Book Review – ‘Wildcard’ (#2 Warcross) by Marie Lu

This takes gaming to a whole new level.

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 402

From Goodreads:

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

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There was certainly more action and espionage in ‘Wildcard’ than in ‘Warcross.’ Where ‘Warcross’ is about Emika fitting in, ‘Wildcard’ is about how isolated she really is. The only person she can trust is herself. Her world is deconstructed and it’s up to her to piece it back together.

Even though I enjoyed the story, and there is plenty going on in the plot, I wasn’t as engaged with Emika’s plight as I was in ‘Warcross.’ Which is unusual considering it’s in my favourite genre and Marie Lu managed to up the stakes on all counts with this sequel. I’m thinking it has something to do with Lu’s writing style… a more succinct and descriptive construction may have kept my interest? I put this novel down a number of times… or maybe I was just having a “moment?” I will re-read this duology at a later date and investigate this issue further. But for now I’m attributing this phenomena to Lu’s writing style. Which is nothing in judgement of ‘Wildcard’ as it’s subjective and down to personal tastes.

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleEmika was a fun protagonist. She is resourceful and street savvy. Though we don’t get as much of the secondary characters from the debut, this novel deals with only a few core characters in her orbit.

There are a lot of unexpected twists in the plot, and maybe a few of them did not have the gravitas I was expecting. It is certainly unique but did not entirely resonate with me. But I could definitely see this working really well on the small screen as a television series. The pacing is great, there is a lot of action and interesting characters.

The overall tone of this duology is predictable – we want to see Emika triumph over Hideo and an evil corporation… though this is deconstructed fairly quickly – and though the theme is resolved – it is achieved in an unexpected way. So while we get the closure we need, it eventuates in a different form.

I’d recommend this for those who like light science fiction and YA, it is similar to novels like ‘Ready Player One’ and ‘Armada’ with the use of virtual reality, technology, evil corporations vying for control, and the protagonist as a part of a rebellion to even the status quo.

A fun read with a mix of futuristic technology and the implications of their presence on society, but I think I wanted a little more sophistication with the writing. A good solid read for the genre and demographic it is targeted towards.

Overall feeling: Good, but… meh

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wildcard (#2 Warcross) 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 – ‘The Marque’ by Michael Patrick Harris

Western meets Space Invaders.

The Marque Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 57

From Goodreads:

The world has fallen beneath the rule of alien invaders. The remnants of humanity are divided into two camps: those who resist, and those serve.

Darrel Fines serves. He is a traitor, a turncoat who has betrayed his people, his wife, and most of all, himself. In this new world order, in which humanity is at the very bottom, Fines is a lawman for the violent and grotesque conquerors.

When the offspring of the Marque goes missing, Fines is charged with locating and recovering the alien. Caught in the crosshairs of a subdued worker’s camp and the resistance cell that he was once allied with, Fines is forced to choose between a life of servility and a life of honor.

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This review will be short and sweet – because ‘The Marque’ is only 57 pages long.

While I enjoy sci-fi and horror, this combination was akin to Stephen King. Though I’m uncertain of the message.

The writing is gritty and dark and fiercely masculine. I think that is what disappointed me a little, I was hungering for a bit more perspective! A bit more mythology.

The Marque’ was more like a soundbite. A premise of a great story. A snapshot of an interesting character facing a moral crossroad.

And then it was all over.

Fantastic writing and imagery, great concept… but that is all this is.  I’d love to read a full length novel by this author, I have a feeling it would be incredible. Checking his back catalogue I can see he has only listed short stories and novellas on Goodreads. While I enjoy this medium of storytelling, I prefer novels. I like to get lost in the world building, character development, and feel the build of a fast-paced plot. You don’t get that in a shorter lengthed tome. Michael Patrick Hicks is definitely a talented writer and I recommend you check him out (but only if you enjoy mini-bites of fiction.)

Overall feeling: Not too shabby.

The Marque Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Marque Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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

Wrap up – Reboot Duology by Amy Tintera

This is like a starter pack to the dystopian genre.
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With a rock start, ‘Reboot’ was difficult to get into. With an unemotive protagonist (Wren) who has been brought back from the dead by the corporation HARC and used as a professional assassin, the first two thirds of the novel were hard to get into and relate with the main character. It took Wren’s relationship with love interest Callum to warm up the narrative and give it some interest. While I enjoyed the premise, storyline and started to invest in Wren as a main character; overall the writing style was a little dry and sparse. So the pacing faltered at the beginning because of a robotic protagonist, though the last third everything picks up and really engages the reader. I wish there was more resolution at the end of the first novel as well, there were so many unanswered questions I simply had to read ‘Rebel’ just to satiate my curiosity.

