Book Review – ‘Rogue’ (#3 Croak) by Gina Damico

Moody Emo Grim.

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal

No. of pages: 326

Lex is a teenage Grim Reaper with the power to Damn souls, and it’s getting out of control. She’s a fugitive, on the run from the maniacal new mayor of Croak and the townspeople who want to see her pay the price for her misdeeds. Uncle Mort rounds up the Junior Grims to flee Croak once again, but this time they’re joined by Grotton, the most powerful Grim of all time. Their new mission is clear: Fix his mistakes, or the Afterlife will cease to exist, along with all the souls in it.

The gang heads for Necropolis, the labyrinth-like capital city of the Grimsphere. There, they discover that the Grimsphere needs a reboot. To do that, the portals to the Afterlife must be destroyed…but even that may not be enough to fix the damage. Things go from bad to worse, and when at last the fate of the Afterlife and all the souls of the Damned hang in the balance, it falls to Lex and her friends to make one final, impossible choice.

The whole Grimsphere is against Lex and the gang of Junior Grims with Uncle Mort in the lead. Expect death, Damning and running, screaming for your life.

The plot for ‘Rogue’ was a lot of fun, plenty of action and twists that I enjoyed. Though there was something about the tone and narrative style that was lacking in comparison to the first two novels. The witty banter, Dad jokes, and sarcastic asides felt juvenile and did not pack a punch. Plus there was this whole dynamic between Uncle Mort and Lex where the parental figure was keeping information and facts from the junior ‘for their own good,’ that whole just do as I say thing. It was repeated so many times it was frustrating. It was set up this way for latter reveals in the plot… but, um… girl that’s not a good way to do it. Such a heavily guided hand by the author, instead of letting the story unfold organically and let the characters grow.

I found myself putting this book down a lot. A lot. I’d get five to ten pages read and then need a rest. The pacing did not start pick up until after the halfway point. I did enjoy the story overall, but it felt a little scattered. The cast are on the run from place to place, and there was no thread to anchor the narrative. Character reactions were all over the place, motives kept changing, some scenes were just messy. I think there was just too much going on in some places. This was not the concluding novel that I was hoping for. The snarky humour was gone, so there wasn’t much to balance out all the loss and death that kept happening.

And even the afterward did not tie up and address the main characters in a way that put the full-stop after The End.

Lex felt like a sullen whiny teen – I don’t get a feeling that she had a great character arc, not in this novel, and not since the start of this series. She was so funny in the first book, but the humour did not translate to the finale. Also I appreciated the more intimate moments between Lex and Driggs, but again it felt manufactured. Almost like cut scene, make out, and snap back to the action.

A cute-ish read that I think would have been awesome from a stronger developmental edit. A mostly satisfying end to the series, but not one that ended in an exclamation point.

Overall feeling: satisfactory finish.

© 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 – ‘Scorch’ (#2 Croak) by Gina Damico

Angsty Teen Grim Reaper.

Scorch (#2 Croak) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal

No. of pages: 332

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby is a teenage grim reaper with the bizarre ability to damn souls. That makes her pretty scary, even to fellow Grims. But after inadvertently transferring her ability to Zara, a murderous outlaw, Lex is a pariah in Croak, the little town she calls home.

To escape the townspeople’s wrath, she and her friends embark on a wild road trip to DeMyse. Though this sparkling desert oasis is full of luxuries and amusements, it feels like a prison to Lex. Her best chance at escape would be to stop Zara once and for all—but how can she do that from DeMyse, where the Grims seem mysteriously oblivious to Zara’s killing spree?

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

It was fun to visit the emo, sarcastic teen protagonist (and Grim Reaper) Lex again. However ‘Scorch’ was a little lighter on the snark that I was so entertained by in the debut of this series.

Scorch’ left me wanting a meatier, more substantial plot development other than the cat-and-mouse chase with antagonist Zara.

I guess this suffered from the middle book syndrome. Though I was definitely engaged and entertained. I want to say an element was missing from the story to send me over the moon. So while a great concept, thrilling and kept me glued from the page; maybe some more character arcs, or a more intertwined plot would have bumped up my rating of ‘Scorch.’

Scorch (#2 Croak) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleLex was always complaining about something, and though she was researching information to get Zara off her back, and save innocents from being ‘Damned,’ I did not get a sense that she was particularly proactive. Additionally, the ‘forced’ breaks to enjoy being a teen for Lex and some of the other characters felt out of place. It didn’t seem like it was to let off steam, but rather engage in teen activities to pique interest with the target demographic… it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to the story. I would have rather Lex been a bundle of nerves, on the edge of a breakdown, go smash up a car with a baseball bat, than go clubbing and gossip. Ya know?

There was an interesting twist with Lex and her gift at the end of ‘Scorch’ I did not see coming; but am conflicted about her justification, because her attitude earlier in the story contradicts the final standpoint.

