Book Review – ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ by Michelle Hodkin

Haunting.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Paranormal,

No. of pages: 470

From Goodreads:

Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.

There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.

She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.

She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.

Retribution has arrived.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

After a very long spate of novels where after the first 100 pages or so, I was still struggling to get into the book. ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ broke that slump. It jumps right into the action and had me trying to puzzle things out, gripping me with every page. I had put off reading this last book of the trilogy for so long because of the difficulty I had getting into ‘The Evolution of Mara Dyer,’ but we get answers very quickly, and it puts the all the series of events up this this point into a new perspective straight away. Someone should had slapped me upside the head earlier on and forced me to get into this final book sooner…

With such a dark, captivating and complex tone, I was truly enraptured.

Our protagonist Mara is definitely a troubled teen – the way she handles the darkness, the things she does left me uneasy. It was compelling reading, but I don’t fully understand how the people around her can dismiss the gravity of what she has done (and what she is capable of) so easily. It’s the one issue I have with this book – zero repercussions for crime, murder and violence. All aspects of the mystery surrounding Mara Dyer are solved. And she is no longer the victim as I thought of her in book one, but an anti-hero. I really enjoyed her journey, but also found it disturbing.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Noah as lovely as he is, as gorgeous as the love between Mara and him is, is whipped. The romantic in me finds it endearing. But the realistic side of me wonders if he’s not being stupid… but that’s the thing with love isn’t it? It makes you do silly things. To have the gorgeous relationship blossoming between these two characters amongst so much tragedy is juxtaposing. A gothic romance.

At times the narrative felt a little long winded, but it did not detract from the excitement of the story. I was constantly wondering how the hell they were going to get out of the mess they were in. My mind was doing a lot of scrambling to work out what was going on. So any of my predictions flew out the window very early on.

With a great writing style, it comes off as lyrical and full of shadows. But also manages to give answers and real technical information to tie up the trilogy without spoiling the mystical feel of the novel. It was a brilliant end to the series. May I say cute even. Which is weird given the dark aspects to the story.

Highly recommend this trilogy, though I did struggle with the middle book. Recently hearing that The Shaw Confessions is getting added to this universe, with ‘The Becoming of Noah Shaw’ due for release on November 7th this year, I’m getting really excited. I may be making little squeaky noises, and jumping up and down…

Overall feeling: Blew me away, like a pile of ash.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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.

Advertisements

Book Review – ‘Losing Lila’ by Sarah Alderson

Felt like it was straight from the scripts of a CW show…

Losing Lila Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 346

From Goodreads:

Alex and Lila are on the run, desperately trying to stay one step ahead of the Unit, which is somehow tracking their every move. While Alex is determined to keep Lila safe and her ability secret at any cost, Lila’s only thought is of finding a way back to California so she can rescue her brother and mother from the military base where they’re being held.

Struggling to control both her growing power and her deepening feelings for Alex, Lila decides the time has finally come to stop running and start fighting. Together with Alex, Demos, and the others she’s come to think of as family, Lila plans not only to save her brother and mum, but also to completely destroy the Unit and everything it stands for. But the plan requires Lila to return to California alone, andto make friends with the enemy – and in doing so, she risks losing everything: Alex, her family… even her life.  

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I really liked this follow up to ‘Hunting Lila.’ A group of teens with special abilities on the run from a maniacal Military Contract Organisation. Winner, winner chicken dinner.

It was great to see our protagonist Lila get a little more independence; although that was counteracted by her swooning and needing Alex (her love interest and brothers best friend) all the time. It felt a little weak. It was compounded by the narrative tone and actions of Lila (and Suki) which came of as childish far too often. But I had less problems stopping me from enjoying the novel than I did in the first book of the series ‘Hunting Lila.’

Losing Lila’ is very much like a Disney or NickTeen movie of the week. Saccharine sweet, moments of stereotypical teen behaviour mixed with an action infused plot. I do class it as a guilty pleasure though, I got caught up in the subterfuge, the development of their psychic abilities, and was floored by a few of the plot twists I didn’t see coming.

The story itself is engaging. I think if the comical notes of the story were approached differently, they could have pulled the story along in that Buffy-like pun in the middle of action style.

The element of family, and how it was woven into the storyline was fun; and I appreciated how bonds are tested and reshaped. Though there was some moments where I thought it was too premeditated by the author.

I think I like the relationship between Lila and Alex the least, even if they are the main characters in ‘Losing Lila.’ There was no tension and build up, it moved right into this desperate place that felt like it lacked substance – it was the 10 year old girl’s version of love.