‘Rebel’ was a superior novel to the debut on all counts. Where ‘Reboot’ was predictable, ‘Rebel’ was complex. The characters really come alive. The plot more sophisticated. Thought the ending to ‘Rebel’ did feel a little rushed it brought the hero’s journey to a satisfying end. However there were still many unanswered questions around the mythology and origin of the reboots and HARC I wanted to delve into. But this is definitely a fun and interesting duology and does the dystopian genre justice.

Wren is a hard character to get to know and love. It’s all about describing actions and observations. We don’t get a lot of inner emotional dialogue until halfway. Maybe writing in third person could have avoided this disconnection and allowed the reader to identify with Wren much earlier? Her love interest, Callum, was so much the trope of the boy-next-door. A loveable loyal companion, I really wanted to see an arc of his own to struggle through. But he was a great juxtaposition to Wren. Without Callum this would have been a very boring read.

You can see a definite improvement from book 1 to book 2, and I’d say it’s an average rated read for this genre. The novels are short so you can power through them quickly. I love the concept, but feel there could have been more done to up interest and engagement of the reader. Something I’d recommend for the YA demographic as they are imaginative, fun, and uncomplicated.

I’m interested in contrasting Amy Tintera’s later releases, because if the trajectory of improvement holds, they should be some awesome reads!

Reboot Duology Wrap Up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Reboot’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/book-review-reboot-by-amy-tintera/

Rebel’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/book-review-rebel-by-amy-tintera/

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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.

Film vs Novel – Everything Everything

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I did purchase the novel when it was first released, but ended putting it to the side due to all the hype – I like to go into a read with a clear head so I can form my own opinions without any influence. The movie marketing began just as I was looking at starting the book (again), and so, back to the shelf to wait, until now, comfortably ready to read and compare the book to film with a clear conscience.

The film was cute. However it felt like the soul of the story had been edited out in comparison to the book. All those little symbolic references from the text, diminished or omitted completely in the movie adaptation. It left the characters feeling a little two dimensional and bland. However the cinematography was beautiful, but I wondered if it couldn’t feel ‘bigger’ – the daydream scenes were merged with text conversations and lost the reason of why they were there in the first place. It was a funny concept to marry meaning and the text message dialogue from the novel. I understand that Maddy tends to live in her imagination because it’s the only way she can explore the outdoors from inside her hermitically sealed home, but the tone wasn’t obvious enough and left the film feeling soft and ethereal, not grounded in reality. This, combined with the watering-down of more controversial elements of the narrative, like abuse, left me with some unease about the film.

The big screen version gave a beautiful nod to the novel with illustrations from the pages included at the end credits, however it only proved just how much they left out – how much of Maddy’s inner consternation was omitted. Even when watching the movie, I felt like all Maddy and Olly did was way too much staring…. there was so much silence. And while the actors (Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson) did a stellar performance with their subtext, it did not drive the story forward.

Everything Everythng Film vs Novel Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I love Nick Robinson as an actor, but on screen he looked older, tired, and the elements of the book – like the parkour were ignored, when Maddy commented in the film ‘You’re standing so still’ it had no context and felt superfluous. The severity of Olly’s relationship with his Father is alluded to, but lacked the prominence as it did in the novel. You really get a feel for what Olly is suffering through, and Maddy’s desperation to help him in the novel. It is raw, visceral and dangerous. The film simply shows a bit of shoving… I mean, it felt like such a weak trigger to propel Maddy into risking her life.

Olly’s sister plays a different role in the novel to the film, and because of the sanitised, laconic version of ‘Everything, Everything’ on the big screen, she was such a different creature in tone.

A scene not in the book – the visual delight the oceans of the world and Olly’s note was probably the best, and certainly the most memorable. If only that type of interpretation had been maintained throughout and the pacing kept up, I would have had a completely different opinion of the film. To prove a point, the first kiss – on the 4th of July was a big letdown in the film; the lighting effects came across as obviously fake and detracted from the mood of the scene.

Everything Everythng Film vs Novel Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

Aspects like this ‘scene treatment,’ lack of a characters narrative to set up the relationships and actions, and pacing overall turned the film into a disappointment for me. Though it was cute. Cute for a 12 year old, and too fluffed up for its intended YA demographic. And those who loved the book may feel that much of the better parts of the novel had been cut.

