Book Review – ‘In The Afterlight’ (#1.5, 2.5, 3.6 The Darkest Minds) by Alexandra Bracken

A great follow-up expansion to The Darkest Minds trilogy.

Genre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 400

IN TIME

Gabe’s life has been devastated in the wake of the economic crash. The only option left for someone like him to escape his tragic past is to leave his small town behind and to attempt to become a skiptracer. This already almost-impossible task is made all the more difficult by his first “score,”a young girl who won’t speak, but who changes his life in ways he could never imagine.

SPARKS RISE

Sam didn’t think things could get worse at Thurmand rehabilitation camp. Then the Reds arrive. Everyone assumed the kids with firepower had been killed years ago. Instead they were taken away, brainwashed, and returned as terrifyingly effective guards. To her horror, Sam recognizes one of them: Lucas, the one spark of light in Sam’s dark childhood. Lucas has a deadly secret–he beat the brutal training that turned his fellow Reds into mindless drones. When Sam defends herself against an attack by a vile PSF guard and faces a harrowing punishment, Lucas must risk everything to save her.

BEYOND THE NIGHT

The government-run “rehabilitation camps” have been shut down, but kids with Psi powers are anything but free. Sam would rather be on her own than put in the care of a foster family and given the “cure”–a dangerous procedure that unclaimed kids across the country are being forced to undergo. But there’s more at stake than just her own safety. Sam once made someone a promise, and the time has come to fulfill it. Now that she’s out of her camp, Mia only has one thought in her head: finding Lucas, her beloved older brother.

Initially, I started this but it did not grab my attention straight away, so I ended putting it down for a while to read some other books before returning. These were brutal. Just a stark reminder of the challenges the surviving kids afflicted with powers face. We get snippets to fill in gaps that were left out of the narrative from the main trilogy, the first (In Time) follows a skip tracer who captures Zu; the second (Sparks Rise) follows Sam and Lucas as they handle the end of the camp and try to bring their trio family back together; and finally (Beyond the Night) which takes place after the trilogy ends, seeing the conclusion to Sam, Lucas, and Mia’s plight together with the OG gang led by Ruby and a picture of what the world is like in the aftermath of the camps being shut down.

All the stories were interesting, had small arcs or character development and really helped to flesh out ‘The Darkest Minds’ universe. Alexandra Bracken knows how to write novellas, some other franchises that have added novellas to their catalogue have not pulled it off to this standard. Since I started reading ‘The Darkest Minds’ back in 2016, I was not tired of the story or her writing.

This collection has sparked my curiosity again and I am looking into purchasing ‘The Darkest Legacy’ to follow an older Zu. Plus, I’m really curious to see how the world has adapted to super powered teens, and if in fact the next generation continues to develop abilities, or if they have found a solution to quash these burgeoning powers.

The characters are relatable and I had compassion for all the protagonists. It was also a treat to read three stories where you could have a reprieve and go off and indulge in another book, or get on with the days chores. They were short, sweet, and easily digestible.

I don’t feel you are missing out on anything if you don’t read this after the original trilogy however. There is no new twist, no big revelations, ‘Through the Dark’ merely extends the universe slightly and is more service for the fans.

Overall feeling: she cute.

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

Book Review – ‘In The Afterlight’ (#3 The Darkest Minds) by Alexandra Bracken

Not the conclusion I was hoping for.

In the Afterlight (#3 The Darkest Minds) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 535

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Ruby can’t look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds.

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the “rehabilitation camps” housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.

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The biggest issue I had with this is pacing. So much detail. Logistics. The pace did pick up a little in the second half, but on the whole ‘In The Afterlight’ felt like it was a looong read. I really had to force myself to keep picking it up.

Even though I was relatively familiar with the cast, there was still a lot of characters to keep track of, and several times I had to stop and try and remember who some people were and what had gone down in the prequels.

I was expecting some major events around the use of their abilities, upping the ante from the previous novels in this franchise, but all I got was a whimper. This wasn’t the cinematic climax I was expecting. Yes, it resolved all the plot points it needed to, but a more impotent manner. I think it was more to do with the pacing, but with some of the more tragic and emotional scenes in ‘In The Afterlight,’ it did not affect me so much. At the end of the book I was like… meh! It was cool, and I loved getting a resolution, but it was a lukewarm finish.

In the Afterlight (#3 The Darkest Minds) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe character acrs for all the main players weren’t that huge either, it felt more like their wishes being fulfilled rather than any major change in their beliefs, character, or goals. There was even a few points in this finale that rendered all the events in the second book, ‘Never Fade’ irrelevant – and I was like, what was the point of that book than other than experiencing yet another failure?

