Book Review – ‘Come Tumbling Down’ (#5 Wayward Children) by Seanan McGuire

A more integrated story for the Wayward Children as they go to rescue Jack and Jill.

Genre: YA, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 206

When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister–whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice–back to their home on the Moors.

But death in their adopted world isn’t always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.

Eleanor West’s “No Quests” rule is about to be broken.

Again.

I felt this novella was definitely ‘serialised’ in this instalment. While it had elements of a story – and introduced objectives that were resolved at the end after our protagonists faced many obstacles… on its own, there was so much missing context that a reader would have had to completed the previous sequels to fully appreciate ‘Come Tumbling Down.’ I guess were getting close to the series concluding, so the individual stories following different characters have to end; it’s time to interact, and solve overarching storylines.

The characters are fun, diverse, and wonderful; so too is Seanan McGuire’s writing style – it’s melodic and suits the fantasy genre. Though overall, I just didn’t get into it as much as I had previously in the series. I have always said I’m not that big into fantasy anymore, so maybe my interest is wanning?  Plus the first half of the novella fell a little flat for me, for an already established universe and characters, we should be able to jump into the fray much quicker. Though in having said that, I did enjoy the pacing to appreciate the world… it’s got me at a stand-off as to what was missing for me. Were the characters a little flat? Was it the fact we were revisiting a world we’ve been to before and a lot of the time spent of describing the ambience of the Moors repetitive? Possibly a little of both.

Come Tumbling Down’ sees Jack return to the home and ask the rest of the Wayward Children help her get her body back and stop Jill from tipping the power of balance in the Moors causing mass destruction. In previous volumes, when Jack and Jill were exploring their identities and redefining themselves in the world of the Moors, layer that over with action and discovering a new world and there is a complexity to keep me interested. I didn’t get that this time. Much has already been established and all that’s left is a plot based storyline. I think that’s why this felt lacklustre in comparison to other books in this series.

There weren’t any new personal inner turmoils to overcome to provide depth to the characters. There wasn’t anything new explored in the Moors – some was lightly introduced, but it was just a brief touch to collect Cora and get the gang together before facing down Jill and her Vampire father.

So while it was a quaint read, it did not offer what I’ve come to expect from Seanan McGuire and the Wayward Children series. I see book 7 (‘Where the Drowned Girls Go’) looks to be dealing with Cora and maybe we’ll get that expansion on the Moors, or will she return to her own door world? I’m getting the feeling that we will be resolving all the remaining Wayward’s children’s fates in the remaining books of the series… though ‘Across the Green Grass Fields,’ the next sequel, follows a new protagonist.

Now that we are over halfway through the collection, I’ll see it through to the end no matter what.

The storyline was very predictable, I didn’t get any surprises, which I guess is another factor in this feeling like a pretty ordinary read.

Overall feeling: She cute…

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Chosen’ (#2 Slayer) by Kiersten White

A red-headed slayer… count me in!

Genre: YA, Paranormal

No. of pages: 368

Nina continues to learn how to use her slayer powers against enemies old and new in this second novel in the New York Times bestselling series from Kiersten White, set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now that Nina has turned the Watcher’s Castle into a utopia for hurt and lonely demons, she’s still waiting for the utopia part to kick in. With her sister Artemis gone and only a few people remaining at the castle—including her still-distant mother—Nina has her hands full. Plus, though she gained back her Slayer powers from Leo, they’re not feeling quite right after being held by the seriously evil succubus Eve, a.k.a. fake Watcher’s Council member and Leo’s mom.

And while Nina is dealing with the darkness inside, there’s also a new threat on the outside, portended by an odd triangle symbol that seems to be popping up everywhere, in connection with Sean’s demon drug ring as well as someone a bit closer to home. Because one near-apocalypse just isn’t enough, right?

The darkness always finds you. And once again, it’s coming for the Slayer.

Another fantastic and nostalgic trip into the Buffyverse with the twins. I can’t properly explain my joy at how many characters from the original series made an appearance – I was flashed back to my bedroom at home, snuggled on the couch in the dark with a cup of tea. A time when I was surrounded by happiness and safety, when all of my family members were still alive. Buffy always brought me joy and wonder, and ‘Chosen’ managed to dredge all that back up again. It was bittersweet. Much like the journey the characters take in ‘Chosen’ and a little bit like my feelings upon completing the novel.