Where the film felt slow, empty, and left me with a sense of unanswered questions. The book, even though containing many inaccuracies, at least had more of a dynamic and plenty of character motivation and interest.

Everything Everythng Film vs Novel Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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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 – ‘Castor’ by Shaun Young

An excellent premise, action packed, but lacked a little something.

Castor Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 230

From Goodreads:

James Fisher’s memories of Earth are distant, replaced by the harsh realities of life on the planet Castor. As a “Half-Adapt,” James is one of many who were biologically engineered to survive conditions on Castor—and to labor for the benefit of the ruling class. Indentured to servitude, James has no way to defy or escape the severe caste system… until he meets Vidal Centa, his master’s nephew. The draw they feel toward each other is instant, powerful, and maybe even enough to move beyond the unyielding regulations of their society.


But not everyone blindly accepts the absolute power of the oligarchy. The Independence Society fights for freedom and equality, and since James shares in their ideals, he joins their ranks. Soon he’s faced with an impossible decision: continue the fight against the oppressors or choose the love of the young man who embodies everything the Society loathes. With a looming conflict threatening to tear the planet apart, James fears he cannot continue to fight if he wants to keep his relationship with Vidal.

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The concept of ‘Castor’ stood out to me most of all – colonising a new planet, refugees terraforming a poisonous atmosphere; and a protagonist coming to grips with his past, a revolution, and his attraction to another man. It had all the elements to make ‘Castor’ a momentous read. But sadly it fell short of a few of these marks.

I really enjoyed the characterisation of the protagonist James, though found the backward politics of Castor to be counter-intuitive for an evolved society. But it worked in giving a population of mostly blue collar men, adapted or half adapted to the toxic atmosphere, where it was all male bravado and hard yakka. It also helped to establish a class system on the planet. So the world building was heavily supported, intricate and logical. I do think it was missing all those elements of science fiction though. Bits of technology, a more prominent role of the gene tampering that was going on, the terraform process, and colonising of the planet. It was there, but only in a small dose. This story was more focused on James and the revolution against the dominate powers in charge.

Castor Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleSo while I applaud the structure and tone of the novel, the writing style felt a bit dry. There didn’t feel like there was enough angst between James and his love interest Vidal. There romantic interaction were few and brief on the discussion of emotion. I felt a little cheated out of the romance part of this story. Especially given the odds these two were facing – so much potential tension wasted. The writing style was all very masculine – brief, to the point, and full of action.

A lot of action. Things getting blown up, chase scenes, murders, subterfuge. The mechanics of this part of the story line were brilliant, and in my opinion, the saving grace of ‘Castor.’ The cast were believable and felt realistic. Castor is a hard place to live. I think a more emotional aspect of James’ building relationship would have balanced out all of the difficulty the pair of boys was facing.

So too with the description of the landscape – while I could imagine it fairly well, I don’t think Young spent enough time painting a picture of the environment. His writing style would be perfect of a terrestrial modern day thriller or adventure story, but in science fiction, you need to spend a bit more time world building – because everything is new and unfamiliar to the reader. Especially in an off-planet environment.

I liked James as a protagonist. He didn’t fall into the usual tropes. He was moralistic without being a rebel leader. Strong and intelligent. But there was a sense of vulnerability that held him back – let him take the knocks that were dealt out. His faults humanised him.

These traits were similar in Vidal. Though I felt he needed more personality, the two of these boys were really just trying to survive. They weren’t there for a cause. They just wanted to find a safe place to live and be together. That’s the story I wanted to resonate with a stronger note in ‘Castor.’

I have to applaud the concept of this novel. It felt unique. It wasn’t contrived or over written, and you definitely get a sense of a great future to come for this writer. ‘Castor’ is his first published novel, and I can only imagine what he can produce with more experience under his belt. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Young.

I would not recommend this for sci-fi buffs, there was an element of something missing, so too if you enjoy reading M/M romance. It has moments of both, but either not fully realised. But I do recommend this for its overall concept and execution. If you go into it realising this is a young author’s first swing at the genre, than you will be able to marvel at his strengths and forgive the weaknesses.

A shorter novel that took me a day to read with enticing cover art. The editing is on point, no grammatical or spelling errors. The font and formatting give an ease to the story. It never felt a chore to read. Harmony Ink are delivering some great products and I’m eager to see what this writer and publisher collaborate on next.

Overall feeling: Adventurous and action-packed, but slightly apathetic

Castor Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Castor Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Into the Still Blue’ (#3 Under the Never Sky) by Veronica Rossi

The hair-raising conclusion to a lightning filled dystopian world that fizzled flat.

