Book Review – ‘In a Handful of Dust’ (#1 Not a Drop to Drink) by Mindy McGinnis

It’s a hard knock life!

In a Handful of Dust (#2 Not a Drop to Drink) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

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There is certainly always something going on in this novel. A fight for survival, deception, overcoming a psychological need to simply give up. I sped through ‘In a Handful of Dust’ in a day. There was no putting it down.

It’s a bleak world protagonists Lynn and Lucy live in. And their trek across America to escape a Polio outbreak and hopefully find the fabled Promised Land in California that has a desalination plant. Water. And plenty of it. An easier life. It was a great – I want to say road trip – in a dystopian future.

In a Handful of Dust (#2 Not a Drop to Drink) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleLynn, the protagonist from the first book in this duology ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ is now an older woman and Lucy her adopted charge, now in her late teens, have been weathered by a life of having to shoot first and ask questions later. Especially Lynn, who’s had to fight, guard, and sniper her way through every minute of every day. Rewarded by drops of water. Life gets a little bit easier for the pair before the Polio outbreak, but Lynn never loses her edge. And that hardness and survival-mentality is what carries the two to the opposite coast of America, California from Ohio.

Lucy slowly becomes a different, more compassionate and self-sufficient woman. Finds her place in the world. Her own wants and needs. This is really her story.

The plot itself if predictable. The girls have a destination in mind and will do anything to get there. It’s the journey that throws the surprise and shapes them into stronger women. I got a few curve balls thrown at me that I did not see coming, but on the whole I don’t think I was overly shocked with the twists and turns. The tone of this novel prepares you for striking news… which is a shame because the shock value would have been magnificent. *me holding the book, mouth wide open*

I wasn’t completely sold on the ending, though it is left open for further books in the series; but McGinnis has stated on her website that she has moved on from this collection for now.

I liked McGinnis’ writing style, it’s poetic and stark at the same time. Similar to the observations and descriptions of the landscape. It wasn’t too dumbed down either, which was refreshing for a YA novel.

I’m glad I got to continue with Lynn’s story and would recommend this to those who love a good survival story. Even though it is classified dystopian, it differs from the usual in this genre. We get notes of feminism that sit well with me.

I know Stephenie Meyer’s Fickle Fish Films optioned the debut ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ for a film back in 2014, but we’ve heard no updates since then. I’d be interested to see what treatment they give the film, and what star they could attract to play Lynn.

Overall feeling: I feel exhausted… in a good way.

In a Handful of Dust (#2 Not a Drop to Drink) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

In a Handful of Dust (#2 Not a Drop to Drink) 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 – ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ (#1 Not a Drop to Drink) by Mindy McGinnis

A dystopian school of hard knocks..

Not a Drop to Drink Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 309

From Goodreads:

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

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From the blurb and some of the reviews I’d read, I expected ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ to be much more gruesome. There is plenty of tragedy and realistic hard living, but I felt it missed having a darker, grittier tone which would have added credence to the story. But this novel is a humdinger, and having grown up in the Centralian Desert, and now residing on a remote mountain top where I have to source my own water from rainfall, many of the elements of this novel rang true. Thank goodness I don’t have to fight off poachers and wildlife! A frank depiction of what could be very possible in the near future.

Our protagonist Lynn reminds me of Kantiss in the sense that she’s brought up in a difficult world of paranoia and survival, where hard choices are commonplace – and because of that she is almost emotionless and calculating in her outlook towards fellow man. A silent huntress. A warrior. And while I enjoyed reading this story and appreciated her hard-knocks attitude, there was something missing about her character to make me feel like she was a fully realised person.

Not a Drop to Drink Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleMother was too hard and cold for me to truly appreciate as a person, maybe she was suffering a mental illness? But her Eagle Scout ways were invaluable in the girls’ survival against man and nature. But was it all that necessary?

Eli, placed as Lynn’s love interest, while cute, hunky, and well-mannered, I didn’t really buy this paring. Maybe it was the writing style, I felt a little disconnected with ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ it could have really dragged out all the feels – the desperation, the isolation, and the need for human connection. But those were left dry… and so too was this novel (pun intended).

