Book Review – ‘The Burning World’ (#2 Warm Bodies) by Isaac Marion

Breathing more life into the apocalyptic series.

The Burning World (#2 Warm Bodies) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Horror

No. of pages: 500

goodreads banner by Casey Carlisle

A romance between a zombie boy and a human girl is bound to have its problems, but after battling against the odds and the undead, it seemed that Julie and R had earned their happy ending. But they soon must face a new enemy more terrifying than the walking corpses that still roam the wasted cities: a faceless and merciless corporation who are seeking control of the ruins of America. The key to survival and victory may lie in R’s past life, but can he finally face his own demons?

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

This almost feels like a road trip novel. The characters go from A to B and some plot points are tied up and some aren’t… it seems like this would suffer a middle book syndrome, but it doesn’t. To be honest I was a little worried going into to ‘The Burning World’ with its 500 page length for a zombie dystopian, it has the potential to have an ambling pace, but Isaac Marion put his foot on the accelerator and did not let up until the end. It was a journey with so many things coming at the characters hard and fast.

You get a real sense of humanity through the characters, they react in a realistic way to the circumstances they face. ‘The Burning World’ picks up just after the events in ‘Warm Bodies.’ I’d say this novel primarily deals with filling in R’s backstory. It gives us a hint about the start of the zombie virus, but not quite. I’m hoping it all comes to light in the last book of the franchise ‘The Living.’

There are a lot of interesting elements in ‘The Burning World.’ We get interspersed chapters following a younger R; A young Nearly Dead boy with amber eyes; and some collective consciousness observing the planet and its evolution that seems to have some sort of vast knowledge. There was something like that in ‘Warm Bodies’ with the Boneys – but we don’t see them in this book. There is a sense that everything is connected, that a tangled mess of plot points is being set up. I’m hoping for an epic conclusion.

The Burning World (#2 Warm Bodies) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Isaac Marion’s writing style is both concise and poetic. Descriptions and actions are written with brevity, but philosophy and ambience are waxed lyrical. It is a unique and interesting tone of voice to read.

There does not feel like a tonne of character development. R’s eyes and personality are growing both with the return of his memories, and seeing Julie in the differing scenarios they survive. The other characters have minor realisations of their own, but nothing that pivots or redirects the plot. As you can guess I’m saying this is a plot driven story, rather than a character driven one.

It’s hard to say I predicted anything about ‘The Burning World’ because I didn’t really know where it was heading… and the journey is still yet to be completed. We get enough plot points resolved to finish the novel at a natural point and felt satisfied, but it didn’t altogether feel like a resounding conclusion. I was surprised at many of the elements introduced in this novel – ‘Warm Bodies’ feels simplistic in comparison.

Definitely looking forward to ‘The Living’ to complete the story and see where this all leads. Recommend this to fans of ‘Warm Bodies’ and any of the zombie and dystopian niches, but you must get your hands on both ‘The Burning World’ and ‘The Living’ to skip disappointment. (Luckily I have my copy waiting to go.)

Overall feeling: Didn’t see that one coming…

The Burning World (#2 Warm Bodies) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Burning World (#2 Warm Bodies) 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

goodreads banner by Casey Carlisle

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?

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

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 – ‘Highway Bodies’ by Alison Evans

A zombie apocalypse Aussie style!

Highway Bodies Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, LGBT

No. of pages: 376

goodreads banner by Casey Carlisle

Who will you rely on in the zombie apocalypse?

*
Bodies on the TV, explosions, barriers, and people fleeing. No access to social media. And a dad who’ll suddenly bite your head off – literally. These teens have to learn a new resilience…

Members of a band wield weapons instead of instruments.

A pair of siblings find there’s only so much you can joke about, when the menace is this strong.

And a couple find depth among the chaos.

Highway Bodies is a unique zombie apocalypse story featuring a range of queer and gender non-conforming teens who have lost their families and friends and can only rely upon each other.

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

Once I got into ‘Highway Bodies’ I could not put this book down – I stayed up until 3am to finish it, and every tap, scratch, and spook noise from outside my widow and I’d freeze like I was living in a zombie apocalypse too. Having lived in Melbourne, Australia for over 7 years, it was great to recognise many of the landmarks referenced in this novel. And it was additionally a breath of fresh air to read a story where cis, straight-gendered people were the minority. ‘Highway Bodies’ has a lot going for it.

