Book Review – ‘The Ice Twins’ by S.K. Tremayne

Slow-burn twisty thriller on a haunted island.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 373

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall feeling: Just like soggy chicken

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

Book Review – ‘Sovereign’ (#2 Nemesis) by April Daniels

Daniels writing is improving at lighting speed.

Sovereign (#2 Nemesis) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 315

From Goodreads:

Only nine months after her debut as the superhero Dreadnought, Danny Tozer is already a scarred veteran. Protecting a city the size of New Port is a team-sized job and she’s doing it alone. Between her newfound celebrity and her demanding cape duties, Dreadnought is stretched thin, and it’s only going to get worse. 

When she crosses a newly discovered billionaire supervillain, Dreadnought comes under attack from all quarters. From her troubled family life to her disintegrating friendship with Calamity, there’s no lever too cruel for this villain to use against her. 

She might be hard to kill, but there’s more than one way to destroy a hero. Before the war is over, Dreadnought will be forced to confront parts of herself she never wanted to acknowledge. 

And behind it all, an old enemy waits in the wings, ready to unleash a plot that will scar the world forever. 

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I enjoyed ‘Sovereign’ much more than ‘Dreadnought.’ There wasn’t any of the identity issues that didn’t sit well with me from the debut. Here we see protagonist Danny solidly in her role of superhero, and no longer needing to justify her affirmed and presented gender and role. Characters and forces working against her are aplenty, both in terms of accepting her transformation, and super powers. The story felt grounded.

This was full of action. I was transfixed from the start to the finish. I would’ve completed it in one sitting if my eyes weren’t growing heavy as it got late in the night.

Danny’s friendship with Calamity was strained and weird for the first half of the novel – and I didn’t feel like it was totally justified. But is was beautiful to see their relationship grow and change. Android and hero support, Doc, was my favourite, and she managed to ingratiate herself further into my heart through ‘Sovereign.’

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We see many characters return, and some new ones get introduced as threats remaining over from ‘Dreadnought’ and new ones raise their heads to challenge Danny in some awesome fights. I will say towards the end, I was on the edge of my seat, though the climactic fight lacked some emotion and anticipation. I’m loving the way April Daniels crafts battle scenes, but terms and sentence structure became a bit repetitive to zing some of the energy out of those encounters – but that is me being really, really picky.

There is a lot of politics in this one. It’s kind of an undercurrent of the whole series – I feel like it’s mirroring an observation of the current climate of the real world in dealing with discrimination and laws for LGBT rights.

The tone of ‘Sovereign’ was less about gender and more about a person. Less about having superpowers and more about fighting for what is right.

Really looking forward to the next novel in this series – with the jump in improvement between ‘Dreadnought’ and ‘Sovereign,’ the third novel could be outstanding!

We’re still needing to address the Nexus (and Professor Gothics role), closure with Danny’s parents, the fate in the direction of the Legion, and I’m wanting to see what happens between Danny and Red Steel: it feels almost flirtatious.

I’m on the fence with recommending ‘Dreadnought,’ due to the issues with how it handles Danny’s transformation and adaptation to her new gender, but I’d be happy to recommend ‘Sovereign.’ So once you get over that initial hump this series really starts to take off.

Overall feeling: Mindgasm

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Sovereign (#2 Nemesis) 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 – ‘Dreadnought’ (#1 Nemesis) by April Daniels

Comic book heroes, conspiracies and a social conscience.

Dreadnought (#1 Nemesis) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 276

From Goodreads:

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero.

Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl. 

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.

She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction. 

I loved this book because – hello superheroes – but also because of the diversity in its characters and unique perspective on the superhero genre. April Daniels brings together child-like fantasy and social commentary on identity, gender, and trans issues with ‘Dreadnought.’

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One point of contention, and even though this is an ‘own voices’ book, something about the start of Danny’s story and transformation did not sit well with me. She was oversexualised at times, and many of the cis-gendered characters reactions were so stereotypically gendered that I felt it was almost reverse discrimination… but then I realised that while the author was giving an authentic representation of the facets some transgendered youth experience, I think it was that the reactions were crammed into a short space of time, and that Danny’s physical transition was pretty much instant. Where in reality much of this is spread out over years and there is a much more diverse selection of attitudes from supportive and non-supportive people throughout the life of a trans person. So I think my issue comes from the science fiction side of things, rather than the underlying social commentary around someone’s transgendered experience.