Eli’s sister, Lucy was the much needed grounding and softness that ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ lacked and was a genius inclusion. I would have liked to read more about her journey, have her involved more in the main plot and her own story arc. Maybe we’ll see in the sequel ‘In a Handful of Dust.’

Neighbour Stebbs was an interesting character. The wise voice of reason, only I felt he came in much too late in the timeline. I almost felt like his emergence was too convenient and that he should of had a stronger presence in Lynn’s life prior to where the novel started.

It is a great story and I found it highly entertaining with realism and stark landscapes. However, the plot is rather simplistic. The inclusion of a few arcs, maybe a few unexpected twists, and the protagonist failing more would’ve had me more engaged. But only if I’m being picky. Otherwise this is a great, if not bleak, adventure.

Not a Drop to Drink’ has easy language and a nice touch with poetry interspersed throughout the narrative to juxtapose some beauty in the confronting situations the cast faces.

I read it in a day, though I felt it dehumanised death, murder, and survival a bit, but a gem of a dystopian that is not hard to imagine as a realistic future. This has also been optioned by Stephenie Meyer’s production company Fickle Fish to get the big screen treatment. So I’m keen to see how this develops.

Recommended for lovers of the genre, or those wanting some light escapism, however not necessarily a book that will wow.

Overall feeling: I think I need to sit down…

Not a Drop to Drink Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Not a Drop to Drink 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 – ‘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?

Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlise

Sacrifice (#5 Elemental) Book Review Pic 4 by Casey Carlise

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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 – ‘Secret’ (#4 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

A refreshing take on what was becoming a formulaic series.

Secret (#4 Elemental) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 328

From Goodreads:

EARTH. FIRE. AIR. WATER.

Nick Merrick is stretched to breaking point. He’s trying to keep his grades sky-high or he won’t get in to college. He’s trying to keep his brother’s business afloat or the Merricks will be out on the street. He’s trying to keep the secret of where he’s going in the evenings from his twin brother Gabriel – or he fears he’ll lose his family. And he’s trying to keep his mind off the hot, self-assured dancer who is his ‘girlfriend’s’ partner.

And then Quinn takes to hanging around his sworn enemy, and an Elemental Guide is counting the hours until he can try again to kill the Merrick brothers. Storms are brewing. On all sides.

SECRETS IN THE WIND. DANGER IN THE AIR.

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What a turn of events – after starting to get a little bored with the formulaic writing in ‘Spirit’ and then reading the novella ‘Breathless,’ I was indeed breathless… and excited. ‘Secret’ certainly delivered.

We finally got away from the stereotypical romance and got a taste of some real angst. The character development in ‘Secret’ was fantastic for many of the cast. And I blazed this book in one setting. I was compelled. Protagonist, Nick possessed a quiet strength that appealed to me. The struggles he faced and the grappling with his identity felt so visceral and real.

Secret (#4 Elemental) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gifThe introduction of Adam as Nick’s love interest did feel abrupt and a bit insta-lusty, but it worked for me. Adam’s representation not only helps raise awareness of the abuse some teens face, but also juxtaposed all the machismo and violence. He was a pacifist and a pillar or strength rolled into one. It was refreshing to read a different type of male character that wasn’t all flighty attitudes and flexing muscles.

Quin and Tyler both managed to annoy the crap out of me though – but it’s just their personality… they deserve each other. Such drama queens, reactionary, and frightened, but express most of their feelings through violence or putting themselves in harms way. I didn’t enjoy their self-destructive ways – but is did make for great tension and plot point reveals.

I’m also seeing a pattern where some of the cast are getting dropped out of the story, It wouldn’t be hard to drop some bigger crumbs and involve them in the plot more prominently when they are not the leads. I felt like I was missing Hunter and Layne… ☹

I felt the melodrama and teen-boy violence was dialled back a bit and let the story shine. Don’t get me wrong, the hormone induced fits of rage are still in here, but if feels like the novel is starting to gain a conscious and perspective showing that it is not all right to always react to unpleasant situations with a fist.

