Wrap up – Blackbird Duology by Anna Carey

When there is no-one you can trust, people are trying to kill you, all you can do is rely on yourself… and survive!

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What a dynamic duology! I loved and devoured both of these books in quick succession. I would recommend reading these close together, or marathoning them, as ‘Blackbird’ ends on a cliff-hanger and if you get entranced as I was, you’ll be desperate to find out what happens next.

I will say that the whole memory loss/amnesia trope has been clubbed to death, especially in YA. However the majority of protagonists in this action/thriller genre tend to be male, so it was fantastic to read it from a female perspective. Especially since she is intelligent, resourceful, and follows her instincts. No fading wallflower or damsel in distress here.

One other note of contention that we never really get explained is how the protagonists get some of their spy-like survival skills. It was a bit of a reach for me to completely swallow this aspect.

But on the whole, I loved how quickly the series kicks off isolating the protagonist. The feeling of not being able to trust anyone is visceral and the writing style is punchy. Short chapters, so you can really power through these novels.

Once our protagonist begins to regain some of her memories, especially in ‘Deadfall,’ there were a lot of flashback scenes that pulled me from the narrative. I would have preferred different methods of revealing these memories to the reader though, because after three or four, to became too repetitive.

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There is a love triangle in here, but it does not devolve into an angsty mess. So I did not find myself rolling my eyes at this trope.

I have to say this is a solid four star rating across the board. The brief and punchy descriptive style of Anna Carey keeps the pace going from beginning to end and I was highly entertained and would happily recommend this to lovers of the YA genre. We get a decent amount of character development. The plot twists are pretty great and was completely satisfied with the pay-off upon completing the two novels. A fun cat-and-mouse type thriller.

Blackbird’ was optioned by Lionsgate back in March 2015, but there has been no news since the announcement. I can see how this would have appeal to the public as an action/thriller, especially since there have not been a lot of releases in this genre of late, so I guess we will have to wait and see if it comes to fruition, and what type of Hollywood treatment it gets. But it is certainly a film I’d be interested in seeing. But in digging further into the screenwriter attached to the project, Daniel Mackey (of ‘Aim High’ fame,) he hasn’t been involved in anything listed on the regular movie production sites since 2015. Plus ‘Blackbird’ is no longer listed on Lionsgate’s website as movies in development, so while it is optioned, at this point in time it is not being actively worked on. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Blackbird’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/book-review-blackbird-1-blackbird-by-anna-carey/

Deadfall’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/book-review-deadfall-2-blackbird-by-anna-carey/

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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.

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Film vs Novel – Everything Everything

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I did purchase the novel when it was first released, but ended putting it to the side due to all the hype – I like to go into a read with a clear head so I can form my own opinions without any influence. The movie marketing began just as I was looking at starting the book (again), and so, back to the shelf to wait, until now, comfortably ready to read and compare the book to film with a clear conscience.

The film was cute. However it felt like the soul of the story had been edited out in comparison to the book. All those little symbolic references from the text, diminished or omitted completely in the movie adaptation. It left the characters feeling a little two dimensional and bland. However the cinematography was beautiful, but I wondered if it couldn’t feel ‘bigger’ – the daydream scenes were merged with text conversations and lost the reason of why they were there in the first place. It was a funny concept to marry meaning and the text message dialogue from the novel. I understand that Maddy tends to live in her imagination because it’s the only way she can explore the outdoors from inside her hermitically sealed home, but the tone wasn’t obvious enough and left the film feeling soft and ethereal, not grounded in reality. This, combined with the watering-down of more controversial elements of the narrative, like abuse, left me with some unease about the film.

The big screen version gave a beautiful nod to the novel with illustrations from the pages included at the end credits, however it only proved just how much they left out – how much of Maddy’s inner consternation was omitted. Even when watching the movie, I felt like all Maddy and Olly did was way too much staring…. there was so much silence. And while the actors (Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson) did a stellar performance with their subtext, it did not drive the story forward.

