Book Review – ‘My Plain Jane’ (#2 The Lady Janies) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Another supernatural twist on a classic tale…

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Historical

No. of pages: 464

From Goodreads:

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

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Another hilarious ride through a re-imagined classic from authors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.

I did find the characters interesting and compelling, and the plot equally twisty and turny. Expect surprises, with ‘My Plain Jane’ but also mirroring the same tone to the original text this novel is inspired by.

While the authors are great at world building, the stand out aspect of ‘My Plain Jane’ is the complexity of the characters and their development. Historical mannerisms and social etiquette also add a comedic touch. I especially remember when Charlotte Bronte disguised herself as a footman and marvels how comfortable being dressed as a man is, and wonders why they aren’t sleeping all the time.

The story is told from three perspectives, that of Jane, Charlotte and Alexander. Jane can see ghosts and has a passion for writing. Everyone describes her as average, forgettable. Except for ghosts. The otherworldly spectres see Jane as beautiful and compelling. Charlotte is a fastidious beauty. The kind of always on the go perfectionist and Janes best friend. We do see a bit of jealousy, or sibling rivalry pop up between these two. And Alexander, an agent of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits of which he tries to recruit Jane for her ability to communicate (and see) ghosts.

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Helen, the sassy 14 year old ghost and best friend of Jane Eyre has to be my favourite character from the book. I’d love her running the narration or giving opinion of what is going on.

The ghosts and their mythology were a great addition to this tome and I wish there was a sequel following these characters. (Maybe in the Marys trilogy.)

We get a few nods to the original text, as well as a mention of the main characters from ‘My Lady Jane’ which I found delightful.

The pacing felt slower in ‘My Plain Jane,’ I put this book down a number of times for rests. So too was the humour spread out much more. In comparison to ‘My Lady Jane’ where we got frequent asides to the reader, plenty of slapstick. I was always laughing… this felt sparse in ‘My Plain Jane.’

I think one thing that slowed the pace down for me is the continual head-jumping as multiple points of view are followed in ‘My Plain Jane.’ Changing with each chapter, their voices weren’t that distinct, and the authors had to establish a little about the character and the scene before moving the story forward – and many of the chapters are short – so I think this was the main culprit for the pace feeling slow. Especially in the first half of the novel. I think if the authors tackled several plot points in a chapter before switching point of view it would have driven the story further a lot quicker and given the reader enough time to connect to the narrator before hearing from another of the main cast.

The overall plot was very enjoyable. I’d re-read this for a lazy Sunday afternoon sipping hot tea on the porch to wind down from a busy week.

There is a great amount of predictability, given ‘My Plain Jane’ is a re-imagining of ‘Jane Eyre,’ but I felt this novel stood on its own, and the fuzzy memory I had of the original story still did not impede the surprises and twist of the storyline. I kinda liked the way it ended.

Another solid recommendation. A fun by-the-side for lovers of the classic novel.

Looking forward to the final book in this trilogy ‘My Calamity Jane,’ due for release sometime in 2020 and I also noted that there will be another trilogy for the Marys (the first set in the same universe as ‘My Lady Jane’) and am ecstatic to see these three authors collaborate on further novels in this tone. So much fun to read!

Overall feeling: fun and funny, but a bit flat

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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

Wrap up – Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkin

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I read this collection spread out over just under four years! I think because the middle book disappointed me after the stellar impression from the debut, I was reluctant to pick up ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ for a while after its release.

And a friendly warning: this is a wrap-up, so it discusses many elements with the plot, so avoid reading if you don’t like *spoilers!*

I was blow away with the debut. Hodkin’s writing is eloquent and haunting and I loved the analytical introspection of the protagonist. Plus the paranormal mystery storyline mixed in with a bit of thriller kept me engaged. A rich tapestry of characters that you don’t get a lot of in YA had me singing its praises to anyone who’d listen. And then the sequel “The Evolution of Mara Dyer’ put a big spanner in the works. The narrative moved away from the paranormal mystery/thriller, to that of a contemporary dealing with mental illness. We still get all the supernatural elements, but find ourselves embroiled in something that floundered about. Mara was not sure of anything –and as a result, I had no clue where the story was going. The pacing slowed right down because we were dealing circle shares and lengthy introductions to new cast members in the Sanatorium. I missed the tone of the debut and consequently was not too eager to pick of ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ when it was released.

