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.

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Wrap up – Reboot Duology by Amy Tintera

This is like a starter pack to the dystopian genre.
Reboot Duology Wrap Up Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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.

Matched Trilogy Wrap Up Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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.