I really enjoyed ‘Chosen’ it has such a strong connection for me, but the pacing in the first half of the novel was a little slow. I kept putting down this book so many times. It was interesting, had fun characters, but didn’t necessarily move the plot forward too much. I think in paying so much lip service to characters from the television show, we sacrificed some of the pace… but I don’t think I would have connected with the novel as much without their occasional appearance. So it’s a catch twenty-two that you can’t really win. But Kiersten White managed to find the perfect balance and it is an accolade that she manages to keep the story interesting even when the plot was a little slower.

In comparing ‘Chosen’ to the debut of the series, ‘Slayer’ I have to say I enjoyed ‘Slayer’ better. There weren’t so many characters to keep track of, and it fit more into the serialised stories we got from the television show; whereas ‘Chosen’ felt more like a series arc… which is why I think the pacing felt slower in the first half, there was just so many plot points to set up. But it does end in apocalyptic fashion, the thing the television series is famous for.

We switch perspectives between Nora, the last slayer, and Artemis, her twin sister every few chapters. Given that they were separated for nearly the entirety of the novel the dual perspectives added a lot the narrative, though there were moments when an omnipotent consciousness slipped in, which I didn’t think was needed. Those small instances were explanatory or info-dumping in nature and you slipped out of the organic nature of the tone of the book.

Both our protagonists get great arcs and character development. The only niggling issue I have with this instalment is given we are at a Watcher stronghold we didn’t get as much Watcher lore (like we did in ‘Slayer.’) I felt it disconnected a bit in the reason for the characters being there… it was like they were morphing into a new version of The Scooby Gang instead of carving out their own identity and reviving the importance of the Watcher mythos. The waters all felt a bit muddy in that respect; but the connection between the cast forging a makeshift family and Slayer sanctuary rings through clear as a bell.

The notable appearances from the original television series include: Buffy, Faith, Clem, Sineya (the first slayer), and a Chaos Demon (Anya’s ex-boyfriend).

I really hope we get more instalments in this series and explore/evolve the Watcher lore. But I have not seen any evidence Kiersten White will be penning another installation to date. *sigh* I guess I’ll just have to keep hoping that the new Slayer television series moves forward in production.

Definitely recommend this one – for Buffy fans, and lovers of paranormal fantasy novels.

Overall feeling: Melancholic

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Wayward Son’ (#2 Simon Snow) by Rainbow Rowell

Entertaining re-visit to some fan-girly characters, but felt a little light on plot.

Genre: Y/A, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 356

The story is supposed to be over.

Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after…

So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?

What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.

They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…

I was really looking forward to jumping back into the Simon Snow universe.

Wayward Son’ did not have the same tone as ‘Carry On.’ There was less of that Potteresque magic and silliness. The angst between Simon and Baz is still there and fabulously kept my attention (if at times, a little juvenile.) Though, it was as if we rolled back Simon and Baz’s relationship for the sake of angst. I’m not mad at it, though I do feel a little cheated.

This felt more like a tale or anecdote rather than a novel. A road tip.

Where ‘Carry On’ felt rich in atmosphere and world building, ‘Wayward Son,’ was a little sparse in comparison. I’m guessing this novel is suffering a lot of that middle book syndrome, where it is about introducing new characters, and setting up a lot of things for the next instalment ‘Where the Wind Blows.’

There is something about Rainbow Rowell’s writing style in this franchise that feels so breezy and innocent. I’m not a massive fantasy reader anymore, but this series definitely gives me all the feels and I was very content to kick back and fall into the world of Simon and Baz with a cuppa on the balcony.

I wasn’t too sure about the plot of ‘Wayward Son,’ there is a lot of time spent with the characters ambling and re-orientating themselves. Trying to find their purpose. I think that is what lost me a bit too. Yes, I love the characters, and the angst, and the magical world they live in… but that meandering purpose dragged a little too long into the novel.

A cute twist at the end involving the new character to the gang was a pleasant surprise and definitely has me intrigued with release of the final book in this trilogy.