Into The Still Blue Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 389

From Goodreads:

The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.

Within the confines of a cave they’re using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn’t just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival—he’s also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most. 

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The battle is real – with this conclusion to the trilogy ‘Into the Still Blue’ brings about all the physical fight against the elements and each other in hope to find an Oasis from a decaying environment and factions struggling for power. On the surface the plot is outstanding, but the delivery felt a somewhat lukewarm.

I felt Aria finally got her sea-legs. In the previous novels I felt she bounced around between place, people and conviction. As much as I did not connect with her, I appreciated her story.

Perry just seemed to struggle. From the start – right to the end… and I think that is just who he is. So that left me kind of meh!

I think I was more excited about the dog Flea in this novel. The mention of him always brought a smile to my face.

Into The Still Blue Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleIt felt masterfully crafted, though I must admit I never really connected with Aria or Perry throughout this trilogy; and something about the writing style had me wandering away from the book quite a lot. It’s not that it was boring, I just never felt compelled to read on.

I feel like I want to say that the supporting characters had more depth than our two protagonists. Maybe because Aria and Perry were so single minded. So serious. That their narrative came across slightly monotone. There was no fluctuation in ambience and motive.

There wasn’t anything that struck me as particularly wrong with this concluding novel, just there was something missing. I think the dual perspective, again, gave too many answers and details for the story, eliminating a great opportunity to up the tension.

On the subject of loss and Death – I was a little on the fence with how this was dealt with. There were varying degrees of impact from the loss of certain characters. I felt more importance and compassion should have been considered. It would have also made for a much more poignant conclusion. I also did not like how murder and killing were handled either. Again, the facts were mostly glossed over to move the story along. When it would have been a great opportunity to up the emotion and paint a picture of devastation, brutality, and inevitability of the fight for survival against nature, and each other.

The plot unravelled very organically and I never felt the hand of the author guiding along the story. Though, the writing style did not paint a detailed enough picture of the world for me. I still have trouble picturing the main characters and the landscape they live in. Some aspects are crystal clear, but others felt washed out.

I liked the tone the novel ended on and how the storyline wrapped up. But I was still hoping for more mythology from this dystopian world to explore. Get some more technology in this sci-fi. Oh well…

It’s not a series I would recommend to friends – it’s okay. But there are much more entertaining collections out there.

Overall reaction: *rocking hand motion*

Into The Still Blue Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Into The Still Blue 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.

Wrap up – The Matched Trilogy by Allie Condie

A dystopian adventure that left me a little disturbed.

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Such an amazing concept – the Matched trilogy has hues of ‘The Giver’ and ‘Divergent’ but did not deliver as well as those did. Sad to say, but this series has got to be the lowest rated I’ve read to date. Maybe it’s because it was released at the start of the dystopian craze and marketed towards a tween demographic, leaving me feeling like I’d read it all before and the immature narrative tone felt boring.

I didn’t know what to expect going into the series because of such mixed ratings on Goodreads and from my friends, so I took it on faith of Ally Condie’s popularity as an author.

I guess the best way I can sum this series up is ‘soft,’ having all the elements to make a great dystopian, but not quite hammering them home for me. The pacing felt slow to start with, though the descriptions of the landscape are inspiring, the story lagged. The poetry elements were also lost on me – I skipped over every one of them.

Each book seemed to be an improvement on the last; especially in terms of character development and pacing. Though I can say I was never sure where this story was going to go. Not because of predictability, but because of its narrative style. The changing perspectives and what felt like a lack of direction left my interest waning several times. The world-building felt over simplified and at times waffly. There felt like a compulsion from the author to pair all the characters up too. It was too nice for a dystopian series. I wanted more grit, higher stakes for the characters and the world.

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I supposed ‘stylized’ is the best way to describe the treatment of this trilogy. While it was entertaining, the characters took a while for me to care about, I was frequently bored or frustrated. And ultimately, upon finishing the series, I did not feel satisfied. Book 1 ‘Matched’ dealt with escape; Book 2 ‘Crossed’ with a battle for survival in the wilderness; and ‘Reached’ turned out to be a rebellion… fought in a Lab. It wasn’t cohesive and felt like an author’s first draft.

The elements of medical science and technology were really interesting and I would have liked them more in the forefront of the plot (with details – many times the details were skipped over or dumbed down.) As too with the survival aspects – fighting in a war and trekking across inhospitable landscapes. I love these aspects, but wasn’t lead to feel like they were desperate and on the brink of death – which they were.