It also felt like we got to tackle some real meaty social issues – and not just as a plot point, but as a tone persevering throughout the story. Discrimination, identity, violence, child abuse… and many more related issues. It gave this instalment a bit more substance, and I found this to be my favourite book in the series so far.

Kemmerer’s breezy and effortless writing style leads to a fast read, and she manages to keep the story driving forward with each chapter so the pacing rarely lags.

The relationships of just about all the main cast are put to the test and evolve in ‘Secret,’ and am interested to see the new dynamic at play in ‘Sacrifice.’ After how ‘Spirit’ ended and set things up, I was expecting more of a supernatural smack-down in ‘Secret,’ but this seemed to head off in a tangent. We still get some awesome paranormal goings-on, but the development of this story arc really didn’t progress, in fact it felt like a repetition of that of the previous novel. But the tangent of Nick’s story was definitely engaging nonetheless. I’m still craving my big battle scenes involving all of the cast – fingers crossed I get to see the elements fly in ‘Sacrifice.’

Secret’ definitely revived this series for me and gave me more faith in the Elementals. A great addition to the collection and one I highly recommend to read.

Overall feeling: Revived!!

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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 – ‘Spirit’ (#3 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

Hormone fueled hot boys with superpowers and sassy girls… YA tropes at their best.

Spirit (#3 Elementals) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 301

From Goodreads:

With power comes enemies. Lots of them.

Hunter Garrity just wants to be left alone. He’s learned the hard way that his unusual abilities come at a price. And he can’t seem to afford any allies.

He’s up to his neck in hostiles. His grandfather, spoiling for a fight. The Merrick brothers, who think he ratted them out. Calla, the scheming psycho who wants to use him as bait.

Then there’s Kate Sullivan, the new girl at school. She’s not hostile. She’s bold. Funny. Hot. But she’s got an agenda, too.

With supposedly secret powers rippling to the surface everywhere around him, Hunter knows something ugly is about to go down. But finding out what means he’ll have to find someone he can trust...

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With these books concentrating on the Merrick boys, I was surprised to discover that this ‘Spirit’ stepped away from the family and was from the perspective of the new comer, Hunter Garrity. But it stuck with the formulaic writing we are beginning to expect from this series. Fun, angsty, and with tropes up to the eyeballs.

Spirit (#3 Elementals) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI’m starting to get over boys throwing tantrums and resorting to violence of some description to express their frustration. The Merrick boys and our protagonist for this book in the Elementals franchise, Hunter, love to beat, wrestle, and fight each other at the slightest hint of anxiety. It totally fits the bill of typical behaviour of young men in their teens, but getting into the third novel in this collection, the behaviour is getting tiresome. *sigh*

And then there’s Kat. The way she’s introduced is with a metaphorical slap in the face. She’s practically bipolar and makes no apologies for it. I love the fact she seems to be sexually liberated, not afraid to express her feelings and desires, but I felt her promiscuity was boarding on self-destructive behaviour.

The eldest Merrick brother, Garrick again shows his maturity and how he is growing in how he raises young teen boys with a gentle hand.

Spirit’ was fun, but it was all very melodramatic. I love me some angst and drama, and I think if there was some more time in-between reading each of these books I’d love them more, but there were moments when I felt the tone of the novels was a tad immature. Though, perfect for its intended demographic.

So I was getting over the formulaic presentation of the novels – a hot brooding male with violent tendencies, a magnet for trouble meets a sassy independent girl and then bicker and fight before revealing some deep dark scarred past to each other to finally bond… Yes, it is a guilty pleasure, and I do like this type of read every now and then, but I was hoping for some more variety in the Elementals series.

And just when I was thinking all hope was lost, there was a twist.

It didn’t completely redeem the series, but I’m still enjoying it, even with the frequent eye-rolling and huffing at the immaturity of the cast. Boys are so annoying most of the time.