I kinda like Alexandra Bracken’s writing style, I just really wish she would edit to keep the plot moving forward with each scene.

My opinion on this collection has been slowly dropping with each consecutive instalment. There is a bind-up of short stories in ‘Through the Dark’ that I have yet to read, and I can even break those up through other reads if the pacing falls; and I’m sort-of interested in ‘The Darkest Legacy’ this time following Zu. The blurb sounds good, but it is 569 pages and I’m concerned it is going to suffer the same pacing issues… and judging from the mixed reviews it seems to be the case from many reviewers. I do have the ‘Wayfarer’ duology which I will indulge in at some future date, but if it has the same types of issues I think I’ll start skipping Brackens work altogether.

In The Afterlight’ was predictable. It hit all the points it was meant to to wrap up the series, but there were no real surprises, no twists, and in fact had an underwhelming conclusion. It was such a long journey to get there I wanted a bang for my buck… but no dice.

Ruby was an interesting protagonist, I still cared about her and her story, but that is pretty much it.

At this point in time, I don’t really recommend this book, or the series. Instead, go watch the movie – it will be much more satisfying.

Overall feeling: …

In the Afterlight (#3 The Darkest Minds) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

In the Afterlight (#3 The Darkest Minds) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

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

Book Review – ‘Never Fade’ (#2 The Darkest Minds) by Alexandra Bracken

Middle book syndrome at its longest.

Never Fade (#2 The Darkest Minds) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian

No. of pages: 507

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Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children-and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts-has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future-and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam-and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart-she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

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I really struggled to read this. I remember finding ‘The Darkest Minds’ as much the same type of creature. And now realise why so much time has passed for me to pick up this sequel. The plot and storytelling are great. Bracken can weave a masterful storyline, but I felt like it could do with some heavy editing.

Ruby as our protagonist felt a little immature. Single-minded and stubborn. There was something about her attitude, the other children around her, and the dystopian world they found themselves in that didn’t quite marry together. In comparing their level of mentality and maturity to real life children living through difficulty or tragedy, we see a much different mindset. One of mastering capability and street smarts as well as dealing with psychological issues of trauma, abandonment, and trust. I feel this latter treatment would have made the cast of The Darkest Minds Universe much more interesting and driven the story with a strength of character that also has vulnerability.

I still am not sure about the ranking system – the colours – what is the science behind how the virus affected the young and why some got an ability and why others died. Blood type? Brain Chemistry? I hope we get to uncover this in the final novel because it has been annoying me since the first book.

The entire middle chunk of ‘Never Fade’ lagged. The pacing was slow, my interest wandered. I kept questioning what was the relevance of these events to the plot.

Never Fade (#2 The Darkest Minds) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Additionally, I still feel like there is a bit of meandering with the storyline too. This novel could have been half its length and been a much better story. It was altogether too waffly and longwinded. Bracken’s writing style is eloquent, but at times left me feeling it was overly too flowery for some scenes. I’d like to see the word choice and sentence structure match the tone of the scene. Too many tangents off with Ruby’s thoughts that weren’t imperative to the plot, or setting the scene.

There was some great angst and build up without it becoming too cheesy. Though maybe drawn out too long – if suggested edits were done, it would have been perfect.

So too were there repeated words and phrases. I was pulled out of the narrative countless times wanting to cluck my tongue. It feels like the editing process really let Alexandra Bracken down.

There were some great twist and turns in the last 100 pages. I was gripped as the story unfolded.

I can’t say that this was easily predicted – I was too busy trying to figure out what the heck was going on. The plot really ambled in all different directions until the final act. From there on I really enjoyed ‘Never Fade.’ But it took me at least 50-100 pages in the beginning to get my bearings, and then schlepped through the middle where I could care less. I put the book down for nearly a week for a rest before forcing my way through. ‘Never Fade’ definitely had that middle book slump going on. And if you really think about it, Ruby is not too far from being in the position of where she was at the finale of ‘The Darkest Minds’ apart from a few plot points dropped at the very end of ‘Never Fade.’ So it had me wondering was it all necessary? What character development did she have different from the debut? It was all pretty much the same…

I may have rated this lower if not for the great reveals towards the end, and Brackens writing is pretty good when she’s not lost in exposition. So far both these novels in the series so far have been interesting, but long winded. I will read the final book in the trilogy before I make a concrete decision about recommending these books, because at the moment I’m on the fence.

Overall feeling: *snores and wakes up*

Never Fade (#2 The Darkest Minds) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Never Fade (#2 The Darkest Minds) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

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

Book Review – ‘Been Here All Along’ by Sandy Hall

A contemporary love story that transverses gender… but lacks a little substance.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, LGBT

No. of pages: 214

From Goodreads:

Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee and having his choice of colleges. They do not include falling head over heels for his best friend and next-door neighbour, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do . . .