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I love Nick Robinson as an actor, but on screen he looked older, tired, and the elements of the book – like the parkour were ignored, when Maddy commented in the film ‘You’re standing so still’ it had no context and felt superfluous. The severity of Olly’s relationship with his Father is alluded to, but lacked the prominence as it did in the novel. You really get a feel for what Olly is suffering through, and Maddy’s desperation to help him in the novel. It is raw, visceral and dangerous. The film simply shows a bit of shoving… I mean, it felt like such a weak trigger to propel Maddy into risking her life.

Olly’s sister plays a different role in the novel to the film, and because of the sanitised, laconic version of ‘Everything, Everything’ on the big screen, she was such a different creature in tone.

A scene not in the book – the visual delight the oceans of the world and Olly’s note was probably the best, and certainly the most memorable. If only that type of interpretation had been maintained throughout and the pacing kept up, I would have had a completely different opinion of the film. To prove a point, the first kiss – on the 4th of July was a big letdown in the film; the lighting effects came across as obviously fake and detracted from the mood of the scene.

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Aspects like this ‘scene treatment,’ lack of a characters narrative to set up the relationships and actions, and pacing overall turned the film into a disappointment for me. Though it was cute. Cute for a 12 year old, and too fluffed up for its intended YA demographic. And those who loved the book may feel that much of the better parts of the novel had been cut.

Where the film felt slow, empty, and left me with a sense of unanswered questions. The book, even though containing many inaccuracies, at least had more of a dynamic and plenty of character motivation and interest.

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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 – ‘Indelible Ink’ by Matt Betts

Anti-heroine assassin sisters trying to break free…

Indelible Ink Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy

No. of pages: 232

From Goodreads:

It’s What’s Inside That Counts.

Something lurks inside Deena Riordan. She never once questioned her life in the criminal underworld as the star of Mr. Marsh’s illegal empire and his youngest assassin. Her ruthless demeanor and dark magical powers have kept her at the top of the heap for years. But one day she pushes the sorcery too far and something snaps. Only then does Deena realize she’s always been a puppet of that dark power with no true will of her own. 

Now, in order to get out of the crime business for good, she needs to save her sister from Marsh’s angry clutches. It won’t be easy. She’ll have to make her way through friends turned foes, dodge determined federal agents, and stay out of a particularly stubborn fellow hitman’s sights. Worst of all, Deena will have to wrestle with the darkness inside to keep it from swallowing her up again.

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Indelible Ink’ introduces a fantastic world, a captivating plot with a sci-fi/paranormal twist. By the time I finished this novel I needed to take a deep breath from such a wild ride.

This story is told from multiple perspectives, and jumps around the timeline a bit, but mostly follows our protagonist/anti-heroine, Deena. However the theme of Deena getting her new attitude/ lease on life didn’t quite mesh for me. I felt like there was a few gaping holes in context, though I did enjoy the story arc.

Harper, Deena’s kick-ass sister, has a darker side and I felt got off too easy for some of her actions. Plus it felt like issues between the siblings never gets resolution. But these girls go through the ringer with action, espionage, crime, and killing. A real by-the-seat-of-your-pants epic.

Indelible Ink Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe narrative is a completely unique story. Refreshing.

There’s so much carnage. It was hard to care about some of the characters when they get offed so quickly after being introduced into the narrative.

For as much action ‘Indelible Ink’ has, it felt like it took forever to get somewhere – which is sad for such a short book. The pacing lagged – jumping around the timeline, short chapters continually changing POV for each different cast member. It made it hard to relate to, and get invested in any single person. I put this novel down a few times for a break because of the scattered narrative.

The writing style is edgy with sarcasm and highly entertaining. I just wish the chapters were longer and remained with the sisters…

Indelible Ink’ reminded me of Swarm from the Spider-man franchise.

Even with the issues I had, I would still recommend this because those qualms resulted from my personal taste, and not from any failings in story, structure, or character development. Glad to add this to my collection. I might re-read this sometime in the future and see if my opinions and rating change.

Overall feeling: Intense read.

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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 – ‘Deadfall’ (#2 Blackbird) by Anna Carey

Move over Hannah, the Gallagher Girls, Spy Kids and Barely Lethal, there’s a new girl in town.

