Book Review – ‘My Calamity Jane’ (#3 The Lady Janies) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

The historical retelling I didn’t know I needed…

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical, LGBT

No. of pages: 544

Welcome ​to 1876 and a rootin’-tootin’ America bursting with gunslingers, outlaws, and garou.

JANE (a genuine hero-eene)

Calamity’s her name, and garou hunting’s her game—when she’s not starring in Wild Bill’s Traveling Show, that is. She reckons that if a girl wants to be a legend, she should just go ahead and be one.

FRANK (*wolf whistle*)

Frank “the Pistol Prince” Butler is the Wild West’s #1 bachelor. He’s also the best sharpshooter on both sides of the Mississippi, but he’s about to meet his match. . . .

ANNIE (get your gun!)

Annie Oakley (yep, that Annie) is lookin’ for a job, not a romance, but she can’t deny there’s something about Frank she likes. Really likes. Still, she’s pretty sure that anything he can do, she can do better.

A HAIRY SITUATION

After a garou hunt goes south and Jane finds a suspicious-like bite on her arm, she turns tail for Deadwood, where there’s been talk of a garou cure. But things ain’t always what they seem—meaning the gang better hightail it after her before they’re a day late and a Jane short.

Another entertaining fantastical historical romp to conclude the My Lady Janies trilogy. ‘My Calamity Jane’ pairs western legend with werewolf mythology in a comedic venture into the Wild West.

A spaghetti western with a paranormal twist written with humour and hints of feminism. I really enjoy this trio of authors working together. I am always amused and entrenched in the stories they write, the little twists to story and character, the little asides breaking the 4th wall to the reader.

We follow multiple perspectives revolving around the anecdotal stories of Calamity Jane, Annie Oakley, Wild Bill and the Pistol Prince. Calamity Jane, a member of Wild Bill’s travelling show, marvelling townships with their skills in gun slinging, knife throwing, and whip-cracking. But it’s all a cover as they hunt down werewolves bent on killing or intentionally infecting the naive populace. Jane is a smart-mouthed tom boy, driven to forge her place in a male dominated world… and live up to the legend the group had crafted to sell tickets to their show. Annie is a determined young lady, if a little rough around the edges, eager to join the sharp shooting crew as it’s newest member – because there aren’t many places for a lady with her skills to find employment. Wild Bill and his posse are the ticket to a life she’s always dreamed of. Frank is slightly egotistical, but always up for a challenge. As the team track down the leader of the garou pack, bent on infecting every unsuspecting human they can to build an army of their own; Wild Bills group has their work cut out for them. Facing off this threat is going to uncover some secrets buried from the past and force the gang to open up to each other about their own hidden past and desires.

I literally flew through this book. It is highly entertaining with plenty of twist, turns, and reveals. I was saddened to hear this was an end to this series, but joyous to hear of another trilogy following Mary’s in history. This trio of authors have struck gold.

The writing style is very tongue-in-cheek and combines historical deportment and language mixed in with a contemporary sentimentality: the combination is magical. Hand, Ashton, and Meadows do comedy well in combination to creating fantastic, relatable characters, and encompassing worlds.

The plot wasn’t quite predictable; you get a sense of its direction at the beginning, and then the plot take you on a wild ride, the many reveals completely displacing you from the saddle. There is so much charm in ‘My Calamity Jane’ I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Overall feeling: Blow me down!

© 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 – ‘Broken Throne’ (#4.5 Red Queen) by Victoria Aveyard

Filling in the gaps in the Red Queen series.

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 480

This gorgeously designed package features three brand-new novellas, two previously published novellas, Steel Scars and Queen Song, and never-before-seen maps, flags, bonus scenes, journal entries, and much more exclusive content.

Fans will be delighted to catch up with beloved characters after the drama of War Storm and be excited to hear from brand-new voices as well. This stunning collection is not to be missed!

A bind up of novellas for the Red Queen franchise that follow secondary characters in this universe, and the final short story lets us glimpse into the further of Mare and Cal after ‘War Storm.’

It pains me to say, but this was the least interesting read of the series so far. That, in addition to the publishers doubling up on releasing two short stories previously published in another bind-up. Which left two novellas that I had not read that were so steeped in politics and descriptions of the nation (and historical research) that the tone was dry and boring. I seriously had a difficult time trying to stay focused on the page.

The ray of sun that broke through the clouds, was the inclusion of Mare and Cal reuniting in the last novella. Though not really explored, just a brief moment where they address feelings (not getting too deep) before the story ends.

So I got a brief moment of joy in a sea of lengthy beaurocratic red tape descriptions and two already-read short stories. I kinda feel ripped off.

There were moments of Victoria Aveyard’s writing that really drew me in, especially in the final novella, but the rest of the time the pacing was off and the plot so bogged down with situational recount, no compelling protagonist, for me to feel connected to the narrative, or even care where the story is going.