Great follow up and conclusion to the series, probably better suited to a younger tween audience, but still an interesting way to spend a winter’s day tucked up on the couch with a light action-filled book.

Overall feeling: *eating popcorn*
Losing Lila Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Losing Lila Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

© 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 – Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

A paranormal cat and mouse with great potential.

Hunting Lila Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 318

From Goodreads:

17-year-old Lila has two secrets she’s prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she’s been in love with her brother’s best friend, Alex, since forever.

After a mugging exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust—her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organization called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they’ve found them.

In a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realizes that she is not alone—there are others out there just like her—people with special powers—and her mother’s killer is one of them…  

Page border by Casey Carlisle

Hunting Lila’ is a fun adventure with a group of individuals possessing psy(chic) abilities pitted against a military group – and Lila is caught in-between. Certainly a great premise, and a very enjoyable novel, but it fell a little flat for me.

It’s hard to place why it felt unremarkable – quite possibly it was a little too busy – with so much going on in plot and sub-plot, where character development became secondary.

There was also an element of instalove between Lila and Alex – I found that kind of infuriating. But he was a nice piece of eye candy to read about.

The story had an air of the superficial as well – everyone was gorgeous, everyone was a hero – whether they had special abilities or military training and gadgets, a lot of the ordinary and the relatable just wasn’t there.

Plus, half of the cast intrinsic to the story line were introduced in the second act.

Now that the yucky stuff is done and dusted, let me share what I appreciated about ‘Hunting Lila:’

I loved the different types of psychic abilities – telepaths, astral projectors, a psychokenosist, telekinetics, sifters, all reminding me of the graphic novel (and subsequent film adaptation) ‘Push.’ This had a very strong X-Men Origins vibe.

Lila, our protagonist is very relatable in the beginning and I felt all of her choices during the actions scenes made complete sense. It was the decisions pertaining to her love interest that had my hackles up. Lila is cute, spunky, somewhat naive and has the potential to be a great character and force of nature. She does tend to flounder a bit and I’m excited to see where Sarah Alderson takes Lila in this trilogy.

Jack, Lila’s brother added a fun dynamic into the romance between her and Alex, as well to the bait-and-switch scenario.

But I think ultimately, the military aspect felt unrealistic, as did the change of heart Lila comes to – I hungered for more angst and tribulation for her predicament.

The twist at the end was a great surprise amongst a sea of predictability. This would fall more into my ‘guilty pleasure’ category, and something I’m on the fence about recommending to others. While I enjoyed ‘Hunting Lila,’ and there is certainly a lot to revel in, it didn’t have that spark.

I have a hunch what is going to happen in the second book for this series, and I will pick it up as I am still interested to see where this story will go. Let’s hope that it is even better than ‘Hunting Lila’ and redeems the author in my eyes. Bring on ‘Losing Lila!’

Overall feeling: A bit of a love/hate relationship for me.

 Hunting Lila Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Hunting Lila Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© 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.

Film vs Film vs Film vs Novel – Carrie

Such a variety of bloody endings…

Carrie Film vs Film vs Film vs Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

I’ve read a number of Stephen King novels, but hadn’t picked up ‘Carrie’ until this week… and considering it was King’s debut back in 1974, the novel still stands the test of time. However, when I compared it to the film adaptations, there were some marked differences…

** WARNING : Herein lies many spoilers **

Carrie herself was written as a chubby, frizzy-haired girl with acne, introverted and copping the brunt of bullying from classmates. In both of the films, Carrie has already been given a makeover holding some sexual appeal, even in her opening scenes. While I understand that Hollywood needs to keep some appeal for the audience to connect with her character, the reason why she is ridiculed in school is because of her imperfections and naivety of the wider world due to the overprotective nature of her religious zealot of a mother. While the film starring Sissy Spacek, and the TV adaptation in 2002 connect with this aspect quite strongly, the delivery is a little stereotypical. At the times they were aired, however, expectations regarding the horror genre were different to now and both represent social expectations. The 2014 remake with Chloe Grace Moretz shows a softer version of Carrie, although still remaining true to the character in the novel. The Carrie in the novel was aware of her mental abilities, and was ‘playing with them’ and we see this for the first time in the same tone in the latest film adaptation. While Sissy Spacek will always be my favourite, Chloe Grace Moretz really brings something new and unique to the character of Carrie.