As with the previous books, ‘Spirit’ was a quick read, well paced and developed the storyline even further. Some new characters added tension and interest, and I’m still keen to continue with the franchise. Though I wanted to get that big ah-ha moment from Hunter close to the end… it felt like a non-event. Such a big build up, all of their abilities and I wanted something truly epic, but was disappointed.

There is definitely a lot set up for the next novel in the series…

With many characters behaviour, and how the main cast misinterpret these actions – it happened quite a lot in ‘Spirit,’ and while it added some great tension and perfect reveals for the storyline, they weren’t all entirely believable, and well, felt overdone. Haven’t I read this plot device many times before?

So while entertaining, interesting, and full of a teen girls wet-dream, there was a large element of unoriginality for me. Yes, I’d still recommend it for those who love trope-y YA, and love the over-dramatic teen boy antics and the writing style of Kemmerer. It’s geared more towards the tween market than mature readers who enjoy a bit of young adult content every now and then.

Overall feeling: blah blah blah…

Spirit (#3 Elementals) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Spirit (#3 Elementals) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Spark’ (#2 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

Hot boy trouble and teen drama.

Spark (#2 Elementals) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 345

From Goodreads:

Gabriel Merrick plays with fire. Literally. Sometimes he can even control it. And sometimes he can’t. Gabriel has always had his brothers to rely on, especially his twin, Nick. But when an arsonist starts wreaking havoc on their town, all the signs point to Gabriel. Only he’s not doing it. And no one seems to believe him. Except a shy sophomore named Layne, a brainiac who dresses in turtlenecks and jeans and keeps him totally off balance. Because Layne has a few secrets of her own…

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I have to say I enjoyed this much more than ‘Storm.’ It was slightly more complex, and although it still had a lot of YA tropes and machismo that frustrated me, their dominance was less present in the storyline. Plus, I felt a stronger connection to the main characters, Gabriel being an angry loner, and Layne being a bookish nerd who doesn’t believe she is beautiful due to some unfortunate scars. Additionally the sense of family was much stronger. In ‘Storm’ the boys always bickered and fought like young bucks jostling for king of the pride; where in ‘Spark’ we start to see more of the person behind the roles they play and how each is slightly damaged, and what they have sacrificed. This ultimately led me to find the Merrick boys much more endearing. With ‘Storm’ I was annoyed with all the boys-will-be-boys behaviour and the amount of bullying that went on. ‘Spark’ brings a strong sense of belonging and comradery.

Mentioning bullying – it feels like every second person in this universe is a psychopath in the wings, waiting to impact with maximum devastation. It’s all so unrealistic and dramatic. But given the tone of this YA novel, it tends to the angsty, over-emphasised flare to create pace, drama, and engage the reader. This series feels like it had strong shades of the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. A group of special teens, just trying to be normal and fit in while battling oppressive forces trying to kill them, all the while hiding their existence from the general public.

Spark (#2 Elementals) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGabriel managed to tick me off quite a bit, he is impulsive, reactionary and quick to use his fists. I kept flashing back to high school and those immature teen boys I wanted to drown in a river. Kemmerer captures that mix of boy and man, fuelled by hormone that we find both frustrating and loveable at the same time. Gabriel is definitely a flawed character and makes plenty of stupid decisions, some led by the character, and others I felt designed by Kemmerer herself in setting up plot and a big reveal.

Layne is my favourite character in this series so far. Yes, she is stereotypical, but I connected to her altruistic nature and insecurity. To her nerdiness and sass.

But the stand out performance has to come from the oldest Merrick, Michael. In ‘Storm’ he seemed to always be getting in the way – an obstacle to work around, where in ‘Spark’ Michael comes to the forefront with compassion, sacrifice, and wisdom. You really get a sense that he is the lynchpin holding the family together.

Spark’ is addictive and dramatic, but not a masterpiece. It is what it says it is on the cover. A marvellous YA romp. Expect stereotypes, tropes and lots of hot boys. This is definitely a guilty pleasure for me. The kind of quick fun read to give me a break in-between denser tomes.