Told in three alternating perspectives from differing groups of teenagers as they witness the initiation of a viral outbreak from a meat processing plant, turning the population into flesh eating zombies. One of the narratives in particular is expressed in dialect slang – which is jarring at first – I didn’t like it so much, but then as the novel progresses and you get used to it, it really shines through and separates this perspective or Eve from the other two. Eve is transgender and flees from his home after his father turns and attacks Eve’s mother and brother. There is a lot of gore in ‘Highway Bodies’ think ‘The Walking Dead’ starring a diverse group of teens.

Highway Bodies Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleDee leads the second narrative, a member of a rock band renting a house in the countryside while they practice and write new songs. Dee identifies as bisexual and we see many expression of genders and sexuality in her bandmates and throughout the novel. After the power cuts off and they cannot access the internet or get cell service they venture into town to find bodies everywhere, the whole town slaughtered. It doesn’t take them too long to run into their first zombie.

JoJo is our final non-binary protagonist, one of a pair of fraternal twins from a previously abusive home. Their mother is a nurse and after she returns to work and does not return home, JoJo and sister Rhea sneak to the hospital to investigate. Finding their mother, turned, and amongst a horde of caged zombies from a military presence.

After that things really to go hell in a fight for survival: from the zombies, the elements, and other survivors.

It took me a bit to click to what was going on with the switching of narratives in the beginning, it’s not until 50 pages in that you get a sense of the rhythm of ‘Highway Bodies’ and after that the pace and tension keep increasing right up until the end. I enjoyed Alison Evans writing style much more in this novel than I did in her debut ‘Ida.’ ‘Highway Bodies’ has a gruesome realism befitting the dystopian landscape. I found myself invested and caring about these teens plight. The conclusion is a bit of a one-two punch, but satisfying.

The three things holding me back from awarding a perfect score for this novel were the fact I didn’t know what was going on initially with the switching of perspectives. Maybe some chapter titles to let the reader know whose story we were following would have been helpful. The other was the affirmation of gender pronouns to be used when characters were introducing themselves to each other. I get the practicality of it, but in the setting the dialogue did not feel natural and true to the characters… but it is only my opinion. I would have liked to have seen a more intimate setting, or a correction to make this scene feel more authentic. And finally, though there is romance in ‘Highway Bodies’ it wasn’t given enough time to develop to a point for me to really get into the couplings. They were cute and I was rooting for them, but it missed some angst or something.

I have to applaud the representation in ‘Highway Bodies’ it helps raise awareness and give a voice to minority groups. I’m enjoy experiencing a world through the eyes of someone other than a straight white cis-gendered protagonist.

I liken this to Mindy McGinnis ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ it has the same level of brutality, a survival story – and as such is mostly predictable. You want the protagonists to stay alive and make it to the end of the novel; but the journey there has many unexpected turns. ‘Highway Bodies’ is one of my most favourite zombie apocalypse reads to date. And I can’t recommend this enough.

Just some trigger warnings for younger readers for assault, violence, gore, murder, and you know general zombiness.

Overall feeling: Aussie Awesomeness!

Highway Bodies Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Highway Bodies 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 – ‘The Haunted’ (#1 The Haunted) by Danielle Vega

The Grudge and Amytiville House all rolled into one.

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, Paranormal

No. of pages: 252

From Goodreads:

Hendricks Becker-O’Malley is new in town, and she’s bringing baggage with her. With a dark and wild past, Hendricks doesn’t think the small town her parents moved her to has much to offer her in terms of excitement. She plans on laying low, but when she’s suddenly welcomed into the popular crowd at school, things don’t go as expected.

Hendricks learns from her new friends that the fixer-upper her parents are so excited about is notorious in town. Local legend says it’s haunted. Hendricks doesn’t believe it. Until she’s forced to. Blood-curdling screams erupt from the basement, her little brother wakes up covered in scratches, and something, or someone pushes her dad down the stairs. With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don’t take her first.  

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

A brilliant little fast-paced read that feels like you’re watching a horror movie.