Broken Throne’ is more for the die-hard enthusiast for the Red Queen series. It has snippets from other characters, description of political movements and wars, history from present day to this dystopian powered world of Reds and Silvers. A great companion for the fans; but for me, a lover of the supernatural powers and a strong tale of a protagonist overcoming the odds, much of this did not appeal.

Overall feeling: It was just not for me…

© 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 – ‘The Ice Twins’ by S.K. Tremayne

Slow-burn twisty thriller on a haunted island.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 373

After one of their  identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft move to a remote Scottish island, hoping to mend their shattered lives. But when their surviving child, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing back down.

They know one of their daughters died. But can they be sure which one?

This was a spooky psychological thriller with a brilliant setting and unreliable narrators to keep you guessing.

The Ice Twins’ and I did not gel. I liked the unfolding mystery, but it took a long time to get interesting. I put this novel down multiple times due to boredom and read five other books intermittently before returning; it was only after reaching the halfway mark when the story finally got interesting.

The story is told in multiple perspectives – and when it was necessary to reveal plot points, it did so in an abrupt manner. No build up. Just – here is a twist you won’t see coming. There was no context, no grounding in the story. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Like the author was intentionally throwing in the wildest thing they could think of to shock and awe the reader. I would have appreciated this mastery if there had been some clue or precedence in the narrative… there was the teeny-tiniest hint, but not enough to give it any substance and make the reveal knock me for six.

There was so much secret holding and distrust within the family that it all left a bad taste in my mouth and prevented me from really getting into the story. What young family exists in this manner? It felt so unrealistic. It had a tough of a gothic thriller: over dramatized and spooky atmosphere.

Sarah dominates with her perspective throughout ‘The Ice Twins.’ While it is clear she loves her family and is trying to make things work after the loss of one of her twin girls in a tragic accident; slowly my unease with her grew. She was wishy-washy, impulsive, and at times unstable. There was a lot of naffing about that you simply don’t do when caring for the well-being of a child navigating grief. It’s like the Mamma Bear in me reared up and rejected half of the narrative of this book. So I did not connect with Sarah’s story, or any other characters for that matter, and consequently did not get immersed into the story of ‘The Ice Twins.’

Sarah’s husband, Angus felt distant the entire story. It was like his actions and motivations were in conflict. I felt he was pretty much useless apart from the sporadic plot reveals his narrative provided. And even then I was shocked at his inaction to take care of his family.

The twins, Kirstie and Lydia – such a tragic story. Their experience is the only thing that my heart went out to. They were neglected on so many levels before and after one of them reaches their demise. I liked the touch of the supernatural of this story (if you want to interpret it that way, others may see it in a more practical sense) but the beginnings of this storyline took far too long to set up.

This is my first foray into S.K. Tremayne, and I hate to say, but their writing style just did not do it for me. It felt dry, emotionless, and the characters not developed enough early on. But for building ambience and world building, their skills really shine. I think maybe a lack of empathy is what I’m sensing in S.K. Tremayne’s writing style. It was rich and colourful, but lacked an emotional connection. It didn’t help that any of the characters in the story were not relatable.

I don’t think I’m going to recommend this one. I’ve read so many other thrillers that I enjoyed much more; and, consequently, will not be going out of my way to purchase any more of Tremayne’s titles. It’s mainly the writing style that did it for me. But I can see how some readers will love ‘The Ice Twins’ or any other title from Tremayne’s catalogue.

Overall feeling: Just like soggy chicken

© 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 – ‘Stars Above’ (#4.5 The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

A great collection to fill in the gaps between the novels in the Lunar Chronicles.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 400

The Keeper: A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.

Glitches: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….

The Queen’s Army: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.

Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky: Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.

After Sunshine Passes By: In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.

The Princess and the Guard: In this prequel to Winter, we see a young Winter and Jacin playing a game called the Princess and the Guard…

The Little Android: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.

The Mechanic: In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.

Something Old, Something New: In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century…

This was a great collection of short stories to flesh out the Lunar Chronicles. It’s mainly connecting scenes between and after the series with all our favourite characters. Some stories add to the fairy-tale retelling of scenes that were omitted in the novels, and others bridge the gaps in the narrative over the entire storyline continuum.

While I enjoyed each of these stories and appreciated getting background and extra information, each short story was not a fully developed story in its own right. This collection felt more like scenes cut from the novels in the editing process rather than short stories. That whole beginning-middle-end structure of storytelling focusing on a theme or exploring a question didn’t really ring true. I didn’t get a sense of resolution, but rather a part of a larger story. So this collection is more for die-hard fans of the Lunar Chronicles looking to expand on the universe.

We do get a peek into what happens after the conclusion of the series, which was a joy to read.

We get to meet all our favourite characters, and back story on a few others which really added to the Lunar Chronicles universe as a whole.

Stars Above’ is a pretty quick read with nine short stories, so you can jump from story to story, or take a break after each and revisit the collection until completion. Marissa Meyer’s writing style is as effortless as ever and it was easy to slip back into the world of either Earthen locales or the Lunar landscape.

