth has been lying to himself. But why? It’s a question that haunts him for years. A straw he clings to as his long-awaited fate draws near.

Time travel turns out not to be the biggest problem Nick has to work on. He needs to find out how he can stay on his path but change the destination. Failure has never been an option, and neither has survival. But Nick’s hoping to roll the dice one more time. And this new truth begins with a lie.

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Another fun instalment for this franchise, upping the ante and revisiting the concepts introduced from the start… with a twist. ‘Dispel Illusion’ wraps up this trilogy with style.

I had predicted this novel from the start – given the title and the discovery in the cave – the conclusion was inevitable. Additionally, with heavier elements of the science fiction of time travel, setting things up, and resolving all the plot points for this collection of novellas, I found myself putting the book down frequently. Mainly because I like character driven stories, and there was a lighter dose of character development and connection between the cast because this is a plot driven story. It is very clever, but I did not get the emotional connection I was expecting to help keep the tension and pace (especially in the first half.)

Dispel Illusion (#3 Impossible Times) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There is definitely some masterful weaving from Mark Lawrence. The way he unfolds the plot was exceptional. I wish there was more time spent on staying with the main set of characters to develop conflict, emotional tension, and angst. This aspect of the story fell a bit flat for me. Maybe it’s just his writing style? But I found myself caring more for the characters in the first two novels… there is also the possibility that I had sleuthed out the plot very early on in ‘Dispel Illusion’ so without any additional surprises or some heavy raw emotion to hook me in, my reading experience suffered.

The concept of marrying fantasy and science fiction (especially with heavy symbolism) was a treat to read. This trilogy has certainly got me keeping an eye on Mark Lawrence and his publications. Definitely recommend this to fantasy and sci-fi lovers alike. They are quick intriguing reads with a solid foundation in both writing and concept.

Bravo Mr Lawrence!

Overall feeling: Timey-wimey goodness!

Dispel Illusion (#3 Impossible Times) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Dispel Illusion (#3 Impossible Times) 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 – ‘Limited Wish’ (#2 Impossible Times) by Mark Lawrence

Poke your finger through the fabric of time and its likely to get snapped off.

Limited Wish (#3 Impossible Times) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 224

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One choice. Two possible timelines. And a world hanging in the balance.

It’s the summer of 1986 and reluctant prodigy Nick Hayes is a student at Cambridge University, working with world-renowned mathematician Professor Halligan. He just wants to be a regular student, but regular isn’t really an option for a boy-genius cancer survivor who’s already dabbled in time travel.

When he crosses paths with a mysterious yet curiously familiar girl, Nick discovers that creases have appeared in the fabric of time, and that he is at the centre of the disruption. Only Nick can resolve this time paradox before the damage becomes catastrophic for both him and the future of the world. Time is running out—literally.

Wrapped up with him in this potentially apocalyptic scenario are his ex-girlfriend, Mia, and fellow student Helen. Facing the world-ending chaos of a split in time, Nick must act fast and make the choice of a lifetime—or lifetimes.

Game on.

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There is a beautiful symmetry to ‘Limited Wish’ in relation to the debut of the series ‘One Word Kill.’ It’s kitsch in a good way. Once again we get disturbances in the timeline and reactions to things being where they don’t belong… tampering with time has consequences. There is definitely no middle book syndrome with ‘Limited Wish.’ This was a great read and a top notch follow-up to ‘One Word Kill,’ and had me even more excited to get on with reading the next sequel ‘Dispel Illusion.’

We pick up a while after the events from the ending of the previous novella, again following protagonist Nick as he grapples with the events that have changed his life forever and now entering college. We get the introduction of a few new characters and Demus once again pops into the story – but is it the same Demus, or one from another timeline?

I didn’t feel the action like we got in ‘One Word Kill,’ however there is more science fiction theory at play in ‘Limited Wish.’ It may give you a headache trying to figure out the physics of time travel, alternate timelines, and time-wimey-ness. Though ‘Limited Wish’ compounds on the original storyline, adds complexity; the stakes did not feel as personally high for Nick. (I wasn’t feeling the antagonist in this novella – the justification is tenuous at best) It was just a sense I got at reaching the end. Though this could be down to how the story is not quite finished – just merely this episode – and the feeling of conclusion (and that ah-hah moment) will come in the third instalment. Nonetheless ‘Limited Wish’ is cleverly written. I loved the era of 1986, the backdrop of Cambridge University, and the choices Nick is faced with. And Mark Lawrence ties all this into symbolism played out in Nick’s Dungeons and Dragon games. It’s executed so brilliantly.

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I think I missed a bit of action: chase scenes, things blowing up, and a heavy dose of teen angst. It’s only my personal preference. But I think that would have added to the epic-ness I wanted in my minds’ eye. But again, this is only the middle book of a trilogy, so all that bang-crash-sock’em may be yet to come for the finale.

Nick has matured as a protagonist, his decisions take on the experiences he’s lived through, and you get a definitive feel of how this character is growing.