Danielle Vega has done it again! I loved ‘The Haunted.’ It created a sufficiently spooky atmosphere and walked that line of reality and supernatural. A fantastic haunted house storyline that slowly unfolds to a totally unpredictable ending. If I have one criticism, it’s that the story wasn’t complex enough. But I have noticed that about Vega’s writing. She likes short, to the point horrors that build intense imagery.

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleHendrick’s is a fun protagonist, moving to a new small town, enrolling in high school and dealing with some weird hallucinations that may or may not be connected to a troubled past. The town of Drearfield offers Hendricks a clean slate, one that she is determined to take advantage of. Straight off the bat she is a got-getter. Proactive. Despite past events, she is not wallowing in grief or self-pity. I instantly liked her. Hendricks was a battler right to the end.

We do get a lot of tropes however – the parents not believing or being involved in the paranormal storyline, the emo loner, the jock, the love triangle… it was a little bit cringey, but I have to admit, I enjoy those from time to time. Even with those tropes, the friends Hendricks makes at school does deconstruct the stereotypes a little, giving a taste of freshness to Vega’s writing style.

Eddie, the emo loner and next door neighbour, jilted from the ‘in’ crowd at school, knows more about the haunting than he’s letting on; and is one of the love interests for Hendircks. I enjoyed how Vega develops this character, even if it is somewhat predicable.

Our jock, Connor, seems to be the quintessential stereotype, turns out to have a heart of gold, oodles amount of patients, and once I got to see him interact with many of the other cast, came to favour him above all the rest… and it was interesting having him as Hendrick’s other suitor.

Notable mention: the not-quite-mean-girl, Portia played her role expertly. But I could take her or leave her, she was an integral part of the plot – as the tool for dragging our protagonist into unfamiliar situations. I felt like she needed a bit more development and wasn’t so stereotypical.

There are some triggers around torture, sexual assault and abuse, and definitely some gory scenes to boot.

Read easily in two sittings, and ties everything up nicely. Enjoyed the ending – that plot twist though… girl!

The dominant theme was about overcoming abuse and learning to stand up for yourself. And family.

Vega has cemented herself as one of my auto-buy authors. She’s highly recommended to those younger readers who love horror – like a Stephen King starter pack.

I thought this was going to be a standalone, but just found out there is a sequel slated for release in 2020 titled ‘The Unleashed.’  You can bet your first born I’m excited about this and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

Overall feeling: Holy Haunted House!

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Haunted (#1 The Haunted) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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 – ‘Sky on Fire’ (#2 Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

The kids from the school bus go on a rough ride.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 215

From Goodreads:

Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope.

Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . .

Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected. . . .

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

Another quick, realistic, and gritty read from Emmy Laybourne.

I loved the circumstances and the everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong tone of this series so far. In this sequel we see the Greenway teens split into two groups, one on a journey to Denver International Airport for medical care of a gunshot wound and evacuation point; the other group, with blood type O – the beserker kind – remain behind waiting for rescue, scared to endanger the rest of the self-made family. They both go through the ringer.

I really appreciate Emmy Langborne’s writing style and how she can craft a story. The pacing kept me glued to the page from start to finish and I completed the novel within a day.

When you’re dealing with teens and children, they are selfish, naive and self-important at their worst… and seriously, I wanted to slap a bitch many times. A few of the characters were so narrow minded and stubborn I would have lost my patience and tossed them outside to fend for themselves, or like I said, clapped them about the ears. What a brilliant accolade for Langbourne’s writing and character development!

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

This book does not pull any punches, the debut sets up that tone, and again we see death, blood and guts – many trigger warnings. Underage Drug and alcohol use, suggested sexual assault, underage sex, violence, shootings, murder and dismemberment by chainsaw. ‘Sky on Fire’ is not for the faint of heart.

But the strongest theme that shines through is that of family and survival. These kids band together and do whatever it takes to get the whole team to safety.

Because of the violent nature and constant plot twists I really had no idea of where this was going to end up. So I did not predict the ending at all. It ends on a good note and sets up the final book of the trilogy (‘Savage Drift’) nicely and I am eager to continue solely because of Langbourne’s writing.