Deadfall (#2 Blackbird) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

A week ago, you woke up in Los Angeles with no memory of who you are. The only thing you knew: people are trying to kill you. You put your trust in Ben, but he betrayed you and broke your heart. Now you’ve escaped to New York City with a boy named Rafe, who says he remembers you from before. But the two of you are not safe. The same people who are after you are tailing Rafe as well. As the chase heats up, your memory starts to return, but your past cannot save you from the terrifying circumstances of your present, or the fact that one wrong move could end this game forever.

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Again, like the debut of this duology ‘Blackbird,’ I was gripped from page to page. This is one action thriller that keeps your attention.

I was still wondering where all this instinctive training exhibited by our protagonist Sunny/Lena came from. Combat, lock picking, pickpocketing. They are skills that take ages to master, so that aspect of the story pulled me a little from the narrative – like please – Sunny/Lena has to fail at something. Believeability suffered by our protagonist miraculously having all these awesome skills in her arsenal. It was fun reading about, but felt like either another novel in this series was needed to explore this aspect, or a bit more care was needed in the existing two books to explain it away sufficiently.

I think because of all the action and pacing, some emotional connection between the characters was sacrificed. I was invested in their story, their survival, but not so much their relationships. I didn’t care for the characters themselves either. I felt like I needed more emotional development, some more backstory and a chance to see bonds develop further before the novel ended. Consequently, as with a few of the plot twists (which I did not see coming) left me with acceptance, rather than some emotional reaction.

There is a little bit of character development – but it’s mainly from the amnesia fading and the characters getting some of their old lives back – this story is more a survival, cat-and-mouse chase than anything else, so don’t expect paragraphs of naval gazing, wondering about their place in the universe.

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I did happen to roll my eyes at the Sunny/Lena-Ben-Rafe love triangle. Though it was handled intelligently and didn’t turn into a big angsty mess, I am starting to find this trope overdone in YA.

The best way I can sum up the main cast would be: Ben is a great redemption story. Rafe was a faithful golden retriever, Sunny/Lena was never-say-die….

We get a lot more flashbacks, and brief flashes of alternative character perspectives dispersed throughout the narrative, and while giving pertinent plot points to the story, left the book feeling a bit messy and all over the place. I would rather a few poignant flashbacks and leave out the other points of view entirely to keep the narratives strength and remain connected to Sunny/Lena.

But you definitely get a pay-off at the end. I love how it was all resolved. Anna Carey can shape a great tale, and I am eager to purchase her dystopian Eve trilogy.

Carey’s writing style is fairly brief and punchy, she doesn’t dwell on the superfluous and pushes the story forward with bare needed description and facts, and short chapters. I devoured this book in a matter of hours.

Overall it was engaging, entertaining, and intelligent and definitely one of the better YA novels I’ve read recently – I highly recommend this to be read shortly after the debut ‘Blackbird.’

I know ‘Blackbird’ was optioned for a movie by Lionsgate back in 2015, but there has been no news on its development since the initial announcement, but it’s certainly a movie I’d like to see. 🙂

Overall feeling: Love me some teen super-spy action!

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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 – ‘Blackbird’ (#1 Blackbird) by Anna Carey

A girl spy cat and mouse.

Blackbird (#1 Blackbird) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

Things I Know Are True: 
I am in Los Angeles

I woke up on the train tracks at the Vermont/Sunset station

I am a teenage girl 

I have long black hair

I have a bird tattoo on the inside of my right wrist with the letters and numbers FNV02198

People are trying to kill me

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This was a great action/mystery. I was gripped from the very start. The whole amnesia thing is entirely overdone, but it worked for ‘Blackbird’ and it took me a quarter of the way it to work out ‘Sunny’s’ role in the plot.

It really is a case of you don’t know who and what to trust. That tone comes across strongly in the narrative. It’s disorientating and adds to the tension of the storyline. Sunny, our protagonist, with no memory, framed and chased, strangers trying to kill her – the premise is set up in the first few pages and continues right to the end. I read this in one complete sitting and was thoroughly entertained the entire way.