There’s not much else to add without spoiling plot points because the stories are so short. ‘Stars Above’ is a great addition to the Lunar Chronicles and gives a glimpse into the future at the end.

I’d only recommend this for fans of the series, the stories will not make sense if you read them out of context, or haven’t completed the series beforehand (and let’s face it, who would pick this up if they hadn’t read the Lunar Chronicles prior.) We do get new information, but you won’t miss anything major if you don’t read ‘Stars Above.’

Overall feeling: oh, OH!

© 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.

#bookporn #coverlove

Recently finished reading ‘Midnight Sun‘ and it was like a stroll down memory lane, it brought up all those feeling that re-ignited my passion for reading. And it also brought me to the news that there is possibly another two books coming for this collection. Before ‘Twilight‘ I was strictly reading horror and sci-fi, it opened doors to YA, contemporary, queer lit and reading more diversely… do you have a book that broke you out of a comfort genre?

Book Review – ‘Chosen’ (#2 Slayer) by Kiersten White

A red-headed slayer… count me in!

Genre: YA, Paranormal

No. of pages: 368

Nina continues to learn how to use her slayer powers against enemies old and new in this second novel in the New York Times bestselling series from Kiersten White, set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now that Nina has turned the Watcher’s Castle into a utopia for hurt and lonely demons, she’s still waiting for the utopia part to kick in. With her sister Artemis gone and only a few people remaining at the castle—including her still-distant mother—Nina has her hands full. Plus, though she gained back her Slayer powers from Leo, they’re not feeling quite right after being held by the seriously evil succubus Eve, a.k.a. fake Watcher’s Council member and Leo’s mom.

And while Nina is dealing with the darkness inside, there’s also a new threat on the outside, portended by an odd triangle symbol that seems to be popping up everywhere, in connection with Sean’s demon drug ring as well as someone a bit closer to home. Because one near-apocalypse just isn’t enough, right?

The darkness always finds you. And once again, it’s coming for the Slayer.

Another fantastic and nostalgic trip into the Buffyverse with the twins. I can’t properly explain my joy at how many characters from the original series made an appearance – I was flashed back to my bedroom at home, snuggled on the couch in the dark with a cup of tea. A time when I was surrounded by happiness and safety, when all of my family members were still alive. Buffy always brought me joy and wonder, and ‘Chosen’ managed to dredge all that back up again. It was bittersweet. Much like the journey the characters take in ‘Chosen’ and a little bit like my feelings upon completing the novel.

I really enjoyed ‘Chosen’ it has such a strong connection for me, but the pacing in the first half of the novel was a little slow. I kept putting down this book so many times. It was interesting, had fun characters, but didn’t necessarily move the plot forward too much. I think in paying so much lip service to characters from the television show, we sacrificed some of the pace… but I don’t think I would have connected with the novel as much without their occasional appearance. So it’s a catch twenty-two that you can’t really win. But Kiersten White managed to find the perfect balance and it is an accolade that she manages to keep the story interesting even when the plot was a little slower.

In comparing ‘Chosen’ to the debut of the series, ‘Slayer’ I have to say I enjoyed ‘Slayer’ better. There weren’t so many characters to keep track of, and it fit more into the serialised stories we got from the television show; whereas ‘Chosen’ felt more like a series arc… which is why I think the pacing felt slower in the first half, there was just so many plot points to set up. But it does end in apocalyptic fashion, the thing the television series is famous for.

We switch perspectives between Nora, the last slayer, and Artemis, her twin sister every few chapters. Given that they were separated for nearly the entirety of the novel the dual perspectives added a lot the narrative, though there were moments when an omnipotent consciousness slipped in, which I didn’t think was needed. Those small instances were explanatory or info-dumping in nature and you slipped out of the organic nature of the tone of the book.

Both our protagonists get great arcs and character development. The only niggling issue I have with this instalment is given we are at a Watcher stronghold we didn’t get as much Watcher lore (like we did in ‘Slayer.’) I felt it disconnected a bit in the reason for the characters being there… it was like they were morphing into a new version of The Scooby Gang instead of carving out their own identity and reviving the importance of the Watcher mythos. The waters all felt a bit muddy in that respect; but the connection between the cast forging a makeshift family and Slayer sanctuary rings through clear as a bell.

The notable appearances from the original television series include: Buffy, Faith, Clem, Sineya (the first slayer), and a Chaos Demon (Anya’s ex-boyfriend).

I really hope we get more instalments in this series and explore/evolve the Watcher lore. But I have not seen any evidence Kiersten White will be penning another installation to date. *sigh* I guess I’ll just have to keep hoping that the new Slayer television series moves forward in production.

Definitely recommend this one – for Buffy fans, and lovers of paranormal fantasy novels.

Overall feeling: Melancholic

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

Book Review – ‘Night Hunt’ (#9 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A faltering, flat instalment for the series.

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

No. of pages: 201

The night is dark…and full of paranormal killers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not such a glowing review, but a hopeful one.

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

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