I’m not so convinced on the propensity of Kemmerer to couple everyone up –  it feels a little contrite, but that is the trend in YA paranormal romances, so be prepared for some tension filled stories of boys finding true love – and a little of themselves along the way.

I feel like we don’t get as much of the play on the brothers elemental powers in ‘Spark’ – this is a more character driven story. But you get a sense of things building, leading to a battle so I’m sure in the next instalments we’ll get some grand-scale supernatural goodness… just the kind of thing that excited me about this series in the first place.

I managed to read this in a day. It’s punchy and each chapter drives the story forward. A change of perspective between Gabriel and Layne doesn’t really feel all that necessary for the plot, it lays out the storyline plainly and loses a bit of tension. But it gives us teen lamenting in return. A fun tweeny read that I find oddly compulsive; I will be continuing on, intrigued to see where Kemmerer is going to take us.

Overall feeling: getting to like this better.

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Spark (#2 Elementals) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Storm’ (#1 The Elementals) by Brigid Kemmerer

Trashy and terribly addictive.

Storm (#1 Elementals) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 432

From Goodreads:

Earth, Fire, Air, Water – they have more power than you dream.

Ever since her ex-boyfriend spread those lies about her, Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys—all the ones she doesn’t want. Then she saves Chris Merrick from a beating in the school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water—just like his brothers can control fire, wind, and earth. They’re powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death.

And now that she knows the truth, so is Becca.

Secrets are hard to keep when your life’s at stake. When Hunter, the mysterious new kid around school, turns up with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time, Becca thinks she can trust him. But then Hunter goes head-to-head with Chris, and Becca wonders who’s hiding the most dangerous truth of all.

The storm is coming . . .
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This was so typically YA. It had so many of the tropes. But I did enjoy it somewhat. It fell into my guilty pleasure category like the Lux series from Jennifer L. Armentrout.

Cue damsels in distress. Cue a love triangle. Cue stubborn boys who treat girls badly. Cue hormone addled teenage boy brains. It had so many tropes I was rolling my eyes. But I also like bad sci-fi and horror movies – I get a delicious kick out of them, and so too did I get a kick out of ‘Storm.’

I was frustrated with all the testosterone being flung around at many points. The possessive nature of the love interests. And everyone seemed okay with putting their hands on Becca to stop her, hold her, it was all a bit misogynistic. That aside, it was also dramatic, and tension-filled like so many pop culture tv movies. It’s the type of thing I enjoy to read every now and then. A quick easy fun adventure.

With so many of the elements that usually annoy the heck out of me in a story, ‘Storm’ could have been a massive flop, but something about this worked… I was always eager to see what was going to happen next. Curiosity, pace and tension were constant throughout. I think if some of the tropes had been eliminated or satirised, I would be singing the books praises, instead, it hit a middle-of-the-road vibe for me. Enjoyable and interesting, engaging even, but not too original.

Storm (#1 Elementals) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgTold from dual perspectives of the ‘couple’ Becca and Chris, there was a heavy element of ‘tell’ and not ‘show.’

Beca annoyed me as a protagonist, she flip-flopped from one boy to another, always with some body part on her mind. It didn’t feel like she had much else going on except for all the beefcake circling her. She has her moments of stubbornness and empowerment which redeemed her character for me, but then she’d slip into a damsel in distress, or boy-crazy teen, and I was back to the eye-rolling.

Chris was aggravating, if it wasn’t for reading moments from his POV, I’d written him off completely. But he manages to pull a few rabbits out of the hat by displaying compassion and selflessness in between growling and getting all up in the faces of other males in Becca’s orbit.

Hunter was endearing. Charming. And then he fell prey to the possessive posturing too – seriously, I could feel testosterone dripping out of this book. There are a lot of unanswered questions about Hunter – even at the end I still did not get the resolution I was craving for – I’m guessing it will come in one of the following novels in the series. For the most part I’d have to say he was my favourite character. Whether he’s there just to add tension to the Becca-Chris relationship, or an actual viable option for Becca is still unclear.