I did like the covers, the simplicity and symbolism. They definitely drew me in. The collection as a whole blended well together aesthetically. Large readable font in the hardback boxed set that I purchased. The cover art definitely lead me to believe there would be a heavier sci-fi element than was represented.

So a great premise, but lukewarm delivery for me. Sadly the trilogy took a slow downward slope to disappointment. Not a collection of books I’d recommend. 😦

Matched Trilogy Wrap Up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Matched’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/book-review-matched-by-ally-condie/

Crossed’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/book-review-crossed-by-ally-condie/

Reached’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/06/22/book-review-reached-by-ally-condie/

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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 – ‘Perfect’ (#2 Flawed) by Cecelia Ahern

A rebellion led by a compassionate girl labelled flawed…

Perfect Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian

No. of pages: 341

From Goodreads:

You will be punished…

Celestine North is Flawed.

Ever since Judge Crevan declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick, the only person she can trust. 

But Celestine has a secret—one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or risk her life to save all Flawed people.

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As much as I enjoyed the sequel ‘Perfect,’ it did not feel as engaging as ‘Flawed.’ Even though I completed this in two sittings, staying up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it, there was an element of preachiness to the narrative as our protagonist Celestine gave many long pointed speeches.

Perfect Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere was a bit of swinging between indecisive and lost teenager to leader of a rebel cause with Celestine, but I found that realistic and true to her character, where I know in a different context it would have annoyed the willies off me. Because of the nature of this story, it deals with pride, confidence, and determination. These traits are compelling to read, but as previously mentioned, at times bored me a little with all the self-flagellation.

The other aspect around Celestine was her scheming – like she alone was more intelligent than Judges, Doctors, Politicians, and other adults. Sometimes I was like ‘yes! Rise up young woman!’ and others just elicited an eyeroll. It came off as trite. But even having said that, I was still wrapped up in her plight and revelled in the story from start to finish.

I did like how we got a resolution to the whole love triangle thing… it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I didn’t like how the introduction of Carrick kicked off what I’m interpreting as insta-lust at the start of this series. I wasn’t sold. Though I ended up liking this pairing more in ‘Perfect.’ Her boyfriend from the debut (‘Flawed’) Art, has a more prominent role in this book, and is treated with intelligence and maturity. I think I must have had a flame burning for him from the outset, because I was realy shipping their pairing… As much as I loathe love triangles, the one in this duology just scraped past my sensor because it felt more organic.

The surprise I got with this novel came from the periphery characters and subtext. It touches on bullying, body-shaming, discrimination, and oppression. It conjures strong images of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ with how the Flawed are forced to wear their shame, and human rights are stripped away under the guise of (social) justice. There are some great zingers about self-worth and learning from your mistakes. About community and peaceful rebellion. ‘Perfect’ feels like an entirely different creature to ‘Flawed.’

The whole thing with Celestine’s scars left me squirming a bit. She doesn’t let you forget what was done to her. It’s a visceral feeling reading about her branding. It’s great that it makes the reader uncomfortable. It make you think about your own behaviour – how many shades of Judge Crevan do we have? How many of Celestine? Her story really makes you inspect your own judgement and treatment of people.

Perfect Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The writing style, though preachy in some short parts, is easy and has a quick flow. It’s open to digest quickly and the pacing increases the further you get into the narrative. Things just keep on happening. I was engrossed. On a side note, there was a little bit of jumping around the timeline for the sake of reveals in the storyline that felt cheap and out of character – why it was introduced in this manner so far into the duology I can’t quite swallow. For me, it did not add any impact. In fact I felt a little cheated.

The overall storyline is predictable, the tone of the novel sets you up to believe an inevitable ending; though there were so many little things that took place along the journey which had me excited. I really enjoyed ‘Perfect’ – it was the perfect YA dystopian read.

Overall feeling: juicy!

Perfect Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Perfect Book Review Pic 05 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.

Book Review – ‘Golden Son’ by Pierce Brown

A solar system at war led by an impostor.

Golden Son Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 442

From the dustjacket:

As a Red, Darrow grew up working in the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labour while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds – and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.

A lamb among the wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love – but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution – and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.

He must live for more.