In terms of story, ‘Wayward Son’ is interesting, but not one that had me chomping at the bit to read the sequel. It’s more about the characters for me, and I’m hoping that Rowell ups the ante in the third book in the franchise. While I enjoyed ‘Wayward Son,’ it was more of a so-so read. Another novel I’ll hang back on recommending until I read the next in the series: it will make or break my love of the franchise.

Overall feeling: a bit of a wobble…

© 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 – ‘Slayer’ (#1 Slayer) by Kiersten White

Re-visiting my ultimate fandom.

Slayer (#1 Slayer) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Genre: YA, Paranormal

No. of pages: 404

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Into every generation a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers—girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One—she’s the last Slayer, ever. Period.

As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested—because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

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It was fun to get reacquainted with the Buffyverse through ‘Slayer.’ While it is technically cannon and references many familiar characters, it didn’t quite match the tone of the television series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ Though it has elements of teen drama, horror, and dark comedy, it managed to carve out its own identity.

I found parts of the narrative repetitive – especially in the first half – and it became somewhat annoying, but once past the midway point ‘Slayer’ really starts to amp up. The pacing is pretty good, but in what we’ve come to expect from Whedon’s brainchild, ‘Slayer’ is the poorer cousin. There should have been much more drama and angst, much more action, and a heavy, more pronounced theme of good versus evil… and some core moral centre that the protagonist deals with.

The concept of twins and prophecy was a fun twist and great to explore. Stepping into the world post-Sunnydale where hundreds of potential slayers have realised their power, Watcher/medic in training Nina (‘Artemis’) has joined the ranks of newly awakened slayers. I feel like having Nina isolated and in hiding with the remainder of the Watcher brethren was a great storytelling perspective, but did little to create a lot of relatable content for the reader. Buffy was a typical teen who just wanted to be normal – Nina is a naive teen who doesn’t know what she wants… so for the first half of the novel I didn’t really care for her as a main character because she lacked the strength and interest. Though as she stretches her newly slayer abilities Nina grows into the role.

Slayer (#1 Slayer) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There was this whole kept-in-the-dark-for-your-own-protection trope and miscommunications which was okay as a plot device, but I’ve seen it executed much better; and not only did it feel obvious, but frustrating that I was able to not only predict the outcome of the novel, but pretty much all but one of the smaller story arcs. I feel like Kiersten White could have cut 100-150 pages out, only hinting at plot reveals, and this would have not only been a better paced read, but married true to the tone of the source material. But it was so nostalgic and squee-worthy to be back in the Buffyverse. Plus, a red-headed protagonist – fellow gingers unite!

So I may have rated this lower if not for the connection to my early years through the Whedonverse, and just the simple enjoyment of spending a few days back in that place. This was an emotional connection, and I felt like the story was really getting its legs in the second half. So I’m assuming the sequel ‘Chosen’ is going to be much better and I am definitely fangirling over these books.

I’d love to freely recommend this to everyone, but some hard-core Buffy fans may not take to ‘Slayer’ so easily. While this has elements of the franchise, it’s not delivered as tightly as the source material. Even the DarkHorse comics that continued the story after the television series ended with a team of the original writers (helmed by Jos Whedon himself) still retain that ‘it’ factor we’ve come to love in the Buffyverse that I felt wasn’t quite reached with Kiersten Whites take on the franchise. But hey, I’d would LOVE to be proven wrong.

Overall feeling: A fun frolic in a favorite fandom

Slayer (#1 Slayer) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Slayer (#1 Slayer) 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 – ‘Faerie Storm’ (#8 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A guilty pleasure that’s getting me back into fantasy.

Faerie Storm (#8 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Fantasy, Mystery

No. of pages: 268

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Be careful what you wish for…it might be inhabited by a demon.

When a case takes me to the wilderness of Northern Maine, I’m not even sure there’s a paranormal angle. Two girls walked into the woods one night and only one of them came back. She’s so traumatized by what she saw that she hasn’t spoken a word since.

The police come up empty-handed so the girl’s father hires me to find out what happened. Getting out of Dearmont for a while seems like a good idea—especially when there’s an ancient wizard trying to force me into using a cursed sword—so I pack the mosquito repellent and head north.

But when my client ends up dead, surrounded by occult symbols, I realize this is no vacation. Evil forces are at work here and someone is going to have to deal with them.