Our antagonists in the novel range from the maniacal to people who were on the cusp (like Ms Desjardin / Miss Collins). Now there is a lot more gore and carnage in the novel than in the film adaptations, and we really get to see the characters descend into darkness as they begin to let their hate consume them in the written version – while all screenplays attempt this in various ways, many of the “bad guys” feel stereotypical and unrealistic… with one exception: Mrs White played by Julianne Moore in the 2014 version.

The point in Stephen Kings novel was that a girl predisposed to telekinesis was pushed to the brink, snapped, and retaliated (somewhat justified). But it is supposed to be the power that consumes her, putting her into a fugue state to commit the murderous rampage and Carrie is mortified once she snaps out of it. I don’t think I got this message clearly from any of the film adaptations. Additionally, when Carrie has flipped her switch in the novel, she connects psychically with everyone near her, broadcasting her thoughts and intentions – we never get that in the films. The fear and speculation of telekinesis is at the core of the novel… something lost on the big screen.

The book also lets the events unfold organically, with snafoos and road blocks, where most of the events in the screen versions happen seamlessly and, in my opinion, add to the lack of realism.

I will say Chloe Grace Moretz depiction of Carries’ final scenes is my favorite, and that which rings the truest to the novel, showing Carrie bringing down justice on more than just her tormentor at school. Although we know why she is doing it in the book – there is no reason as to why she is doing it in the film other than she is lost in the fugue state.

The biggest thing from the book to screen is that Carries actions are seemingly motivated and justified in the book, but no so much in the films.

Carrie Film vs Film vs Film vs Novel Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The supporting cast are a little hit and miss too. The novel has Tommy Ross walking that line of good and evil, but redeems himself, where it’s only in the 2014 film he’s always depicted as a good guy. His subsequent demise also differs from film to film, as well as his accidental death being the trigger for Carrie to fall into her rage. Additionally, the Coach’s (Ms Desjardin / Miss Collins) ending differs. In some she survives, and in others she’s caught in the carnage. It all came down to what viewer classification the screening came down to – as with cutting much of the gore from the novel adaptations. Shame really, I liked the message the novel brought.

The ending is where a lot differs – Carrie never gets to bathe in the book, and “punishes” herself for her actions, seeing no other way out. I wonder if the shower scene was introduced in the first film to flash a bit of nudity and increase viewer ratings? In the novel, Sue Snell, having been telekinetically linked with Carrie, has resided herself to death as punishment for her actions, but it is her unborn child that saves her, and subsequently knocks Carrie out of her fugue state.

From this point, Sue, as a survivor is one of the narrators of the novel, which is told in a collection of accounts and documents, police reports into an investigation of Carrie White. The point being Carrie linked her mind to those around her. Bringing up the question about the existence of mental abilities in the first place… We don’t get to see any of this aspect in the films.

One point regarding all the screen adaptations is that the 2002 version is the only one to explore much of Carrie’s childhood (as the novel does) with more than a few flashbacks and something I though was important to the plot. I really would have seen that brought to the other films.

Overall reactions from the films: 1979 – a little corny and stereotypical but rings true to the novel; 2002 TV movie – a watered down version, Carrie is more like here written counterpart, but the rest of the movie fell a little flaccid and gore free; 2014 film with Chloe Grace Moretz – the best characterization and flow of story line, but still missed parts from the novel that justified some of Carries actions, but surpassed all in character relationships and special effects. Best entertainment value.

It is always up to the reader/viewer to decide whether Carrie is a villain, and even in all the film versions we are left wondering. There is even an alternate ending in the 2014 version. The 1979 film with Spacek would have been the better adaptations, but still fell short of encompassing everything from the novel.

I could go on and on about so many other differences, but the most important aspects dealing with story have been covered. I feel the book surpassed all the movies solely on story and perspective, that, and managing to raise speculation and fear over telekinesis.

Stephen King’s novel is a well-paced, fast read only 253 pages long, an easy weekend read, something I recommend for all to read, but keep in mid it was written in the ‘70’s. Novel for the win!

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.

Excerpt from ‘Smoulder’ (Book 1 in the Smoulder series) by Casey Carlisle

Smoulder Series Tiles for excerpt

Focused on my little investigation, I neglected to notice Teddy saunter into school, or his surveillance of my activities. I didn’t register Mr Ried’s words in our morning Homeroom announcements as I stewed on my predicament. Instead of heading to my first lesson, as soon as we were dismissed, I hurried to find Tom.

He must have known what was coming, because as soon as Tom noticed my approach, his skin drained white while he stood near the entrance to an empty classroom.

