Book Review – ‘Undaunted’ (#2 Fetch) by Kat Falls

Genetic virus wreaks havoc on humanity.

Undaunted (#2 Fetch)Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Adventure

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

Lane Everson barely survived her first journey to the Feral Zone. The forbidden, overgrown landscape east of the Mississippi River was abandoned years ago when a virus spread through the population, bringing civilization to its knees.

But Lane has crossed the quarantine line, and she knows the truth. There are survivors on the other side of the wall – people who were not killed by the virus, but changed by it, their bodies warped to display a variety of animal traits. In the most severe cases, their minds are warped as well, leaving them barely human.

Lane volunteers to return to the Zone as part of a humanitarian aid mission. But she has a darker, secret purpose. Someone she loves has been infected, and she once made him a promise: If he ever goes feral, Lane will be the one to put him down. Now, Lane fears that the time has come. 

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Considering this was a sequel and a finale, I was expecting great things from ‘Undaunted.’ It certainly did not disappoint. The stakes were raised, the characters tested and showed growth, and there was plenty of dystopian sci-fi goodness al-laThe Island of Doctor Moreau.’

This was a difficult novel to get through however, which had me puzzled because it has all the earmarks of things I enjoy in a story. Just after I reached the halfway point I realised it was the writing style. Again another surprise to me given how much I have enjoyed Kat Falls other titles. In the afterward, the author did admit to struggling to complete penning ‘Undaunted,’ and I wonder if some of that awkwardness translated into the writing. There were moments of Lane’s narration that felt immature to me. Though it meets the intended demographic, I don’t remember feeling that way from the debut ‘Inhuman.’

Out protagonist Lane has much more direction and certainty about her in ‘Undaunted.’ It felt like she was on solid ground and no longer simply surviving from one instance to the next. You get a clear picture that she is aware of the larger mechanisms and politics of the situation at large. She has clear goals and determination to see them through – all mixed in with a hefty dose of compassion. It is a nice juxtaposition to how she was in the previous novel.

There was a hint of a love triangle with both Everson and Rafe vying for Lane’s attentions, but from her perspective, it was never a love triangle, just simply friends that she cared about; and one of those friendships blossoming into something more. Everson has a small amount of character development in the form of a shift in his morals at uncovering some truths, but Rafe has stronger growth from being, known as a thief and trouble maker, to a solid stand up guy, responsible, a leader. For some reason I was continually reminded of the main character in ‘Aladdin,’ a street hustler turned prince.

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I notably fell in love with the manimal orphans, and the lionesses as well both victims of the transformative genetic virus. Falls did a great job in marrying animal character traits with human ones to show strength, pride, and loyalty.

There was always something interesting going on to propel the story forward, but I felt the writing style let it down. Maybe some more sophisticated sentence structure and word choice to bring down the word count and increase the pacing of the story would have greatly improved my reading experience. Also help to eliminate a small amount of repetition. But that is me just being picky in trying to figure out why it took me so long to get through this novel.

I can’t say that there were any twists or turns that I didn’t see coming revolving around the central plot. It is very predictable in that sense, but there were a couple of minor reveals that had me raising my eyebrows. It is definitely a satisfying read, but not one that really socked it to me, or gave me the feels. The plot points are all addressed neatly – if a little cliché a times. I can see this being a great book to recommend to the younger end of the YA market. The whole manimal epidemic can be synonymous to racism and immigration themes in a sense. Because they have developed their own culture, and effectively, a different race. It also brings up themes of genetic modification, infection, and epidemics; great topics to open discussion on science, or the morality and ethics around these topics on a larger scale.

I’m happy I read it and got a conclusion to the story, even though slightly lacklustre for me. But would happily recommend it for younger readers.

Overall feeling: Get it girl, that was good.

Undaunted (#2 Inhuman) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Undaunted (#2 Inhuman) 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.

Wrap up – Blackbird Duology by Anna Carey

When there is no-one you can trust, people are trying to kill you, all you can do is rely on yourself… and survive!

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What a dynamic duology! I loved and devoured both of these books in quick succession. I would recommend reading these close together, or marathoning them, as ‘Blackbird’ ends on a cliff-hanger and if you get entranced as I was, you’ll be desperate to find out what happens next.

I will say that the whole memory loss/amnesia trope has been clubbed to death, especially in YA. However the majority of protagonists in this action/thriller genre tend to be male, so it was fantastic to read it from a female perspective. Especially since she is intelligent, resourceful, and follows her instincts. No fading wallflower or damsel in distress here.