Guess that someone will have to be me.

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Another fun entertaining read from Adam Wright.

Faerie Storm’ follows another murder mystery and brings in a lot of characters both new and established in this series. We get a lot of world building, setting up to expand the Harbinger universe even wider (as Wright has a spin off franchise already slated with two novels for release in the Harbinger Academy series.)

This novel has really upped the ante, the stakes are higher, there is much more action, more intricate plot and plot points – Wright is really playing to his strengths in ‘Faerie Storm.’ It is the most engaged I’ve been in any of his novels so far. I am excited to see where his career goes if this level of development continues with each subsequent publication.

We don’t see a lot of growth or development with our protagonist, but he does overcome great obstacles and is changed because of it – the reason there isn’t a great character arc is because this is a serialised story. So we’re following different rules with this series. And what we get is fun escapist fiction that is action-orientated and a super-fast read. I managed to digest this tome in a matter of hours.

Faerie Storm (#8 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There are still some grammatical errors – nothing a spell check would pick up, but a line editor should have. And the formatting of the physical book was off where the printed page is skewed too far to the right. I’ve seen these issues pop up in every other of Wrights novels so far, and I’m guessing it’s down to rushing through the writing/editing/publishing process and using a self-publishing platform. But those kinds of issues are slowly eliminated with experience. I am seeing a lot less mistakes, but yet to have a ‘perfect’ copy.

I’ve mentioned before that this series is a guilty pleasure read for me – it’s the kind of fantasy I can get into. High fantasy tomes are sometimes a bit too heavy and I get bored with excessive world building and long character backstories (or constant diversions into language, customs, etc.) Stick to the mythology and character development and a great plot. I like my read to have a clip of pacing.

There are a number of things set up for over-arcing storylines in the volumes in this franchise to come that sound exciting. I was a bit bummed we didn’t get a better resolution to the Cabal – that storyline is dragging a bit; but having said that it is the most excited for a sequel I’ve been since discovering Alec Harbinger P.I.  I’m really looking forward to ‘Night Hunt’ releasing in March 2020.

Adam Wrights writing style is improving. I’m seeing less repetition in common phrasing, less of the chauvinistic attitudes of our protagonist, less of the convenience and coincidence of the secondary cast (it’s still there, but less obvious) I’d still like to see some character development of all the cast, feel a stronger emotional connection, because if any of them were killed off at the moment (apart from Felicity) I’d be like, meh. And there was a bit of a rush at the end in setting the scene that felt disingenuous for the characters and setting. A small developmental editing tweak could have made it so much punchier. But I have to say this is best and by far the most engaging read in the series so far.

This one gets the MVP trophy!

Overall feeling: I want more, gimme more.

Faerie Storm (#8 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Faerie Storm (#8 Harbinger P.I.) 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 – ‘Shadow Land’ (#5 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Delectable Detective and Punchy Paranormals but some Morbid Machismo….

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

When a child goes missing, his mother asks me to help. After all, she believes he was taken by a monster and that’s my field of expertise. The search leads to the storm drains of Dearmont; not a good place to be when you’ve seen as many horror movies as I have. 

Turns out the monstrous kidnapper is also responsible for the mysterious disappearance of a patient from a psychiatric hospital nearby. And as I investigate further, I’m pushed into the waiting arms of an old nemesis. 

Missing children, fishy creatures, and icy curses are all in a day’s work for Harbinger P.I. But when Mister Scary shows up, the hardest job is staying alive.

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 I’m loving Adam Wright’s take on the paranormal, or preternatural as referred to in this series. There is always so much going on that I’m hooked and addicted to finding out what is going on. There is always more than one mystery to solve, an antagonist or two to fight or run away from. Wright’s concepts are fun and engaging.

However there is still one of the biggest gripes in ‘Shadow Land’ that I have had with this series front and centre – again with our protagonist Preternatural Detective, Alec having things fall into his lap, or his assistant Felicity doing them for him. I know a lot of detective work is boring and something we don’t necessarily want to read, but coming up with ideas and uncovering clues are prime aspects to test the protagonist and drive the story forward – watch any detective show on television for numerous engaging examples. This was a big miss for me.