After reading many rave reviews for the conclusion for this trilogy, I finally got around to reading it and my faith was just about fully restored. Though the genre was approaching more sci-fi than paranormal. Experiments for developing abilities – and mental illness the cost of acquiring such abilities is a fantastic concept. I was a touch underwhelmed about this explanation. The hint of past lives and ghosts from the first novel is what had interested me in this series initially.

This series is the first that I have read in YA with a darker tone to it, and I really can’t hype Hodkin’s writing enough. She is a sheer genius with her turn of phrase. What started out as feeling like a paranormal thriller, morphed into a gothic romance. So it was a bit of a rocky road with this trilogy, but definitely gets two thumbs up from me.

Of course we can continue in this universe with the latest releases of The Shaw Confessions, of which I am keen to collect and read. ‘The Becoming of Noah Shaw,’ ‘The Reckoning of Noah Shaw,’ and a third yet untitled volume to be published in 2019. Let’s hope it continues with the timeline and does not suffer the middle book slump.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/book-review-the-unbecoming-of-mara-dyer/

The Evolution of Mara Dyer’ https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/book-review-the-evolution-of-mara-dyer/

The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/book-review-the-retribution-of-mara-dyer-by-michelle-hodkin/

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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.

Let me have a moment… (with ‘Teen Wolf’)

Let me have a moment Pic 09 by Casey Carlisle.jpgEvery now and then I find I need to take a few days off the schedule to gather my thoughts… or binge watch a tv show.

It’s my own fault. I set a grueling timetable, big goals and sacrifice a lot of other things to manage my time in order to achieve the dream ‘to do’ list. It’s in my nature to go big or go home. Whether its perfectionism, O.C.D, or having an imagination bigger that the wild outdoors, I don’t know; but I’ve always operated with enthusiasm.

Let me have a moment Pic 08 by Casey Carlisle.gifConsequently, you can only go for so long on maximum throttle before you need to stop. This last weekend was such a time, I dropped out of everything and spent a few days in front of the screen on a ‘Teen Wolf’ marathon. Yay for supernatural goodness with hot boys! It’s the first time I’ve re-watched any episode since their release (especially back to back) and, as a writer, I marveled at the story lines, arcs, and character development. I was also surprised at the darker elements of the show like the gore and emotional suffering. I didn’t remember it being so shocking when I first watched. There were some silly moments – and I don’t mean comedic – like the Beast of Gévaudan. The CGI was awful and didn’t portray any feeling of menace.

But at the core of the show, and the reason I was watching, boils down to the relationships between the characters. The Pack as it’s called. I found myself wishing I still had that collection of friends by my side, sharing the ups and downs that I had in high school. They are still around, but we have scattered across the continent and have separate lives, families, and careers; so friendships aren’t a day to day priority any more. The bromance between Scott and Stiles is epic. I can see that trope in the ‘Supernatural’ tv show as well between the Winchester brothers. For some reason, that buddy-ship appeals to me. It gives an authentic feel to the characters without saturating it in machismo. I also realise there is a lot of homoerotic undertones in the characterisation in both of the shows that I don’t take offense to. It’s light-hearted and fun and is not intended derogatory, but support and include that community in some way – like we’re all in on the joke. The other aspect that had me tuning in was the romance. ‘Teen Wolf’ has a great way of building a strong connection between the characters that allows me to get lost in the fantasy.

I know that Teen Wolf wasn’t initially envisaged to continue past the episodes that have already aired – and I really liked the note that Season 5 ended on. But with a new season speculated to air within the next few months, I’m still really excited to see where the show will take us. I did take a peek online to try and get some clues and couldn’t glean too much, but I did notice that Tyler Posey and Dylan O’Brien have their run for the next season ending in 2016, where the other characters have their run shown through to 2017 on IMDB, so I’m wondering if the characters of Scott and Stiles are leaving or getting killed off? Or maybe management aren’t updating the profiles just yet… but it’s got me anxious about what is going to happen, since they are the sole reason I watch the show. MTV have been tight-lipped about any spoilers or an air date getting leaked for the upcoming season. The producers and writers are going to have to bring in some amazing characters, storylines and friendships to ensure survival of this franchise.

I have had some issues with this show, but on the whole love it for the feast of characters and the kind of escapism I haven’t been able to find since the ending of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ Some came close, like ‘Lost Girl,’ ‘Orphan Black,’ and of course ‘Supernatural.’ They all have elements of horror, comedy and built in great friendships/relationships of all kinds. Let’s hope more addictive television keeps appearing on our screens worthy of a weekend binge session. Complex characters, diversity and character driven storylines are just the recipe for this gal!