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The introduction of Calamity/Sarah was a great tool for viewing the whole superhero industry and the role of villains with an outside eye. She also acted as a voice of reason and a level head that grounded Danny. Not to mention it felt like the only genuine friendship in the whole novel. Which is something ‘Dreadnought’ needed as Danny was essentially isolated from her transition.

Doc was in interesting character that merits a mention. The tech guru, patch-em-up, and gadget geek all rolled into one. While Doc was a great support (team) for Dreadnought, there were some obvious secrets being kept that had me wanting to keep an eye on Doc’s motives, despite being a trusted member of the gang.

But I loved all the issues that this narrative brought to light – and that it wasn’t all about being trans. It was about government conspiracies, complex characters, good versus evil; and all the shades of grey in-between, passing high school, making friends, confidence, and discovering how to take control of your life.

There were elements of body shaming and comments of hormonal emotional states that were a little off-putting for me. Danny kept saying she was the same person, but all of a sudden having a different outside did change her behaviour…it was a little contradictory.

The superheros deal: I loved how there was not a cut-and-dry side of who was good and bad. Each had their own motivations and none of them were all completely righteous. Just like people, we are all fallible, superpowers or not.

Daniels can craft some great fight scenes – I was glued to the page through it all, almost bobbing and weaving in my lounge chair. If that doesn’t give you a hint about how well paced this novel is… I completed it in a day! ‘Dreadnought’ definitely kept surprising me. There was so much going on. I really can’t say I predicted the ending at all. Instead I was just so swept up and engaged in Danny’s story that when I reached the end I was blinking in a stupor.

Great ending too, it resolved enough of the story to give me satisfaction, but teased enough for me to want to rush out and purchase the sequel. Which I did – I added ‘Sovereign’ to my shopping cart immediately. So stay tuned for a review on the follow up soon.

Overall feeling: Blown away – this is how I felt while reading…

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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 – ‘Kalahari’ (#3 Corpus) by Jessica Khoury

Kalahari will test your mental strength and physical ability to survive in the harshest of climates.

Kalahari (Corpus #3) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure, Romance

No. of pages: 368

From Goodreads:

Deep in the Kalahari Desert, a Corpus lab protects a dangerous secret…
But what happens when that secret takes on a life of its own?

When an educational safari goes wrong, five teens find themselves stranded in the Kalahari Desert without a guide. It’s up to Sarah, the daughter of zoologists, to keep them alive and lead them to safety, calling on survival know-how from years of growing up in remote and exotic locales. Battling dehydration, starvation and the pangs of first love, she does her best to hold it together, even as their circumstances grow increasingly desperate.

But soon a terrifying encounter makes Sarah question everything she’s ever known about the natural world. A silver lion, as though made of mercury, makes a vicious, unprovoked attack on the group. After a narrow escape, they uncover the chilling truth behind the lion’s silver sheen: a highly contagious and deadly virus that threatens to ravage the entire area—and eliminate life as they know it.

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I loved this book. Admittedly, my expectations were a little lower after reading ‘Origin’ – though that debut wasn’t bad, there were moments the pacing lagged. That was definitely not the case in ‘Kalahari.’ It was non-stop action from start to finish. It has been a while since I’ve been so wrapped in a story.

Kalahari’ is a companion novel to the other two in the Corpus collection – and you by no means have to read them in order. In fact I read Kalahari before reading ‘Vitro.’

The best way I can sum up this novel is a combination of the movies ‘The Breakfast Club’ meets Clive Cussler’s ‘Sahara.’

Kalahari (Corpus #3) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.pngOur protagonist, Sarah is one gutsy chick. Using all her survival skills, sheer grit and determination to drag a group of city kids through the desert… while being stalked by human and animal predators alike. She comes across as shy in social situations, which is understandable, since she is practically home schooled in the isolation amongst the South African desert – sorry, semi-desert; but is also confident and determined from years of living in remote places and dealing with all types of wildlife.