I’m still getting a sexist vibe, and a little of that ‘things conveniently happening’ around Alec’s treatment of the cast, in addition to secondary characters popping into the story when relevant to the plot, but otherwise ignored… it feels like they’re being used but not developed, not allowed to become complex. It feels like lazy writing… so many missed opportunities.

But the narrative improved after the half way mark.

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlilse

We re-visit the on-again, off-again thing with Alec and Felicity… its feeling tired. Was it done to drag their relationship out over a few more books? Something was missing in the tension between these two with ‘Shadow Land.’ And it was awkward – not between the characters Alec and Felicity, but in the writing. As much as I enjoy this world and the characters, I question whether Wright is rushing through the writing-publishing process to keep the momentum of sales for the Harbinger P.I. series instead of taking a little extra time to polish the manuscript.

Upon reaching the end of the book I wasn’t totally satisfied – there were so many new clues and elements introduced in ‘Shadow Land,’ and less than half were resolved. Great for getting me to continue with the series, but reflects badly on this novel alone. Plus, we end on a cliff hanger which was incentive enough for me to want to pick up ‘Midnight Blood’ – but some more resolution to the Mr Scary storyline would have been good – or the Cabal… just saying.

I was a little perturbed by the death of a paranormal towards the end as well – though it was explained – it felt unjustified, and frankly, rushed.

But the writing style is pleasant, and I like the folklore references. I wish we would delve more into the mythology of things. We are starting to get there as Alec was more involved in the research with Felicity. It’s nice to see he can actually do some detective work for himself because he tends to outsource a lot and spend much of the time wandering around thinking.

The pacing is good and the plot jumps all over the place as well. The point of view briefly switches to Sheriff Cantrell and then is daughter Amy (a deputy) interrupting the flow of a narrative and follow a story arc. It was interesting, and in the past few novels Wright has started to add in different characters perspectives… it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it should be though. And we jump from first person to third person narrative.

I did guess the puzzle to the main case solved in ‘Shadow Land’ in the first couple of chapters. I don’t know how, or why, maybe I’m getting tuned into Wright’s mind. So I guess that’s also why this wasn’t such an impactful novel for me.

Still, this is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the supernatural elements and Wright’s take on the world of things that go bump in the night. Also, where has all the thing about Felicity becoming a fully-fledged P.I. gone? She’s back to acting like a glorified secretary again, and the sizzle between these two has left the pages. And it might be the feminist in me, but I’d really like to see Felicity play the hero apart from Alec, and not constantly running around providing answers before Alec even knew he needed them… how about he do it for himself and let her get into the action!

Still a really fun and interesting world. Wright puts his little twists on the preternatural that I find engaging and fascinating.

Overall feeling: Trying to ignore the flaws…

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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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 – ‘Down Among the Sticks and Bones’ (#2 Wayward Children) by Seanan McGuire

Jack and Jill went up the hill… well in through the bottom of a trunk in the attic, one hanging out with a vampire, the other studying under a crazy scientist who likes to bring back the dead. You know, a wholesome child-like tale.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (#2 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 187

From Goodreads:

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

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Again, I enjoyed the fable-like writing style of Seanan McGuire. As if some unseen television compare was sitting in a leather wingback chair by a fireplace re-counting the tale of twins Jaquline (Jack) and Jillian (Jill). Their journey through a portal into a world of vampires, werewolves, and mad scientists. It was also a tale that included a running commentary on gender roles and how we change ourselves to fit the labels other thrust upon us.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (#2 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Such a brilliant novella, beautifully written, with interesting characters in an imaginative world.

I did struggle a bit with ‘Down Among the Sticks and Bones’ though – for some reason I wasn’t as engaged as I was with ‘Every Heart a Doorway.’ Quite possibly it was the subtext of Dracula and Frankenstein… something making it feel less original. Also, I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy, especially re-hashed material. So I was putting the book down frequently for a rest.