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What television series inspires your writing?

 

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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 – ‘Girl of Nightmares’ by Kendare Blake

Move over Buffy – this slayer is giving you a serious run for your money…

Girl of Nightmares Book Review by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror , Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 332

From Goodreads:

It’s been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can’t move on. 

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they’re right, but in Cas’s eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he’s seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he’s asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong…these aren’t just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn’t know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn’t deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it’s time for him to return the favor.
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After thoroughly enjoying Anna Dressed in Blood, I could not wait to get my hands on Girl of Nightmares, and while it did not disappoint, this second novel wasn’t quite as excellent as its predecessor. I say this because we don’t get as much of Cas and Anna, or the dark comedy. There is still plenty of action and mystery, and Anna-angst to satisfy. I was also expecting a one-two punch with the climax – Anna Dressed in Blood had a double whammy towards its end, and Girl of Nightmares did not deliver this.

I wanted more of Anna. More of her interacting in the real world. It felt a lot like New Moon in the Twilight Saga, where Edward was a voice in Bella’s head for the majority of the novel. I loved how we left stereotypes behind in this installment, already deconstructed in Anna Dressed in Blood, we uncovered more about the cast of characters…

Cas was a workhorse, juggling school, relationships and the supernatural. Given the light tone of the book, and fast pace, Cas was always busy and preoccupied. I would have like to have seen him lose it a bit more over Anna, build the drama. But that’s my personal preference and not a judgement on the book.

This book felt more about the supporting cast (that I like to call the Scooby Gang). We get to see more of their strengths and weaknesses and how they are all connected. Where Anna Dressed in Blood was more ironic, Girl of Nightmares is more sympathetic.

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The story however was brilliantly woven and wrapped up nicely at the conclusion; but leaving it with the hint that another novel in the Anna/Cas universe a possibility.

Kendare Blake’s writing style captures a masculine narrative expertly, and is engaging enough to read this in one sitting/weekend if you choose to do so. I spread it out a bit longer, knowing this was an end to the duology. The pacing was better than the debut and built steadily, where I didn’t quite know what was going on in the first book (which ultimately meant more surprises). Again the storyline is fairly predictable, but so many unexpected twists thrown in resulting in a totally captivating novel.

Overall reaction: Oh glorious words written on the pages!

Girl of Nightmares Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Girl of Nightmares Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© 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.

Book Review – ‘Fade’ by Lisa McMann

Falling asleep was the least of my worries…

Spring 09, Final

Genre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

SOME NIGHTMARES NEVER END.

For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. They’re just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck.

Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody’s talking. When Janie taps into a classmate’s violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open — but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie’s in way over her head, and Cabe’s shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.

Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability — and it’s bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a dream catcher sealed, but what’s to come is way darker than she’d feared….

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Fade surpassed Wake in bucket loads for me – more action, more mythology about Janie’s ability, and more Cabel yumminess!

The pretence of walking through other people’s dreams fascinated me, and the fact that Janie could use it in a way to read people’s minds was even better. Uncovering more about her ability and folklore behind it equally grabbed my attention, and was glad we got to explore Janie’s special talents further than in Wake.

Janie has really embraced her power in this sequel – both physically and supernaturally – combining to match her already established mental strength from Wake. It was excellent to see a character in a book give a big dose of proactive behaviour.

We see her embrace her situation –claim her power. Not only her gift, but train her body to its peak performance… even when faced with inevitable disability. It’s this kind of fighting spirit that kept me reading.

Cabel really is the James Dean of McMann’s world. He had undeniable swagger and maturity that leaps off the page. The way he is there foe Janie is amazing. Despite the failings (for me) with the language and writing style, the romance of these two characters outshines any of that to bring this book home.

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We deal with some more controversial topics in this instalment, like its predecessor, and at its heart Fade is like a detective novel.

Extremely fast read, colourful language (as in the first instalment) and each arc in the storyline is explored thoroughly. I may have rated Fade higher if it weren’t for Lisa McMann’s writing style – for personal preference, short abrupt sentences and throwing in slang and superlatives may give it a ‘young’ and edgy feel, but it kept dragging me from the story.

Overall reaction: Well, that was unexpected…

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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.