The story moves along at a clipped pace; something you could read in one sitting easily. And I couldn’t have predicted much about this story if I tried. Mark Lawrence is one author that has been able to deliver one surprise after another for me and has earned a spot in my list of favourite authors without breaking a sweat.

Limited Wish’ may not be for everyone. It marries hard science fiction with YA. So readers not into the whole theoretical physics of sci-fi will feel a little lost. But if you love ‘Doctor Who’ – this is one series you must pick up.

Overall feeling: You beauty!

Limited Wish (#3 Impossible Times) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Limited Wish (#3 Impossible Times) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘One Word Kill’ (#1 Impossible Times) by Mark Lawrence

Dungeons and Dragons, time travel, ‘80’s Britian.. just like a Doctor Who episode but with more gore.

One Word Kill (#1 Impossible Times) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 201

From Goodreads:

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.

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One Word Kill’ is such a great concept and told in a way that felt realistic and grounded – if not intertwined with Dungeons and Dragons symbolism.

It is set in the ‘80’s London, and we get a heavy dose of that in the narrative which I adored. But I was a little thrown with the drug dealing arc, and how homosexuality was dealt with. The former was quite violent and confronting for me, and the latter had more of a current-day attitude. Being gay in the ‘80’s was a more turbulent topic, and I would have liked this developed more and ring true to the era.

I guessed the plot very early on, especially after the introduction of the ‘bald stalker.’ I jumped into ‘One Word Kill’ with no prior knowledge other than a few firm recommendations from fellow bloggers and intrigued by the premise. But I really enjoyed Mark Lawrence’s writing style, it has a raw flourish to it that feel unique and lends to the atmosphere of the novel.

SARAH JANE ADVENTURES (hi res)Told in first person from our protagonist, Mark’s point of view; the opening scene of him dealing with a cancer diagnosis. A great way to grab my attention. ‘One Word Kill’ was a joy to read. Lawrence does not waste words, each scene moves the story forward at a cracking pace.

I think I struggled with the content most of all which is why I have given it the rating I have. It felt slightly scattered and confronting at the same time. Having a small gang added to the ‘80’s nostalgia like a lot of the films from that era a’la ‘The Goonies,’ ‘Stand By Me,’ but given the books length don’t get to fully establish and explore the relationships.

A sidebar for some readers: there is graphic content, which shocked me a little given the YA demographic of ‘One Word Kill.’

Although this novel can be read as a standalone, and the major plots points are resolved, I felt like it wasn’t resounding enough for me know the story is finished, and thus am keen to get my hands on the sequel ‘Limited Wish.’ Which is another reason for the rating – maybe the story was too short to fully explore the characters, themes and take the protagonist on a journey that changes him. We get that but in a micro-dose. This was my first novel from Lawrence and colour me impressed. It reminds me of the way Seanan McGuire writes: colourful, novella-lengthed stories within a single universe.

Overall feeling: Great little discovery 🙂 

One Word Kill (#1 Impossible Times) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

One Word Kill (#1 Impossible Times) 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 – ‘Sacrifice’ (#5 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

Another guilty pleasure – but didn’t feel like the end of the series.

Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarliseGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 324

From Goodreads:

Earth. Fire. Air. Water.

One misstep and they lose it all. For the last time.

Michael Merrick understands pressure. He’s the only parent his three brothers have had for years. His power to control Earth could kill someone if he miscalculates. Now an Elemental Guide has it in for his family, and he’s all that stands in the way.

His girlfriend, Hannah, understands pressure too. She’s got a child of her own, and a job as a firefighter that could put her life in danger at any moment.

But there are people who have had enough of Michael’s defiance, his family’s ‘bad luck’. Before he knows it, Michael’s enemies have turned into the Merricks’ enemies, and they’re armed for war.

They’re not interested in surrender. But Michael isn’t the white flag type anyway. Everything is set for the final showdown.

Four elements, one family. Will they hold together, or be torn apart?

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At this point in time, ‘Sacrifice’ is meant to be the last book in the Elementals collection. But I didn’t feel it. I was hoping for the all stakes battle, for all the Elementals to join together as one unstoppable fighting unit. We’ve been getting hints of this all through the series – and well… *fizzle* *deflated balloon*

As with all the other books in the series, we get another perspective – this time from Michael, the oldest Merrick sibling. I’m so glad all the hormonal teen boy violence was kept to a hush and we actually got some story. Though there was an awful lot of people getting shot, blown up and killed. But the Merrick brothers seemed to have chilled a bit – that or they are still reeling and in shock.

Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlise.jpgI enjoyed the story, but ‘Sacrifice’ just didn’t pack the punch I was expecting. Maybe because Brigid Kemmerer already had a follow-up in the works, who knows. The characters and storylines are feeling more realistic, so I don’t understand why this didn’t grab me as much. Plenty of tension, the stakes were high for Michael… possibly it was the angst that was absent? Or maybe it’s my unmet expectation of the ultimate showdown not being realised? I was also hoping to get more on the mythology of the Elementals, the formation and organisation of the Guides and their motivation. It’s just been very precursory up until now. I want more history and nitty-gritty of these secret warring factions.