The other thing is that the novella just ended once the twins returned to the real world – a tale of their past – and did not tie into the narrative established in ‘Every Heart a Doorway.’ I was anxious for that storyline to continue a bit. It’s got me wondering if ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky,’ the third book in the series will follow the same format. That we will get individual back-stories of the main cast before the plot picks back up from where it left off at the end of the debut. I’m not sure how this sits with me. On one hand I’m very curious, but on the other, I desire the plot to move forward…

I also found it difficult to relate, to or sympathise with, either Jack or Jill. They were so single minded and I almost felt like their characters were somewhat two dimensional. Too heavily shaped by parents and mentors that they never really got to discover themselves free of influence. My head felt tight as the story of their childhood, and years on the moors were just different shaped cages. It make me squirm and want to scream. I guess that’s what you get delving into a darker place.

The ending, though surprising, was more so because I couldn’t rationalise it. It didn’t make sense to me. Only time will tell with further exploration of these characters and their relationship in future novellas as to whether or not I can accept them, or simply remain a thorn in my side.

A great story, interesting characters, but a story that annoyed me somewhat. But still a highly recommended read. Looking forward to discovering what ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky’ has in store for me.

Overall feeling: Creeptastic.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (#2 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (#2 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Dead Ground’ (#4 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

The Preternatural Investigator is at it again….

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

When my old friend Jim Walker asks me to fly up to Canada and take a look at a strange murder case, it sounds like a good excuse for barbecue and brewskis. 

But the party gets crashed by a pit-load of demons and things take a turn for the worse. Throw a faerie queen and a couple of ancient vampires into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. 

Time to sharpen the stakes and start slaying the undead. 

Because if you gaze long into a vampire’s eyes, the vampire gazes also into you. 

Then it glamors you. And kills you.

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Another instalment in the Harbinger P.I. series sees great twists at the end which redeemed this book in my eyes despite some issues I had in developing the plot and secondary characters. We get a heavy dose of paranormal happenings – witches, fairies, vampires, magical swords and spells.

There’s still more of the machismo that urks me in the narrative, but I am beginning to enjoy this series like b-grade 80’s horror films… there is something camp about it, and find it entertaining despite its faults. There is something addictive and compelling about the Harbinger series.

I wish there was more character development to help me care more about the characters. I’m starting to fall into a speed reading mentality just to find out what is going on because I’m not forming any attachments. This distinct lack of development of characters pulled in to aid protagonist Alex Harbinger in his quest, or in their relationships – they simply came to his aid without question whenever he asked. Even if it meant they could lose their lives. To this end it felt like they were merely a plot device, like Adam Wright couldn’t be bothered taking to time to grow a back story and help the reader develop an emotional attachment to the characters. Overall this was the biggest issue I had with the story.

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To this end, while full of action and fast paced, I felt a little despondent at times. It was feeling a little repetitive. Again not enough is resolved and only little seeds of clues are mentioned for an overarching plot for the series. Much of what stood out to me about the prequels.

The books feel like they’ve been rushed to publish and not given the benefit of a good editor. Nonetheless, I’m becoming a fan and will continue to support the author. I am noticing improvements in his writing with each book in the series. It is starting to become a guilty pleasure with me. I have issues with the writing, but the concept, and potential of Adam Wright keeps me intrigued and coming back for more.

Really interested to see what his next release ‘Midnight Blood’ brings. I know Adam Wright has stated that its publication date has been pushed back because he’s moving house before the final edits, so maybe a fresh set of eyes and experience so far will push this sequel even further.

As much as I enjoy this series, I would only recommend it sparingly, but they are quick, adventurous, fun reads.

Overall feeling: Big on imagination, little on execution

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Reckoning’ (#5 Strange Angels) by Lili St. Crow

A supernatural finale that flounders, just a little…

Reckoning (#5 Strange Angels) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 307

From Goodreads:

Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She’s battled killer zombies, jealous djamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a full-fledged svetocha — rare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires — the worst is yet to come.

Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she’s ever imagined. And in the end, is survival really worth the sacrifice.

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Another entertaining read from Lili St. Crow!

From the outset, the Strange Angels series has possessed an urban grittiness and an underlying note of darkness and sadness. Just like our protagonist Dru and her kind act in isolation from the rest of the human race, there is a sense of loneliness that seeps into your bones. I was really hoping we’d get some connection before the end, but it was anything but tenuous.

With an end battle surmounting all the relevant epicness of a final battle, there was something about how this rounded up the series that was lacking. The tone and afterthought was a bit lacklustre and did not give me that wow factor.