I found Sunny to be observant, intelligent and possessing great instincts. I would have like to get some resolution to how she obtained these skills. Though lightly alluded to, it’s never explored. I’m guessing all the answers will come in the sequel ‘Deadfall.’

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It’s hard to peg the characters, or comment on character development because of the twists and turns of the plot – It is something I’m going to have to wait until completing ‘Deadfall’ before commenting on – as the story ended on a cliff hanger and the story is only half told.

The writing style is easy to read, but thought like it lacked some sophistication – though I feel it would not hit its YA market if the narrative voice developed a more complex structure. So, Anna Carey has written the perfect novel for this niche. It is just my opinion that it could have added a better dynamic if the clues were a little more obscure and Sunny had less support… more Bourne-like to add some more complexity – but it would push this out of its appeal and into a more adult market.

While the premise of ‘Blackbird’ doesn’t feel all that original, it is still an engaging read. It reminded me of a lot of the teen action movies like ‘Tracers’ or ‘Alex Rider.’ Though it was nice to read from a female protagonist’s point of view as opposed to a male one which dominates this genre.

The novel does feel unfinished – there are many clues dropped, many flashbacks out of context that are not resolved. The story ends on a cliff hanger and I’m bummed that I now have to wait to purchase the follow up ‘Deadfall.’ So my advice is to buy both of these together if you have difficulty in waiting to find out what happens.

I feel if there was more resolution, a bit more solid character development this would have been a 5 star read – but because of the feeling of incompletion I am only awarding it 4.Definitely something I’d recommend to younger readers who love cat and mouse, spy, action type mysteries.

Overall feeling: I want to do the Mission Impossible dance around my room

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Into the Still Blue’ (#3 Under the Never Sky) by Veronica Rossi

The hair-raising conclusion to a lightning filled dystopian world that fizzled flat.

Into The Still Blue Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 389

From Goodreads:

The race to the Still Blue has reached a stalemate. Aria and Perry are determined to find this last safe haven from the Aether storms before Sable and Hess do—and they are just as determined to stay together.

Within the confines of a cave they’re using as a makeshift refuge, they struggle to reconcile their people, Dwellers and Outsiders, who are united only in their hatred of their desperate situation. Meanwhile, time is running out to rescue Cinder, who was abducted by Hess and Sable for his unique abilities. Then Roar arrives in a grief-stricken fury, endangering all with his need for revenge.

Out of options, Perry and Aria assemble an unlikely team for an impossible rescue mission. Cinder isn’t just the key to unlocking the Still Blue and their only hope for survival—he’s also their friend. And in a dying world, the bonds between people are what matter most. 

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The battle is real – with this conclusion to the trilogy ‘Into the Still Blue’ brings about all the physical fight against the elements and each other in hope to find an Oasis from a decaying environment and factions struggling for power. On the surface the plot is outstanding, but the delivery felt a somewhat lukewarm.

I felt Aria finally got her sea-legs. In the previous novels I felt she bounced around between place, people and conviction. As much as I did not connect with her, I appreciated her story.

Perry just seemed to struggle. From the start – right to the end… and I think that is just who he is. So that left me kind of meh!

I think I was more excited about the dog Flea in this novel. The mention of him always brought a smile to my face.

Into The Still Blue Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleIt felt masterfully crafted, though I must admit I never really connected with Aria or Perry throughout this trilogy; and something about the writing style had me wandering away from the book quite a lot. It’s not that it was boring, I just never felt compelled to read on.

I feel like I want to say that the supporting characters had more depth than our two protagonists. Maybe because Aria and Perry were so single minded. So serious. That their narrative came across slightly monotone. There was no fluctuation in ambience and motive.

There wasn’t anything that struck me as particularly wrong with this concluding novel, just there was something missing. I think the dual perspective, again, gave too many answers and details for the story, eliminating a great opportunity to up the tension.

On the subject of loss and Death – I was a little on the fence with how this was dealt with. There were varying degrees of impact from the loss of certain characters. I felt more importance and compassion should have been considered. It would have also made for a much more poignant conclusion. I also did not like how murder and killing were handled either. Again, the facts were mostly glossed over to move the story along. When it would have been a great opportunity to up the emotion and paint a picture of devastation, brutality, and inevitability of the fight for survival against nature, and each other.