One other note of contention that we never really get explained is how the protagonists get some of their spy-like survival skills. It was a bit of a reach for me to completely swallow this aspect.

But on the whole, I loved how quickly the series kicks off isolating the protagonist. The feeling of not being able to trust anyone is visceral and the writing style is punchy. Short chapters, so you can really power through these novels.

Once our protagonist begins to regain some of her memories, especially in ‘Deadfall,’ there were a lot of flashback scenes that pulled me from the narrative. I would have preferred different methods of revealing these memories to the reader though, because after three or four, to became too repetitive.

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There is a love triangle in here, but it does not devolve into an angsty mess. So I did not find myself rolling my eyes at this trope.

I have to say this is a solid four star rating across the board. The brief and punchy descriptive style of Anna Carey keeps the pace going from beginning to end and I was highly entertained and would happily recommend this to lovers of the YA genre. We get a decent amount of character development. The plot twists are pretty great and was completely satisfied with the pay-off upon completing the two novels. A fun cat-and-mouse type thriller.

Blackbird’ was optioned by Lionsgate back in March 2015, but there has been no news since the announcement. I can see how this would have appeal to the public as an action/thriller, especially since there have not been a lot of releases in this genre of late, so I guess we will have to wait and see if it comes to fruition, and what type of Hollywood treatment it gets. But it is certainly a film I’d be interested in seeing. But in digging further into the screenwriter attached to the project, Daniel Mackey (of ‘Aim High’ fame,) he hasn’t been involved in anything listed on the regular movie production sites since 2015. Plus ‘Blackbird’ is no longer listed on Lionsgate’s website as movies in development, so while it is optioned, at this point in time it is not being actively worked on. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Blackbird’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/book-review-blackbird-1-blackbird-by-anna-carey/

Deadfall’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/book-review-deadfall-2-blackbird-by-anna-carey/

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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.

Book Review – ‘Deadfall’ (#2 Blackbird) by Anna Carey

Move over Hannah, the Gallagher Girls, Spy Kids and Barely Lethal, there’s a new girl in town.

Deadfall (#2 Blackbird) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

A week ago, you woke up in Los Angeles with no memory of who you are. The only thing you knew: people are trying to kill you. You put your trust in Ben, but he betrayed you and broke your heart. Now you’ve escaped to New York City with a boy named Rafe, who says he remembers you from before. But the two of you are not safe. The same people who are after you are tailing Rafe as well. As the chase heats up, your memory starts to return, but your past cannot save you from the terrifying circumstances of your present, or the fact that one wrong move could end this game forever.

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Again, like the debut of this duology ‘Blackbird,’ I was gripped from page to page. This is one action thriller that keeps your attention.

I was still wondering where all this instinctive training exhibited by our protagonist Sunny/Lena came from. Combat, lock picking, pickpocketing. They are skills that take ages to master, so that aspect of the story pulled me a little from the narrative – like please – Sunny/Lena has to fail at something. Believeability suffered by our protagonist miraculously having all these awesome skills in her arsenal. It was fun reading about, but felt like either another novel in this series was needed to explore this aspect, or a bit more care was needed in the existing two books to explain it away sufficiently.

I think because of all the action and pacing, some emotional connection between the characters was sacrificed. I was invested in their story, their survival, but not so much their relationships. I didn’t care for the characters themselves either. I felt like I needed more emotional development, some more backstory and a chance to see bonds develop further before the novel ended. Consequently, as with a few of the plot twists (which I did not see coming) left me with acceptance, rather than some emotional reaction.

There is a little bit of character development – but it’s mainly from the amnesia fading and the characters getting some of their old lives back – this story is more a survival, cat-and-mouse chase than anything else, so don’t expect paragraphs of naval gazing, wondering about their place in the universe.

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I did happen to roll my eyes at the Sunny/Lena-Ben-Rafe love triangle. Though it was handled intelligently and didn’t turn into a big angsty mess, I am starting to find this trope overdone in YA.

The best way I can sum up the main cast would be: Ben is a great redemption story. Rafe was a faithful golden retriever, Sunny/Lena was never-say-die….

We get a lot more flashbacks, and brief flashes of alternative character perspectives dispersed throughout the narrative, and while giving pertinent plot points to the story, left the book feeling a bit messy and all over the place. I would rather a few poignant flashbacks and leave out the other points of view entirely to keep the narratives strength and remain connected to Sunny/Lena.