This is one of the better dystopias I’ve read, and recommend of lovers of this genre.

The cover art isn’t that great for any of the novels in this trilogy, but I urge you not to judge these books by their dust jackets.

Overall feeling: ajklfmnato!.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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 – ‘Perihelion Summer’ by Greg Egan

Celestial bodies creating global panic.

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 224

From Goodreads:

Taraxippus is coming: a black hole one tenth the mass of the sun is about to enter the solar system.

Matt and his friends are taking no chances. They board a mobile aquaculture rig, the Mandjet, self-sustaining in food, power and fresh water, and decide to sit out the encounter off-shore. As Taraxippus draws nearer, new observations throw the original predictions for its trajectory into doubt, and by the time it leaves the solar system, the conditions of life across the globe will be changed forever.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

This is more for the hard science fiction fans. Greg Egan has a distinct sophistication about his writing style and does not shy away from in-depth science and technology or theories. I really appreciated this type of narration, I like getting into the nuts and bolts of things. One glaring aspect that really stood out to me was the lack of building a protagonist the reader can connect with. I had a lot of difficulty even caring what was going on with Matt until the last third of the novella. And given the short length of this book, that is not a good thing. Additionally, whether due to the length, or the writing style, we don’t get a lot of character development either. But that is about the worst I had in opinion for ‘Perihelion Summer.’

The concept – black holes travelling through our solar system, altering the status quo and what it means for life on Earth is pretty amazing. That’s what got me hooked to purchase this novel in the first place. While I love the technicality in tone, the more mature narration, it felt a little stale. Being scientific and including all the data/mythology for your story can be distancing and isolating for a reader. Consequently for the first half I just kept wandering when something was going to happen for the character. I mean we were facing a potential extinction level event, our protagonist Matt surviving the catastrophe on a floating fish farm, aiding refugees, and I was bored. I wanted a stronger emotional connection, some motivation wrapped up in passion. We didn’t get any of that until close to the end when Matt rushed to rescue his family. Quite frankly, this novella would have packed a bigger punch if it was half the length.

Our protagonist Matt is determined and intelligent, and apart from facing a number of challenges, I don’t think he really changed throughout the entirety of ‘Perihelion Summer.’ The moment the novel ends on shows a moment of beginning down that road – but that’s it. The end.

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

We get a cast of different races, refugees, pirates, raging seas. None of these are really fleshed out too much. Everything felt like a device to drive the central plot forward. I guess that is another aspect as to why the novella felt a little state: there weren’t enough fleshed out characters to support the story… more chances for the reader to make an emotional connection.

The concept and world building are excellent, the basics of storytelling structure and character development were not. Greg Egan’s forte is in short stories, so I guess expecting the full minutiae of novel writing was overambitious of me. ‘Perihelion Summer’ reads like a snap shot, the middle part of a novel. You get some resolution and feel like the story is finished, and it’s satisfying enough, but I just needed more.

The pacing is definitely off for the first half – it feels really slow. And again, given its length, ‘Perihelion Summer’ should of had a rip-roaring pace given the technical tone, content, and format. The last third especially was incredible and totally redeemed this novella in my eyes. I can see some serious writing chop there. I can’t really comment on predictability, there was no clear objective set at the start, it was more a recounting of a number of incidents from a heroes journey.

I think I could only recommend this to fans of shorter hard science fiction. If you don’t understand the basics of science, biology, physics, astrophysics, you may be constantly looking things up to make sense of casual sentences. The writing style is distinctly masculine, and sparse. It’s more a case of being a fan of Greg Egan, or loving this niche demographic. But ‘Perihelion Summer’ would be a good novella to dip you toe in the waters of hard sci-fi to see if it’s something you like before tackling a full-length novel.

Overall feeling: …*computing… computing…*

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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 – ‘Monument 14’ (#1 Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

Dipping back into dystopia with this raw and realistic series

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not-you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.

Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.

But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.

Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.

When Dean raced out the door to catch the school bus, he didn’t realize it would be the last time he’d ever see his mom. After a freak hailstorm sends the bus crashing into a superstore, Dean and a group of students of all ages are left to fend for themselves.