Brigid’s writing is easy-going, and I read the book in a day. She manages to capture the frustrating teen boy nature perfectly. I literally wanted to reach my hand through the pages and throttle some of the characters. Many times. There are moments of swearing and bullying, and even moments of humour causing me to bark out loud.

As for predictability, I don’t know if I was having a good day or not, but I guessed the entire plot very early on, and even all the sub plots… so no surprises for me. But I still had fun.

It’s on the fence if I’d recommend this – I can see how some would find this derivative, and how others would love the teen angst and soap opera of it all. So if you love trashy paranormal romances – this one’s for you… if you like more intellectually challenging books, maybe skip this title.

Overall feeling: Overloaded on trashy teen drama!

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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 – ‘Nolan’ (Leech # 3) by James Crawford

Marvelous addition to the Leech Universe – left me wanting more.

Nolan Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, GLBT

No. of pages: 227

From Goodreads:

Every High school has its rock star. Maybe it’s the quarterback, head cheerleader, or the valedictorian–the one student who outshines the rest. The one everyone knows will be successful in the years to come. For Nolan that was a lifetime ago, before he lost his sight, before he even knew what a Leech was. 

Now all Nolan wants is seeing Caleo survives to fulfill his destiny. A task that has become increasingly difficult as the government wades into the war, and the number of people trying to kill them skyrockets.

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What an explosive, fantastic ending to the Leech trilogy!

James Crawford has been fearless when writing this trilogy, not fading away from carnage and devastation, and his writing has gotten better with each installment. This book was prolific in the grandiose battle and wrapped up the trilogy expertly. This guy really knows how to write a climactic ending.

I did get a little disappointed with having precedence set up with ‘Caleo’ and ‘Jack’ being  each from their perspectives respectively, to ‘Nolan’ told in multiple perspective. And I didn’t get to live inside Nolan’s head for as long as I wanted to. We got snippets of his backstory, but did not get to dwell in the present, fathom out motivations and feelings with him as we did the other main characters in the preludes. So I felt a little cheated.

The actions scenes are still amazing and there was a great mix with the plot line this time. It was a bit like ‘whatever could go wrong did.’ It made this a dynamic entertaining read.

Nolan Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.pngWe get to see a lot of development of Jack’s character, his feelings and motivations are really put to the test and I found myself liking him even more than I did from the first two installments. Still bummed that I didn’t get more Nolan though.

Caleo brought his balls-to-the-wall attitude, and threw himself out there to stand up for his principles and family. IT was great to see him overcome fears and embrace his destiny.

The ending was predictable, and I couldn’t see it happening any other way; although it happened in the most delightfully unpredictable manner, which added to the deliciousness of this trilogy.

There were a few strings not tied up – the translation of “the book,” and more information on the creation, mythology and intention of Leeches. But I guess it leaves it open ended enough for more books to be written in this universe. And James Crawford has even offered to publish a book from another author if they are willing to take up the challenge. (see his website for details)

I did get more of the feels from the first two novels – there was something about the writing style in the conclusion that didn’t have me reaching for the tissues… which disturbed me more than what went down. It has been a pleasure to read about characters who have super powers, or X-men like abilities who identify as gay, but not have either aspect dominate their lives/storyline. It helps to provide diversity and support for those readers struggling with their own issues. While not the best written trilogy, it has a place in my heart and a set of books I’d happily recommend.

Overall feeling: super cool super powers!

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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 – ‘Jack ‘(Leech # 2) by James Crawford

Great potential for a paranormal series with a gay protagonist.

Jack Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, GLBT

No. of pages: 257

From Goodreads:

Every high school has it’s social elite; the football players and cheerleaders … you know, the popular crowd. At Butler High, Jack Barely was as close to the top as they came. Captain of the swim team, great hair, and abs that most would die for. However, that was all before the Leeches attacked, taking away everything: his popularity, his house, his grandmother, and even his best friend, Caleo, whom he secretly loved.