I also didn’t get much over the relationships of the other brothers – Kemmerer tends to omit the other characters when she’s concentrating on the story of her books protagonist. I missed Becca, Laney, Adam… I mean it’s a close-knit family unit and is seems common sense that their boyfriends and girlfriends would be present for most of the time.

But that’s just me being picky. And a little gibbed about not getting some of the answers I wanted.

Otherwise ‘Sacrifice’ was another great addition to the Elemental universe. I’m still wondering how there are so many Elementals though, it was getting to a point you couldn’t hurl a stick without hitting one. But that meant plenty of displays of awesome supernatural powers. Me likey! The tension between Hannah and Michael was great, especially with Hannah’s father continually getting in the way. I really enjoyed this emotional tussle.

I read this very quickly, in fact I was wondering where the rest of it was when I’d finished. The same breeze writing style leant to completing the novel in a day.

I’ve seen Brigid Kemmerer’s note on Goodreads informing fans that the next novel in this series ‘Strife’ had been put on indefinite hiatus due to contracts on some of the releases we are now starting to see released and on the publishing schedule. But I hope we get to see her return to the Merrick boys and publish the next book – maybe it will give me the answers I crave?

Nonetheless, I’m putting this guilty pleasure back on my shelf and looking towards the next challenge.

Overall feeling: Where was the rest?

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Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 4 by Casey Carlise

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Secret’ (#4 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

A refreshing take on what was becoming a formulaic series.

Secret (#4 Elemental) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 328

From Goodreads:

EARTH. FIRE. AIR. WATER.

Nick Merrick is stretched to breaking point. He’s trying to keep his grades sky-high or he won’t get in to college. He’s trying to keep his brother’s business afloat or the Merricks will be out on the street. He’s trying to keep the secret of where he’s going in the evenings from his twin brother Gabriel – or he fears he’ll lose his family. And he’s trying to keep his mind off the hot, self-assured dancer who is his ‘girlfriend’s’ partner.

And then Quinn takes to hanging around his sworn enemy, and an Elemental Guide is counting the hours until he can try again to kill the Merrick brothers. Storms are brewing. On all sides.

SECRETS IN THE WIND. DANGER IN THE AIR.

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What a turn of events – after starting to get a little bored with the formulaic writing in ‘Spirit’ and then reading the novella ‘Breathless,’ I was indeed breathless… and excited. ‘Secret’ certainly delivered.

We finally got away from the stereotypical romance and got a taste of some real angst. The character development in ‘Secret’ was fantastic for many of the cast. And I blazed this book in one setting. I was compelled. Protagonist, Nick possessed a quiet strength that appealed to me. The struggles he faced and the grappling with his identity felt so visceral and real.

Secret (#4 Elemental) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gifThe introduction of Adam as Nick’s love interest did feel abrupt and a bit insta-lusty, but it worked for me. Adam’s representation not only helps raise awareness of the abuse some teens face, but also juxtaposed all the machismo and violence. He was a pacifist and a pillar or strength rolled into one. It was refreshing to read a different type of male character that wasn’t all flighty attitudes and flexing muscles.

Quin and Tyler both managed to annoy the crap out of me though – but it’s just their personality… they deserve each other. Such drama queens, reactionary, and frightened, but express most of their feelings through violence or putting themselves in harms way. I didn’t enjoy their self-destructive ways – but is did make for great tension and plot point reveals.

I’m also seeing a pattern where some of the cast are getting dropped out of the story, It wouldn’t be hard to drop some bigger crumbs and involve them in the plot more prominently when they are not the leads. I felt like I was missing Hunter and Layne… ☹

I felt the melodrama and teen-boy violence was dialled back a bit and let the story shine. Don’t get me wrong, the hormone induced fits of rage are still in here, but if feels like the novel is starting to gain a conscious and perspective showing that it is not all right to always react to unpleasant situations with a fist.

It also felt like we got to tackle some real meaty social issues – and not just as a plot point, but as a tone persevering throughout the story. Discrimination, identity, violence, child abuse… and many more related issues. It gave this instalment a bit more substance, and I found this to be my favourite book in the series so far.

Kemmerer’s breezy and effortless writing style leads to a fast read, and she manages to keep the story driving forward with each chapter so the pacing rarely lags.

The relationships of just about all the main cast are put to the test and evolve in ‘Secret,’ and am interested to see the new dynamic at play in ‘Sacrifice.’ After how ‘Spirit’ ended and set things up, I was expecting more of a supernatural smack-down in ‘Secret,’ but this seemed to head off in a tangent. We still get some awesome paranormal goings-on, but the development of this story arc really didn’t progress, in fact it felt like a repetition of that of the previous novel. But the tangent of Nick’s story was definitely engaging nonetheless. I’m still craving my big battle scenes involving all of the cast – fingers crossed I get to see the elements fly in ‘Sacrifice.’

Secret’ definitely revived this series for me and gave me more faith in the Elementals. A great addition to the collection and one I highly recommend to read.

Overall feeling: Revived!!

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critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.