They soon realize the hailstorm and the crash are the least of their worries. After seeing a series of environmental and chemical disasters ravage the outside world, they realize they’re trapped inside the store.

Unable to communicate with the ones they love, the group attempts to cobble together a new existence. As they struggle to survive, Dean and the others must decide which risk is greater: leaving… or staying.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

This was a great dystopia with a heavy helping of reality. It reminded me of the tone in Mindy McGuinnis ‘Not A Drop To Drink.’ Raw, bleak, and doesn’t pull any punches. I would have rated it higher but there were a few logical issues that had me feeling that some of the characters motivations weren’t quite organic; the other issue revolves around the machismo (*cough toxic masculinity cough*) which dominates the plot. I can understand all this head-butting and chest puffing is realistic, but it’s not something I particularly enjoy reading.

There are a lot of characters in this novel for a YA, and it took me a time to knuckle down everyone in the cast. The story is told from a single perspective, that of Dean, a teen who sits mid-tier in the forming power hierarchy as the youngsters grapple with the world changing cataclysms and struggle to survive barricaded in a Greenway Shopping Megastore.

Emmy Laybourne can write complex characters, but I felt there was a resonance of something stereotypical about them, and I was hoping for an obvious arc or character growth from more of the cast. However, the reactions the players have in this tragedy are very realistic, and it took me a little bit of reflection to identify why I wasn’t completely sold on ‘Monument 14.’ But it may also be that I am well past the demographic this novel is marketed towards and have come to expect more from my reads as my tastes are growing wider and more sophisticated. Plus the dystopian genre has passed its used-by date in the current publishing landscape at the moment. But I love sprinkling in old, new, popular, unpopular, and random reads to spice up my reading ventures.

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I have to say that everything I predicted about ‘Monument 14’ came to pass. I didn’t get any surprises when it came to the storyline. Though it is a compelling quick read and I am interested in following this story in the next two sequels. Objectively though, I’m more keen to find out what is going on with the planet after so many disasters rather than invested in any of the characters stories.

Monument 14’ is very well paced. I read this in one sitting, in one day. There wasn’t one point where I skimmed forward or put it down for a break. There is always something happening to test the characters or drive the story forward.

The concept of a massive natural disaster, compounding and contributing to further complications was masterful. I really enjoyed the landscape of ‘Monument 14.’ All the props given to Emmy Laybourne here. She also has a great writing style, a touch masculine, but it may be because we are experiencing the story through the eyes of Dean. My interest in definitely peaked over her writing and will venture out into some other titles to see how her style changes and impacts me as a reader.

My opinion about ‘Monument 14’ may change after reading the sequels – the story is unfinished – so we don’t get resolution on many plot points.

I’d confidently recommend this to an older/more mature YA reader of this demographic mainly because of the stark landscape and the story deals with issues like pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, death, attempted rape, bullying, and slut shaming. Some I took issue with, and others I did not…

Overall feeling: Hold on to your knickers with this one.

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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 – ‘Iceberg’ by Clive Cussler

A clusterf*#k of political incorrectness.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Action Adventure

No. of pages: 340

From Goodreads:

Frozen inside a million-ton mass of ice-the charred remains of a long missing luxury yacht, vanished en route to a secret White House rendezvous.  The only clue to the ship’s priceless-and missing-cargo: nine ornately carved rings and the horribly burned bodies of its crew. 

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

I’ve been a fan of Cussler since my teen years, but this singular novel really tested my nerve. I can forgive a little machismo – it’s to be expected in this genre and series, but when Cussler has Dirk Pitt playing a stereotype of a gay man – even so far as to use the word faggot a number of times, I wanted to set the book on fire. It was in such poor taste to read these hate-filled slurs. It highlights all the issues of discrimination that the LGBTQIA+ community face.

Cussler used about every negative trope around this issue in ‘Iceberg’ with the protagonist Dirk Pit undercover as a homosexual artist, staring hungrily at men’s crotches like a sexual predator, acting submissive and weak, wearing over-the-top colourful clothing, and flowery speech. This goes on for half the novel. It is obvious that Cussler adopted this writing style for it to come off as comedic, but it just shows his insensitivity and ignorance.