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong . . .

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This is an adorable cute contemporary. I enjoyed it immensely. A quick diverse read you can complete in a day.

Some points that count against this novel for me are around it’s lack of substance. We get representation of two male leads, one identifying as gay, the other bisexual, but they don’t really delve into how that changes them. The story is solely about their coming together after they realise how they feel about each other. It’s all very fairy-floss and lollipop land. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I indulge in a positive, happily ever after ending every now and then. Plus the tone and demographic of this novel I can see why Sandy Hall has written the novel this way… but skipping over so many aspects poignant to the characters development takes ‘Been Here All Along’ from brilliant and memorable, to sweet and totally forgettable.

We see this same treatment of introducing a storytelling element and then not going anywhere with it. Cyber bullying, Dyslexia, Poverty, Graduation, and College. They are all introduced, but nothing is done with them. All excellent obstacles to overcome and our main characters to grow through the experiences… but it’s left on the side of the road in favour of a cutesy sunset ending. I mean maybe if we got a little bit more of each of these affecting the cast strongly in some way the story would have been much more compelling. But these points are me being very critical and wanting more from the story.

It really is a deliciously innocent lgbtqia contemporary, more suitable for the younger end of the YA demographic.

I loved the fact that coming out, sexual preference, and a gay relationship was handled respectfully and without fear or hate. How friends and family were supportive. We don’t have enough of these types of stories.

We get a mix of perspectives: our protagonists Kyle and Gideon, best friends who develop a crush each other. Ruby, Kyle’s girlfriend. And Ezra, Gideon’s older brother back from living in L.A. and surfing for the past few years. There is a strong sense of family with all the characters. Plus, given the ‘vanilla’ Disney style to the story telling, expect it to be tropey and sugary as apple pie.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe two male leads, Gideon and Kyle don’t have much of an arc or development other than getting together. Ezra is really a complimentary character to help drive the plot forward. It’s Ruby who really shines when you take character development and growth into account.

And as happens in most contemporaries, just as the protagonist makes some resolution on the main goal or journey, it ends. With all the other good bits just coming to a head…. How does Kyle deal with his dyslexia? How do the couple deal with the cyberbullying incident? Will the girl responsible be held accountable? Will Ruby be punished? Will she get to college? Will Gideon win the class elections… so many unanswered questions that were set up in the narrative. So grimacingly frustrating.

So while this was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon reading, I was really hoping for more gravitas to the story. This would be best recommended to those who love quick cute romances and younger YA readers. Connoisseurs of lgbtqia contemporaries may find this a little bland. ‘Been Here All Along’ was a great novel to introduce me to the writings of Sandy Hall, but I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to pick up another one of her titles.

Overall feeling: Cute. That’s all. Just cute.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Been Here All Along 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 Darkest Minds

Book Review - The Darkest Minds by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she’s on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

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I picked up this trilogy on recommendations of some of my friends on Goodreads – they raved about it. Now I am seriously doubting if they were drunk, or skipped their A.D.D. medication because it did not live up to the five star rating they awarded The Darkest Minds for me. Lucky they’re too cool for school and I’ll overlook this little clash of opinion ;p

The premise of the book had me engrossed – a concentration camp for children with X-Men like abilities fighting for their freedom. It certainly stands out amongst its peers with storyline and an interesting dystopian world. I admit to having a little *squee* cracking the spine on this edition.

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Screenshot from I Am Number Four Motion Picture

Overall I enjoyed the book immensely. But there were parts in this novel where my compulsion to read on waned. I can’t quite put my finger on why my interest faltered, because I thought the story to be fantastic – maybe it was the writing style, or maybe the narrative could have been tighter and removed more of the unnecessary scenes…I feel uncomfortable saying that because I would rather have a definitive opinion on what it was that had me putting the book down for days on end. I’m usually a quick read – especially in the YA paranormal genre. But the pacing in The Darkest Minds was the biggest let down.

I also have a rocky relationship with the main cast. While interesting, and exhibiting moments  of strength, they also fell flat. Maybe due to the pacing of the story, but I failed to connect and cheer them on. There is interesting character development which I will give high praise for, and I am definitely going to be reading the second book in the series, Never Fade, as I want to see where the story is taking our mutant band… and hopefully the pacing will pick up somewhat.

If you liked The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy , then you’ll enjoy this book…

Book Review - The Darkest Minds Pic01 by Casey Carlisle

Screenshot from Chronicle Motion Picture

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  © Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.