“Can we talk?”

“In here.” Tom led me into the vacant room, closing the door behind us. “I wish I could reverse what I did. You were right. I should have stood up to Teddy. This should never have happened.”

“It’s a bit late for that now. The damage has been done. They don’t remember anything that’s happened between us since I started, not exactly. Rebekah and Bernie didn’t even know who I was.”

“I didn’t think it was that bad.”

“You didn’t think. That’s the whole problem isn’t it?”

“Riley. I’ll do anything, anything to make this right.”

“I’m really trying not to hate you at the moment.” Upon spitting out those words a tear escaped, trailing down the side of Tom’s face.

I wished that I felt guilty, that I could stop, but the venom of my rage failed to waver.

“Riley please-“

“You violated their minds. An essential part of who they are. Doesn’t that occur to you? How serious this is?”

“Of course it does. I don’t do any of this lightly.” The pleading tone had left his voice, replaced with the harsh edge of irritation.

“Like you did with Mrs Noble? That was hardly the last possible choice of action. You could have made up a story, lied?”

Tom simply hung his head, searching for an answer.

“All of you have gotten so used to relying on your abilities, even though you want to appear normal, disconnected from the rest of us. Every time you go alakazam, you fly in the face of everything you’re trying to achieve.” I stepped close, so the seriousness of my face clouded his vision. “Either take ownership of what you can do, limit the damage, or don’t do it at all.”

“I hate this.” He whimpered back. “This is exactly what I didn’t want.”

“I don’t mean to attack you like this-“ I couldn’t finish my sentence as emotion ebbed like a tidal wave from my feet to the tip of my head.

My body sprung forth and I caught Tom in a tight hug, a loud sob escaping from somewhere deep in my throat.

“This feels so helpless.” He croaked as thick arms clutched me against a muscular chest.

Realisation struck at what I was doing, and I pushed him away – well, rather forced myself off his solid frame – my eyes freely trickling with tears as I stalked vehemently from the room.

Hurrying to my special place, I curled up on the bench and willed for the tears to stop. Why was I so upset? Did Tom just use some mind-mojo on me? I waited out the rest of the lesson, using the time to regain my composure.

All through my next lesson, Maths, I pushed every thought of Tom – and that involuntary embrace – into a box locked away deep into the overactive neurons of my cranium. Sneakily pulling out my mobile, I sent a text to Teddy, asking him to meet me at my car for morning break. He was the next victim on my hit list. It was time I made my feelings clear, and be done with him once and for all.

The interior of my bug was like an oven, baked under a boiling sun, I started the engine and cranked up the air conditioning and watched students milling about outside, on alert for Teddy’s approach. I switched on the radio after a minute… where was he?

Just before I ran out of patience and resorted to another text, Teddy appeared through the external doors and headed in a straight line towards where I sat. My heart skipped, it annoyed me how he still managed to boggle my senses, his smooth gait so effortlessly cool. I needed to stay angry to make my point, scowling as he reached the car, knocking at the window. I waved for him to climb in, watching the circumference of the building to see if we were being spied upon.

“This is a little intimate.” He smirked as soon as he pulled the door closed, the radio broadcasting a love song I could not identify.

I switched it off.

“I didn’t want anyone to overhear me screaming at you.” I replied and his smile instantly faded.

“Tom said you tore strips off him.” Of course he did!

“So you know just how angry I am. How indecent it is of you to ask me to be okay with everything that has gone down?”

“I understand. It won’t happen again.”

“And this thing between us-“

“There is still an us?”

“If, and I re-iterate, if, we continue to see each other, I am not going to choose you over my friends. You’re going to have to come up with some other way around keeping what you want secret. Scrubbing out peoples’ memories is no longer an option.”

Teddy replied with a nod and stared at his lap.

“You’re not going to say anything back?”

“I don’t know what to say. At this point let’s just agree to disagree.”

“I can’t be with anybody who condones involuntarily stripping away parts of peoples’ lives.”

“It’s not like that.”

“Then enlighten me. Help me understand; because I want to. I don’t want to feel this way about you.” My words seemed to hit home and Teddy squinted in pain.

“It might be easier for you to understand if you had been living with us for a while. But Roberts’ hunches, they’re never wrong. And he truly believed that there was no other option, a choice between two terrible things, we took the one that meant less death.”

“Less death? Someone is going to die?”

“We think so.”

Another shock, more information that he drip-fed me.

“Get out.”

“What?”