The only thing that reflected negatively for me was when Sarah started listening to a recording at the most inappropriate time… that’s as much as I’m going to say, because – spoilers. But when I read that, I was literally saying out loud “What the eff” in astonishment.

Khoury’s writing style improves progressively throughout this trilogy. Pace and tension are far superior in ‘Kalahari’ than in the debut (‘Origin.’) She also has a way of building the world and describing the landscape that is anything but delicious. You can get such a clear picture of Sarah’s surrounds you really feel like you are there. Seeing the improvement in Khoury’s skills only make me more excited to read some of her recent releases.

It was interesting to read the city-slicker group that Sarah guides through the desert and how they cope with suddenly being cut-off from all aid, under threat, and needing to push their body to the limits to survive. I felt it was a realistic interpretation of what could happen. Growing up in the Australian desert myself, and a love for nature and hiking, occasionally friends would tag along and be confronted how being in the middle of nowhere means you need to adopt an entirely different set of skills to survive.

I love science fiction that actually has some science in it. And though it’s dumbed down drastically, we get some of the science behind the story. As well as botanical and zoology references about the Kalahari environment. It really gives you a strong sense of the flora and fauna. Geek girl in me loves it! I read it in one sitting.

Overall feeling: Spectacular survival skills!

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Kalahari (Corpus #3) 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.

Film vs Novel – I Am Number Four

What would you do if your survival relied on mastering a power you’ve yet to receive? Isolated your whole life – the only sanctuary is love…

I Am Number Four Film vs Novel by Casey Carlisle

Hot on the heels of the ‘Twilight’ franchise success, Touchstone Pictures/Dreamworks attempted to recreate that sensation with ‘I Am Number Four,’ based on a science fiction series by Pittacus Lore. I think it did a mildly successful job, but alas, the momentum of the film crashed and burned.

The book was a quick read and involved a lot more science fiction elements within the plot than it’s film counterpart. The characters had a wider scope of powers; and the history of alien races is explored further throughout the text, creating interest and helping you to invest more with the lead. Our antagonists (Mogodorians) in both the film and novel however, felt two dimensional – which left me wondering if the book was targeted towards a juvenile market. Conversely, the Mogodorians representation in the film was improved somewhat, but still left me finding them ‘camp’ more than ‘menacing.’ Again, the baddies did not feel quite so scary.

I preferred how the movie had simplified the powers of the Lorien – how each character had abilities unique to themselves. It got a little messy in the book series keeping track of what was going on sometimes when powers began to overlap. The narration of the novel flowed nicely and it was easy to escape into the world of a threatened alien species. I found there to be a little too much information dumping at times – I would have thought a conversation between John and Henri or John and Sarah would have been a better mode of revealing occasional facts. The narration in itself lacked some tension – although it was a great high stakes story with plenty of action, the pacing fell short of something to turn it from a fun read to something outstanding.

I Am Number Four Film vs Novel pic 01 by Casey CarlisleSecondary characters in the movie version were developed further in comparison to their written counterparts. Plus the lead, played by Alex Pettyfer, did a stellar job in capturing John Smith. As Dianna Agron enhanced Sarah’s presence in the franchise. My favourite though, would have to be Teresa Palmer playing Six – she added an edge to the character lending realism to her bad-assery.

The treatment of John and Henri in the written version was great – I loved how they explored their failings and had to grow throughout the arc of the story… if only that theme had extended to the remainder of the cast, because at the end of the day I did not feel like I had read anything new, or something with a unique twist. I loved how the Nine Lorien were connected and could feel each others deaths, but after that, originality went out the window. The story could have been epic but failed to live up to its potential in both incarnations of film and novel.

The stand out aspect in the film for me were the special effects – the battle scenes remaining steadfast in my memory (snippets of which are shown in the trailer).

I Am Number Four Film vs Novel pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Overall, the movie was a much more satisfying experience over the book for me: so it wins hands down. I’d recommend either for a leisurely afternoons entertainment, but don’t expect it to rock your world.

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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.