To compound the issue there are continual cracks about crazy women and menopause, or someone on their period – that was also meant to be jocular. The female characters were irrational tittering things meant to look pretty and fetch coffee. Their only goal to land a good husband. They were diminished to a sexual object, nursemaid, or servant. It came off as highly offensive.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I just don’t understand. Was Clive Cussler on some sort of acid trip writing ‘Iceberg?’ I’ve read over 15 of his novels and never come across such blatant misogyny. Maybe I should stop making allowances for Cussler’s overused tropes and start calling him on them in my reviews… I read his novels for the emphasised adventure, the marine environment, and the espionage. ‘Iceberg’ was overshadowed with such a distasteful display of tropes and writing I am literally gobsmacked. Way to offend half your audience dude.

Looking at other aspects of ‘Iceberg,’ like pacing and plot, it wasn’t so bad, but by no means anywhere near his best. There was a plot twist at the end that I didn’t see coming, but that too left a horrid taste in my mouth. I enjoyed the surprise, but hated the premise it supported.

In all honesty I do not recommend this book to anyone. If fact Cussler should pull it from his catalogue entirely. I know I would be ashamed to have written a novel like this.

Overall feeling: Anger and nausea.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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 Merciless III : The Origins of Evil’ (#3 The Merciless) by Danielle Vega

Going back to the beginning…

The Merciless III The Origins of Evil (#3 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, Paranormal

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

Brooklyn knows that there’s no good without evil, no right without wrong. And when a helpless girl calls her teen helpline, whispering that someone is hurting her, Brooklyn knows that she needs to save her anonymous caller, even if it means doing something bad.

Her parents and friends assure her the call was probably a prank but Brooklyn has always had a tendency to take over, whether someone has asked for help or not.

She discovers the call came from Christ First Church and finds herself plunged into the cultish community of its youth group. She’s especially drawn to Gavin, the angelic yet tortured pastor’s son.

Torn between an unstoppable attraction to Gavin and her obsession with the truth, Brooklyn is forced to make a devastating choice to rid Christ Church of evil once and for all. . . . But the devil has plans for Brooklyn’s soul.  

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

This is a prelude to the first two novels following the story of a new protagonist, Brooklyn, leading right up to the events in the debut novel. It has all the uncertainty that I find Danielle Vega does so well in her writing. You want gore – you got it. And again, ‘The Merciless III’ is a quick punchy read that you can visualise as a movie.

I loved following Brooklyn’s transformation, the increments that lead her from each action, escalating as the plot evolves. You are always questioning. Is this mental illness or different shades of crazy? Is this Evil? But it is all based in reality and justifiable, so it’s a grey area. The special effects (so to speak) are straight out of a Hollywood Blockbuster and I loved the descriptions of the evil Brooklyn faces. She is gritty with a rebellious streak, determined not to become a sheep or a clone like the popular girls, sans Mean Girls.

I’m on the fence about the rest of the characters in this novel, only because I found it all a tiny unsettling. You were either getting a culty-religious-zealot vibe, or possibly-possessed-by-a-demon vibe, so it was hard to relate to, or sympathise with the cast. But those elements helped in constructing Riley as a goody-two-shoes judgemental antagonist and leader of the popular girl gang.

The Merciless III The Origins of Evil (#3 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There is a bit of two guys fighting over Brooklyn’s affections. Gavin, the pastor’s son: angelic and tortured. And then there’s Elijah, the laid back dude. But there’s not instalove or anything, just like and lust, so it does not read as a love triangle.

The story is predictable – I mean it’s a prequel to the first two books, so you know in which direction it’s heading, but boy oh boy if it doesn’t still throw a cat at your face. I still get shocked at the *cough-torture-porn-cough* and it is still a fast paced read. It has got me even all the more excited to get to the fourth and final book for the series. At this point I don’t know how any of the characters are going to end up surviving. Maybe they’ll all take a big dirt nap in Hell? Who knows?

I’m really loving Danielle Vega’s writing style. She can throw misdirection and doubt like a master, her characters aren’t so cookie-cutter typical either, and most always have a hidden past that is intriguing. It’s fast-paced, interesting and very teen slasher movie. Another definite recommend from me for a light YA horror which is an easy read.