“Please, go. I need to be alone.” He climbed out of the car, pausing before gently closing the door.

“You can ask me anything. Anytime. Just call me and I’ll be there.”

I didn’t want to be sitting at school any longer, with 10 minutes of our break left, I decided to shirk the rule of not leaving the school grounds, and coasted out of the lot, heading towards the closest road out of Alice Springs.

Living in such a small burg, the buildings receded into the scrub very quickly, and within minutes I was surrounded with powder green shrubs and ore coloured rubble. It was the perfect place to gather my thoughts; a clear open sky, nature nestling in from every angle. Parking under the large shadow of a River Gum I waited for my mind to stop reeling.

At least I was taking charge of the situation, although, I did just run away again… Teddy promised no more hidden facts, and I had gotten exactly what I asked for. Was I really capable of handling this? It could be so easy to end all ties and stick my head back into the sand, live out the rest of High School blinkered from the Tavish clan. I could – if I didn’t lose control of my faculties whenever I was in a room with one of them. Resting my head on the steering wheel I prayed a solution would simply fall into my lap and life would be uncomplicated again.

Smoulder series blurb

© 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.

Progress on the Smoulder Series:

For those of you who follow my blogs regularly and know about my works in progress, you are aware I like to create my own book covers while I’m writing. An inspirational/motivational tool to cheer me on. Given that I’m half way through writing the series, I wanted to design some covers that tie the books together, and designed a new set. Check out my handiwork below:

 

The Smoulder series

 

New covers:

Smoulder #1- Smoulder Series by Casey Carlisle sml Smoulder #2 - Embers by Casey Carlisle sml Smoulder #3 - Wildfire by Casey Carlisle sml Smoulder #4 - Firestorm by Casey Carlisle sml

Old Covers:

Smoulder by Casey Carlisle sml Embers by Casey Carlisle sml Wildfire by Casey Carlisle sml Firestorm by Casey Carlisle sml

 

Do you create your own covers for works in progress? Does it help you stay motivated too?

I’d love to see some of your creations…

Indigenous characters in popular Australian YA Fiction – do we represent? … by Casey Carlisle

Image

                The silence of our stolen generation echoes in our YA literature…

I’m not trying to be political, or clever, but growing up in Alice Springs, NT, aboriginals were my classmates, my friends, my neighbours… and it was only natural to include our native Australians as characters in my novels. I didn’t think twice about it. So when I did a little research recently on YA novels, particularly the Australian market – not only for interest’s sake, but a little market research – it upset me to find very little representation of not only Indigenous writers, but also Aboriginal characters within popular YA publications.

When tackling the global market and the most recent prolific titles for the YA industry, the only title that stood out depicting indigenous characters, was Twilight’s Jacob Black. Australian Authors didn’t even make the top ten on the list. When actively looking for cross-cultural content, you can find it. But you have to be looking, it’s not on best seller lists, shown in billboards, being made into movies (as is the current craze). Is it that we aren’t tooting our own horn enough? Going that extra mile to market Australian talent overseas? Staying true to the ‘Australian Brand’ in our writing?

Then I thought about my favourite movies and television shows produced in Australia and struggled to find any which had an Aboriginal character as a part of the main cast. Suddenly I felt very disappointed in our Entertainment Industry.

With a secondary character in the ongoing series ‘Smoulder’ and a half-cast protagonist for ‘The Understudy,’ Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders are in the forefront of my cast it was never my aim to be culturally diverse. And it was a surprise in recent feedback on drafts, with beta readers praising the inclusion of characters of colour, which had me responding, “It really shouldn’t warrant comment. These types of characters should be mainstream in Australian content. Their representation wasn’t on purpose, I write drawing from my experiences.”

So I guess this is my social commentary on the sad fact that the only exposure overseas readers get of Australians and our indigenous brothers and sisters is of stereotyped characters like Paul Hogan, Steve Irwin and the nameless shadows clad in a loin cloth, propped on one leg with a spear. I really hope that more modern, Australian content starts to appear. Characters artfully written in YA novels with intricate and intelligent storylines to challenge preconceived ideas of the developmental rift between our two cultures. This topic leaves me itchy and uncomfortable because there is so much more that could be said, and so much more light needs to be spread over this topic. But I want to refrain from getting on my soapbox and concentrate on staying true to my voice. I guess I have to be one of those instruments of change – keep writing, continue to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander characters in my novels. And hope that others will start to do the same and show Australia for the truly unique country it is.

 

Image

© 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.