The biggest reason is around Dru and her decisions… or lack thereof. It felt like her character hadn’t really come that far. But then in other aspects she’d grown into this amazing person. Maybe because she’s still growing up, and has a long journey ahead of her, the story is not over by a long shot. So it ended with a “…” Which, practically, is a great note to end on; but since I’ve invested my time and money over 5 novels, I was hoping for something more definitive. I won’t get into any more details in fear of spoiling any new readers, but if you’ve read this series you may understand my view point.

I was a little shell-shocked, because as far as epic endings go, there is always mess – and I’m still not sure how to wrap my head around it all. Was it necessary? What did it all mean? It felt a bit rushed. Endings are always ‘big picture’ books aside from the epic battle. The series needs to answer some philosophical questions to put the hero’s journey in perspective.

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Dru’s love interest, Graves, ever the smiling puppy dog hero went out with a whimper in my eyes. I wanted more justice for his journey throughout the novels and sticking by Dru’s side.

Christophe, the annoying boy-model leech that Dru could not seem to resist or get rid of frustrated me even more in this finale. I never connected with him and had an even less opinion of him by the conclusion. I think that is another element of my dissatisfaction with the ending.

There’s still the sarcasm, the sass, and plenty of action.

But St. Crow can craft action scenes like the best of them. I was lifting my feet, swerving in my seat and steering my book like I was playing a computer game at times. Bravo!

A new element of the Marajai was introduced… and then we get a bit of development of this arc before the series ends. It left me wondering if St. Crow intended to continue in this universe with a second series or do a spin-off.

So, while loving the writing, the action, and totally immersed in the Strange Angels universe, by the end I was still left wanting – and that’s not what you want to feel after reading a finale. St. Crow has an edgy writing style that always had me coming back for more, and I am definitely going to check out more of her titles. I’d easily recommend the Strange Angels collection to anyone loving sassy protagonist and paranormal YA fiction.

Overall feeling:…was that the end?

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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 – ‘Defiance’ (#4 Strange Angels) by Lili St. Crow

Defining the YA paranormal genre…

Defiance (#4 Strange Angels) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 272

From Goodreads:

Now that sixteen-year-old Dru’s worst fears have come true and Sergej has kidnapped her best friend Graves, she’ll have to go on a suicidal rescue mission to bring him back in one piece.

That is, if she can put all of Christophe’s training to good use, defeat her mother’s traitor, Anna, once and for all, and manage to survive another day…

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Nothing much happened in the first half of the book except for training and general boring stuff… I was worried this book was going to be a complete write-off. Then for the second half it was like everything just exploded.

Misdirection. Lies. Confrontations. Epic battles. I had a lot of fun reading this… if only the first half hadn’t lagged so much this would have been perfect.

Defiance (#4 Strange Angels) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleDru annoyed me a bit in this one, she charged like a bull at a gate at just about everything, after being so strategic in previous volumes of this series, it felt like a big step backwards. But it did lead to an ending with suitable dramatic flair.

I still don’t like Christophe (as a character or Dru’s love interest) too much, he feel like a smooth operator, maneuvering people around him like chess pieces. I understand his feelings may be genuine, but don’t think someone like him is good for Dru. Graves is my pick for Dru… poor guy is being put through the ringer.

My favorite character is still tortured werewolf Ash, that she is trying to mend back to health – maybe it’s the dog-lover in me 😉

Sergei is the perfect antagonist: mysterious, powerful, egotistic and conniving. Though I’m feeling he is a bit two-dimensional being so enigmatic and evil. Though I can’t wait for a showdown between him and Dru. Though adding Anna to the list of baddies really ups the anty against Dru. St. Crow can really craft an engaging plot.

The writing style was the same breezy, sarcastic tone, though there were moments of repetition. Words recycled, descriptions reused. It felt a bit lazy on the editor’s behalf.

Another easy and quick read. Loving Lilli’s writing. Short, entertaining, and chock full of twisty and angsty goodness. She also writes mean action scenes.

Only one more book left in the series and can’t wait to get into ‘Reckoning.’

Overall feeling: You got me there girl!

Defiance (#4 Strange Angels) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Defiance (#4 Strange Angels) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.