But you definitely get a pay-off at the end. I love how it was all resolved. Anna Carey can shape a great tale, and I am eager to purchase her dystopian Eve trilogy.

Carey’s writing style is fairly brief and punchy, she doesn’t dwell on the superfluous and pushes the story forward with bare needed description and facts, and short chapters. I devoured this book in a matter of hours.

Overall it was engaging, entertaining, and intelligent and definitely one of the better YA novels I’ve read recently – I highly recommend this to be read shortly after the debut ‘Blackbird.’

I know ‘Blackbird’ was optioned for a movie by Lionsgate back in 2015, but there has been no news on its development since the initial announcement, but it’s certainly a movie I’d like to see. 🙂

Overall feeling: Love me some teen super-spy action!

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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.

Book Review – ‘Inhuman’ (#1 Fetch) by Kat Falls

A great addition to the dystopian genre.

Inhuman Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Adventure

No. of pages: 378

From Goodreads:

In a world ravaged by mutation, a teenage girl must travel into the forbidden Savage Zone to recover lost artifacts or her father’s life is forfeit.

America has been ravaged by a war that has left the eastern half of the country riddled with mutation. Many of the people there exhibit varying degrees of animal traits. Even the plantlife has gone feral.

Crossing from west to east is supposed to be forbidden, but sometimes it’s necessary. Some enter the Savage Zone to provide humanitarian relief. Sixteen-year-old Lane’s father goes there to retrieve lost artifacts—he is a Fetch. It’s a dangerous life, but rewarding—until he’s caught.

Desperate to save her father, Lane agrees to complete his latest job. That means leaving behind her life of comfort and risking life and limb—and her very DNA—in the Savage Zone. But she’s not alone. In order to complete her objective, Lane strikes a deal with handsome, roguish Rafe. In exchange for his help as a guide, Lane is supposed to sneak him back west. But though Rafe doesn’t exhibit any signs of “manimal” mutation, he’s hardly civilized . . . and he may not be trustworthy. 

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Another amazing adventure from Kat Falls! I enjoyed this book immensely, although dealing with Dr. Moreau type mutations, there were colours of zombies and vampires – a spreading virus, changed by a bite, causes rage and violence… I loved it!

Inhuman Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgKat’s descriptions of the bleak dystopian world, and the mutated creatures within was marvellous. I was entertained throughout and gripped from start to finish. It didn’t have as much wonder and intricate plot as her previously released Darklife duology, this was more of a quest story with less twists and turns. So I felt the book overall was slightly less surprising.

The pace is fairly constant as the characters face one problem after another. And despite Falls’ great description, the narrative felt a touch flat in places. I guess because I’m comparing it to the Darklife books, and my enthusiastic joy over all things marine, ‘Inhuman’ did not quite meet the complexity and unpredictability of that series. Sure there were a few plot twists I didn’t see coming, but not to the scale of ‘Darklife’ – but having said that, I may have to eat my words in the follow-up ‘Undaunted’ (which I’m praying will finally get released this year.)

Lane (Delaney) started off as naive and full of potential, but it was only under stress and danger that she truly began to shine. I like how she never escaped consequences from her decisions either. Though, when it came to romantic entanglements she was a bit wishy washy. But given that her focus was on her Father and staying alive, I can forgive that minor frustration – she gave it the attention it deserved.

Maybe-love-interest, Rafe is such a smartarse – for some reason he reminded me of Pacy off ‘Dawson’s Creek:’ smart-mouthed but resourceful, always hanging in there. I got a little confused, one moment he’s a brother figure, then a love interest… not sure how I felt about it all. Though despite his abrasive bravado, he remains loyal to his ‘family’ right to the end. A very attractive quality.

Potential love interest, Everson surprised me a little, plot reveals, parts of his nature. We really find out who he is and what he’s willing to sacrifice for the greater good. I was attracted to his back story, his manners, and sense of adventure. I was really shipping him and Lane.

It is definitely an easy read, gripping, but I think I wanted a few bigger curve balls thrown at Lane. The surprises we do get are great, but something had me wishing for something grander. I’d still recommend it though. A fun dystopian adventure.

The cover art clearly depicts the world that Lane has grown up in – the dystopian feel with the rotting 21st Century buildings, and a massive wall to keep out the infected. The sepia hues really attracted my eye. The font is modestly large, lending to a feeling that you are speeding through the pages. A great package for an engaging read.

Overall feeling: Run of the mill, but entertaining.

Inhuman Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Inhuman Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.