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While it starts off with an engaging encounter turning everything achieved in ‘Red Rising’ on its head, immediately after, the narrative fell into that long-winded flat tone I found at the beginning of ‘Red Rising.’ The story is interesting but the writing style is not so compelling for me. Pierce can have such a meaningful and succinct turn of phrase that really resonates… and then waffle for pages on mundane happenings. It’s really frustrating to sing his praises when I find times I’m so bored I’d rather wait for my dog to fart for entertainment.

So, after 131 pages, I had to put the book down and walk away. Reading three other novels before returning for a second wind. And then it is all so interesting and so political… but that went hand in hand with wavering engagement. With many long difficult character names (and there are lots of them) and such macabre machinations I only got another 100 pages before I needed another rest. Slow pacing and a dry narrative are killing me!

Golden Son Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe story is great. Complex characters. Political chess playing manoeuvres. Power plays. It has all the ingredients I usually love in a novel but it just didn’t sell me. I found my interest waning a number of times, bogged down with too much detail, too much padding to the main story line in a barren narrative tone. And then, like a switch had been flipped, I was back into it again. It was as if only half of the book really grabbed me and the other half put me to sleep. Talk about polarizing.

I took just under a month to read ‘Golden Son’ and managed to read another eleven novels in between. I’m hoping it was just a second-book-syndrome thing. Because I liked ‘Red Rising’ and can imagine the finale to be explosive. Especially after the hype this series has received. I don’t think I’m all that emotionally invested in the characters, they are all about war and revenge and playing a long game to end oppression. That leaves little room for softness and building trust and love outside the harsh landscape – I guess that’s why I kept putting the book down because it was so hard to digest knowing that they all turn on each other.

My favourite scene was that of Darrow with his mother. It was the first emotional connection I’d gotten to the series – even in comparison to the death of Eo.

Here’s hoping it gets better… I really want to love this series.

Overall feeling: Some really amazing writing – and some that lapsed me into a coma

Golden Son Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Golden Son 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.

Book Review – ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline

It’s like television, an arcade, and the internet were mashed together – and you get to live there!

Ready Player One Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 372

From Goodreads:

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

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I had so much fun reading this book – the 80’s pop culture references, the inclusion of snippets around the origin of gaming… and a little exploration of social injustice. It turned out to be way more adventurous and inciteful than I was expecting.

Ready Player One’ was also more violent than I was expecting. Which was a good thing for the story. It really put some high stakes on the line. I was totally wrapped up in this futuristic universe.

One thing with all the pop culture references – not everyone is going to get them all, or understand the lengthy list of computer models and old model gaming consoles. So, while I appreciated the nostalgia of the references, at times I felt out of the loop, not geeky enough to fully understand the narrative. It made me sad, like my nerd status had been revoked. These moments that pulled me from immersion of ‘Ready Player One’ did not detract from my enjoyment of the story however, just moments of brow furrowing and googling for information. So if you don’t have an extensive knowledge of 80’s culture and gaming, you may find the endless list of name dropping tedious.

I marvelled at the growth and development of our protagonist Wade/Percival. His dedication, loyalty, and commitment grew organically through the length of the novel. Even though those traits were there to begin with, you see them move centre stage and become his driving force. It’s what had me relating and investing in his story. So too was his romance with Art3mis. We all want the geek to get the girl… even though it felt a little disconnected with the story, not entirely needed, I loved the inclusion and how it helped to humanise Wade and give him a connection to the outside world. The Oasis virtual reality had just about swallowed him up and she was the next adventure after he was to find a way through his online quest.

Ready Player One Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The pacing was great – I think most of the book was a page turner for me. Some moments where Cline started prattling off specifics, or info-dumped a bit of history, or backstory, killed the momentum, but on the whole it’s the most engaged I’ve been in a while. I didn’t have a lot of free time to read, but when I did it was very easy to slip back in to. There was no confusion about who was who, or where the story was going. It was pure entertainment.

I enjoyed the subtext of ‘avatar perception vs real life’ – a comment on the possibilities of where we could be headed and how thing like ‘catfishing’ is happening more regularly.

The plot is fairly simple – it reads like a quest for a video game – and it’s intentional, so in that sense it’s fairly predictable. Though I found a lot of sub-plots and roadblocks delightfully surprising and entertaining. I’m looking forward to the film interpretation masted by Steven Spielberg, with Tye Sheridan playing Wade, slated for a March 30, 2018 release. *squee*

Highly recommend. Cline paints a colourfully graphic world, addressing issues we are facing now as we grow with technology, and with all the pop culture references, it’s like nerd porn.

Overall feeling: It’s like my brain exploded from all the references to childhood favourites.

Ready Player One Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Ready Player One 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.