Book Review – Death Most Definite

Death Most Definite Book Review by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

Steven de Selby has a hangover. Bright lights, loud noise, and lots of exercise are the last thing he wants. But that’s exactly what he gets when someone starts shooting at him.

Steven is no stranger to death-Mr. D’s his boss after all-but when a dead girl saves him from sharing her fate, he finds himself on the wrong end of the barrel. His job is to guide the restless dead to the underworld but now his clients are his own colleagues, friends, and family.

Mr. D’s gone missing and with no one in charge, the dead start to rise, the living are hunted, and the whole city teeters on the brink of a regional apocalypse-unless Steven can shake his hangover, not fall for the dead girl, and find out what happened to his boss- that is, Death himself.

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I happened across this book at the airport and bought it to while away the hours spent soaring across the Australian sky with no prior knowledge what this book was about and was happily surprised. ‘Death Most Definite’ is a gem! And the start of a the Death Works Trilogy!

An elegant twist on a Grimm Reaper, Trent Jamieson builds a supernatural world on top of Brisbane, Queensland with great artistry. It was also great to read an urban fantasy where the protagonist, (and most of the cast for that matter) are close to their family. Steven gives a satirical narration with a refreshing realistic take on events. He’s not afraid to cry at loss, feel love and express it, or get pissed off and kick something. Steven felt so real to me.

Trent Jamieson has an easy going writing style and I never found myself pulled out of the narrative. He expertly builds the story and pace, I barely put down the book and the ending delivers a fantastic pay off. I am so happy I have discovered this author! Such rich, well thought out characters that deliver quirks and failings in full technicolour. With a great sense of irony and comedic timing I embarrassed myself repeatedly in parts when I barked a laugh out loud while reading this on the plane, tram and in the park.

The flow of the novel is somewhat predictable in the sense of it fitting into the typical horror genre format; but the particulars are unique and entertaining.

If you loved ‘The Mortal Instruments,’ you may want to give this series a go.. it’s grittier but has all the elements I loved from Clary’s world and comes from a masculine point of view with a great dose of Australiana. Additionally any fans of the film ‘R.I.P.D’ staring Ryan Reynolds will enjoy this extravagant tale.

Highly recommend this to anyone with a fetish for the supernatural and/or afterlife. I’ve already added the second installment of this series ‘Managing Death’ (Death Works Trilogy) to my reading pile.

Death Most Definite Book Review pic 01 by Casey CarlisleCritique 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.

Book Review – The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer Book Review by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

Mara Dyer believes life can’t get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can. 
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love. She’s wrong.

Firstly, the style of Michelle Hodkin was phenomenal. I am so envious of her turn of phase – she is imaginative and eloquent, and this was by far the most outstanding quality. The supernatural, or paranormal theme that plays out in this book is subtle, it doesn’t fall into a fantasy world, which added legitimacy and realism to the narration.

Mara’s internal dialogue is enrapturing; her struggles with overanalysing her surrounds and overlapping visions and flashbacks give it a touch of a psychological thriller. Michelle Hodkin has written a refreshing take within the YA genre that left me wanting more. The story itself is more about an inner journey, as outwardly there is no epic quest, rather a revisitation of past dramas intermingled with a current one.

I normally detest flashbacks – they are so overdone, but this storytelling tool was used in ‘The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer’ to show you facts eluding to what is happening to Mara and let the reader draw their own conclusions.

The character of Mara is easy to relate to, her confusion, fear and a strong feeling of being out of place or lost shines through as she tentatively tries to connect with those around her. I managed to guess what was going on early in the piece, but was surprised with unexpected twists at the end.

source:  Pinterest - Gabriel Briefs

source: Pinterest – Gabriel Briefs

Daniel and Joseph, (Mara’s younger and older siblings) are equal parts adorable and annoying; you really feel a sense of family here and how the band together to deal with their parents. It is the type of dynamic and camaraderie that you see in many families.

Your typical scruffy but gorgeous guy – Noah – makes the perfect match for Mara and I liked his never-say-die attitude from the get-go. He provides the rock that Mara needs to work through her issues. If you like obstinate boys who always grab your attention with witty banter, then you’ll love Noah.

Besides the well rounded characters and amazing writing style I can’t say too much more without posting spoilers, so I’ll end it here. I highly recommend this for your collection, it is a great change of pace from you typical paranormal themed book. For people not overly into this genre, Hodkin’s book would be a good intro.

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© 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.