There was some disorientation upon first reading as I went into this novel without any prior knowledge – eager to continue in Sofia’s journey – and felt a little confronted by a different perspective and new characters. But I quickly got over myself when I worked out what was going on.

Overall feeling: Keeping the creep factor alive since 2014.

The Merciless III The Origins of Evil (#3 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

 The Merciless III The Origins of Evil (#3 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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 Merciless II : The Exorcism of Sofia Flores’ (#2 The Merciless) by Danielle Vega

Mean Girls meets The Exorcist…

The Merciless II The Exorcism of Sofia Flores (#2 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, Paranormal

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

Sofia is still processing the horrific truth of what happened when she and three friends performed an exorcism that spiraled horribly out of control. Ever since that night, Sofia has been haunted by bloody and demonic visions. Her therapist says they’re all in her head, but to Sofia they feel chillingly real. She just wants to get out of town, start fresh someplace else . . . until her mother dies suddenly, and Sofia gets her wish.

Sofia is sent to St. Mary’s, a creepy Catholic boarding school in Mississippi. There, seemingly everyone is doing penance for something, most of all the mysterious Jude, for whom Sofia can’t help feeling an unshakeable attraction. But when Sofia and Jude confide in each other about their pasts, something flips in him. He becomes convinced that Sofia is possessed by the devil. . . . Is an exorcism the only way to save her eternal soul?  

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

Another homerun from Danielle Vega. Continuing  right where the debut left off we follow Sofia Flores as she tries to put into context the events that happened in ‘The Merciless.’ Are there really demons out there, or is she suffering delusion brought on by mental illness? I loved how Vega supports both of these hypothesis right up until the end so you never really know what is going on until an explosive ending that throws another twist into the works.

I actually had a nightmare after reading ‘The Merciless II’ waking up in the early hours of the morning, heart pounding, feeling like there was a presence in my room. I haven’t had a sensation like that since my high school days, so there is something about Vega’s writing that resonated with me enough to unsettle my psyche. What a brilliant testimony to this series.

A highly entertaining read with a creepy undertone that raises the hairs on the back of your neck. Protagonist Sofia is isolated from the safety and familiar and forced to question everything she has seen and heard. ‘The Merciless II’ is haunting. Something about the way this story unfolds has you on Sofia’s side all the way – fanatics look insane, demons a religious fantasy, it makes sense… but there is always that ‘what if.’ And it is something that Sofia cannot ignore lest she gives in to the impossible, or declares herself insane.

The Merciless II’ steps it up from the debut, it’s more visceral, more on the line, and Sofia is even more vulnerable. I was gripped from start to finish and eager for more. A quick read, and am glad I have ‘The Merciless III : Origins of Evil’ on hand to jump into directly, as this novel ends with a twist I did not see coming and am excited to find out what happens next. Vega is turning into one of my top-tier authors. I’ve yet to be disappointed in any of her novels.

The Merciless II The Exorcism of Sofia Flores (#2 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I can’t say I predicted what was going to happen – only a vague sense that she would battle something paranormal, but no specifics. And certainly not what came to eventuate. But I am learning Vegas’ twisted sense of humour and starting to get a taste for her delightfully wicked style of storytelling.

Merciless II’ introduces us to a new setting – a Catholic boarding school and a plethora of new characters. Even though this deals with religious beliefs, exorcisms, it reads more like a monster story. Religion is merely the mythology behind the tale, not a plot point for conversion. And that is another reason why I enjoyed this book so much. I didn’t have God bashed into my skull with a well-worn leather bible, I was left to revel in the tale of Sofia being stalked – be it by some twisted mentally ill girl, or a supernatural force.

It falls well in the realms of YA. There is no extreme gore and filth, or language. It’s written for mature audiences but not adults only. But that is what you’d expect from a horror story of this genre.

Definitely recommend. It was a wild ride – but be prepared to get your hands on all four books in the series because once you finish one, you’re going to want the rest of the collection around to get the rest of the story.

Overall feeling: Heart-pounding, hair-raising, spooky fun.

The Merciless II The Exorcism of Sofia Flores (#2 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Merciless II The Exorcism of Sofia Flores (#2 The Merciless) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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.