The romance between Lex and Driggs was cute and funny, but something about it felt frivolous, not having as much heat and interest as it did in ‘Croak.’ I kinda wanted Driggs to become more independent and have an arc of his own. This couple was attached at the hip too much.

Uncle Mort was my favourite character in ‘Scorch.’ His fatherly duties mostly comic relief, but well placed throughout the novel. Although the non-explanations and ‘for you own good, just trust me’ standpoint were too common and started to get on my nerves. Granted, he is the only adult around Lex, and has much more knowledge about the Grim mythology, and his position lends his moving political chess pieces about the board, plotting steps ahead – it makes sense that Lex would be in the dark for most of this. We get a lot of her frustration of being kept out of the loop, but it only added to the parent-child relationship these two shared.

The whole Zara-as-the-villain, and another reveal in ‘Scorch’- while great fodder to pace the story forward – I’m still grabbling with some realistic motivation for what played out; though I’m anticipating an explanation in the last instalment in this trilogy ‘Rogue.’

Scorch’ is a fun easy read, the pacing is mostly tense and engaging. My issues came from plausibility and character motivations… and wanting a more intricate plot. But there are some great surprises. Gina Damico’s writing style is succinct, and captures the emo tone and dark business of being a Grim Reaper. Love the mythology of the business of death, and am keen to see where it all goes in ‘Rogue.’

I’m on the fence about recommending this one, because it’s more of a passion read – if you loved ‘Croak,’ then, yes, read on. If you weren’t particularly impressed with ‘Croak,’ then ‘Scorch’ is much of the same. But I thought it was a nice little escapist read for a lazy Sunday.

Overall feeling: Jan, Jan, Jan!

Scorch (#2 Croak) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Scorch (#2 Croak) 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 – ‘Croak’ (#1 Croak) by Gina Damico

Emo loner meets Grimm.

Croak (#1 Croak) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal

No. of pages: 311

From Goodreads:

Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex’s parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape.

But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than shoveling manure. He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach Lex the family business.

She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can’t stop her desire for justice — or is it vengeance? — whenever she encounters a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again.

Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills?

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

This was a delightful detour from many of the YA novels I usually read. ‘Croak’ gives a great twist on grim reapers and a heavy dose of sarcastic teen. I will say that the sarcasm wasn’t really my thing – it got on my nerves a bit and stopped me from relating to the protagonist in the first half of the novel. But there were some real gems – laugh out loud stuff with this humour as well.

There were some aspects to ‘Croak’ that detracted from a raving review. My main issue had to do with how Lex accepted a lot of things around her new role and environment as it were nothing, yet struggled with others… and it seemed to me, centred around driving the plot forward and conflicting with her personality and character. It felt like a giant red flag of subtext waving at me that Gina Damico did not take the time to let Lex settle into her new surroundings organically. Yes, it’s me being nit-picky, but it was the one factor that was grinding in the back of my skull while reading ‘Croak.’ However, it was also nice to read a protagonist who wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Lex had a bit of prickle to her and also wrestled with some basic moral principles. It’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of reading a main character so conflicted in YA.

There was a bit of ‘the chosen one’ trope that had me rolling my eyes but it is what it is.

Croak (#1 Croak) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlilse

We get a bit of romance, though it is not a strong theme – and I felt this too could have been left out, or introduced later in the series. I liked the tension and banter between Lex and Driggs. I hope it doesn’t change too much in future instalments.

Although we solve the main mystery, and open up a new one at the end of ‘Croak’ – so it kind of ends on a cliff hanger – there were still so many other questions I wanted answered. I’m hoping we get them uncovered in the rest of the trilogy ‘Scorched’ and ‘Rogue.’ I am definitely intrigued and interested enough to read on in this series. And if Gina Damico makes a strong enough impression, I’ll definitely order the rest of her back catalogue.

Damico’s writing style is colourful and sarcastic with a hint of darkness – whether it is due to Lex’s emo nature, or it’s in her narrative comfort zone I’ve yet to discern, but it was easy enough to read and the second half of the novel practically zinged by. I didn’t detect any issues with pacing, the story unfolded naturally and I didn’t guess the main reveal before reading the words on the page. I mean I suspected, but Damico placed a lot of other possibilities out there, so I was never confident, and subsequently got a delicious surprise at that ah-huh moment. So points for dodging any predictability.

It’s a soft recommendation from me. A fun read, but I had issues with the character developing organically. Who knows, Damico’s storytelling may improve with each sequel.

On a side note, this novel gave me serious ‘Dead Like Me’ vibes – a tv series that had a short run that has me praying for a re-make or reboot.

Overall feeling: Intrigued me enough to keep going with the trilogy.

Croak (#1 Croak) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

Croak (#1 Croak) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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.