The plot unravelled very organically and I never felt the hand of the author guiding along the story. Though, the writing style did not paint a detailed enough picture of the world for me. I still have trouble picturing the main characters and the landscape they live in. Some aspects are crystal clear, but others felt washed out.

I liked the tone the novel ended on and how the storyline wrapped up. But I was still hoping for more mythology from this dystopian world to explore. Get some more technology in this sci-fi. Oh well…

It’s not a series I would recommend to friends – it’s okay. But there are much more entertaining collections out there.

Overall reaction: *rocking hand motion*

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Sacrifice’ (#5 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

Another guilty pleasure – but didn’t feel like the end of the series.

Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarliseGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 324

From Goodreads:

Earth. Fire. Air. Water.

One misstep and they lose it all. For the last time.

Michael Merrick understands pressure. He’s the only parent his three brothers have had for years. His power to control Earth could kill someone if he miscalculates. Now an Elemental Guide has it in for his family, and he’s all that stands in the way.

His girlfriend, Hannah, understands pressure too. She’s got a child of her own, and a job as a firefighter that could put her life in danger at any moment.

But there are people who have had enough of Michael’s defiance, his family’s ‘bad luck’. Before he knows it, Michael’s enemies have turned into the Merricks’ enemies, and they’re armed for war.

They’re not interested in surrender. But Michael isn’t the white flag type anyway. Everything is set for the final showdown.

Four elements, one family. Will they hold together, or be torn apart?

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At this point in time, ‘Sacrifice’ is meant to be the last book in the Elementals collection. But I didn’t feel it. I was hoping for the all stakes battle, for all the Elementals to join together as one unstoppable fighting unit. We’ve been getting hints of this all through the series – and well… *fizzle* *deflated balloon*

As with all the other books in the series, we get another perspective – this time from Michael, the oldest Merrick sibling. I’m so glad all the hormonal teen boy violence was kept to a hush and we actually got some story. Though there was an awful lot of people getting shot, blown up and killed. But the Merrick brothers seemed to have chilled a bit – that or they are still reeling and in shock.

Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlise.jpgI enjoyed the story, but ‘Sacrifice’ just didn’t pack the punch I was expecting. Maybe because Brigid Kemmerer already had a follow-up in the works, who knows. The characters and storylines are feeling more realistic, so I don’t understand why this didn’t grab me as much. Plenty of tension, the stakes were high for Michael… possibly it was the angst that was absent? Or maybe it’s my unmet expectation of the ultimate showdown not being realised? I was also hoping to get more on the mythology of the Elementals, the formation and organisation of the Guides and their motivation. It’s just been very precursory up until now. I want more history and nitty-gritty of these secret warring factions.

I also didn’t get much over the relationships of the other brothers – Kemmerer tends to omit the other characters when she’s concentrating on the story of her books protagonist. I missed Becca, Laney, Adam… I mean it’s a close-knit family unit and is seems common sense that their boyfriends and girlfriends would be present for most of the time.

But that’s just me being picky. And a little gibbed about not getting some of the answers I wanted.

Otherwise ‘Sacrifice’ was another great addition to the Elemental universe. I’m still wondering how there are so many Elementals though, it was getting to a point you couldn’t hurl a stick without hitting one. But that meant plenty of displays of awesome supernatural powers. Me likey! The tension between Hannah and Michael was great, especially with Hannah’s father continually getting in the way. I really enjoyed this emotional tussle.

I read this very quickly, in fact I was wondering where the rest of it was when I’d finished. The same breeze writing style leant to completing the novel in a day.

I’ve seen Brigid Kemmerer’s note on Goodreads informing fans that the next novel in this series ‘Strife’ had been put on indefinite hiatus due to contracts on some of the releases we are now starting to see released and on the publishing schedule. But I hope we get to see her return to the Merrick boys and publish the next book – maybe it will give me the answers I crave?

Nonetheless, I’m putting this guilty pleasure back on my shelf and looking towards the next challenge.

Overall feeling: Where was the rest?

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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.