Now, living in a destroyed world, popularity means nothing as Jack struggles just to keep him and his twin sister, Jillian, alive. With attacks happening more frequently, Jack starts to wonder why they are even bothering to try and hold onto the past when it just reminds him of all they have lost. Just when he has given up hope, Jack hears a rumor that Caleo is still alive and sets out on a mission to find him. But will Jack make it to finally tell Caleo how he really feels?

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With a fantastic premise set up in ‘Caleo,’ even if I had issues with the writing style, I was still excited to continue with this trilogy. ‘Jack’ still brings that level of immaturity in the narrative that bugged me from the first novel – but much less of it, thank goodness. We get a clear case of what is going on with the plot of the trilogy for the most part, but there is still a little confusion of some scenes not making sense. The stakes are definitely higher. There is a lot of action, pummelling, fighting and injuries… it is starting to feel like a bloodbath. So, while not top-tier writing, it is definitely compulsive.

On a side note: I did find it comical at the amount of unintentional nudity. The teen girl in me giggled and kicked her legs (no judging me – I already know how lame I am.) In ‘Caleo,’ we did lose a bit of that larrikin humour over the second half of the novel, but it is back and interspersed throughout the narrative in ‘Jack’ and it’s the kind of smart-assery I love to indulge in.

Jack Book Review Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleThis time the story continues from Jack’s P.O.V. and he is more single-minded than in ‘Caleo’ – which was great in driving the plot forward, but it also erased some of his complexity. I would have liked to see much more going on with him emotionally and spiritually to turn up the level of tension.

The reading experience felt a lot tighter and more enjoyable. Though personally I’m #TeamNolan and felt like Nolan was pushed aside again for the sake of setting up a love triangle, though, with the third book in the series being from his point of view, I guess I’ll get the fix I’ve been hinkering for since starting this trilogy. *fingers crossed*

I did get more surprises than expected, but there still wasn’t a lot of resolution in the plot for me to feel entirely satisfied. Second book syndrome. Even though there is so much action going on in ‘Jack,’ I felt as though something was lacking – whether it be a few sub-plots, or moving the overarching storyline forward more, it still left me in that state of mind after finishing ‘Caleo.’ Yes, I’m dying to find out what happens next, but annoyed that I have to read yet another book to get a payoff.

I developed a lot more liking and sympathy for Jack after reading this second instalment, but there is still something about Caleo and Jack that doesn’t sit right for me. But let’s see were the journey takes us. Jumping into ‘Nolan’ right now…

Overall feeling: boys, boys, boys!

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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 – ‘Caleo’ (Leech # 1) by James Crawford

Promising.

caleo-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, GLBT

No. of pages: 294

From Goodreads:

Every High School has their social outcasts. The band nerds, the math geeks, the chess club, the girl that chews her hair, but at Butler High, even the creepy nose picker in the chess club is more popular than Caleo Anima. No matter what he did, his pale skin, snow white hair, and piercing blue eyes always made him an easy target. He used to think that the only way things could get worse would be if someone found out that he was gay, but that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg of problems after a mysterious stranger shows up and changes Caleo’s life forever.

Hidden amongst our society, a secret and magical race of people known as ‘Leeches’, have been engaging in civil war for decades. Both sides are desperately searching for a weapon with unlimited power that will give them the advantage they need to rule their world. This wouldn’t mean anything to Caleo, except for one problem…He is that weapon!

Forget making it through High School. Caleo has bigger problems! As the search for him goes on, the world is quickly crumbling around him. He’s now fighting for his life and the life of what little family he has left. With the help of new friends, he has little time to try and master his newly found powers as he tries to figure out who he can trust, who is trying to use him, and who just wants him dead. One wrong step and being the awkward pale outcast will be the least of his worries.

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This book made a place in my heart and nestled there. What a wonderful adventure. It was such a pleasant surprise for a gay themed YA paranormal not to be all about the gay thing. Caleo was a story about a teen discovering and navigating the world of his burgeoning powers, and the political landscape of others like him. It was very X-men-like with warring factions and other people with special abilities.

Some aspects of the story-telling really held this book back for me however. The writing style at the beginning felt almost staccatoed. Stuttering along until the story found its legs. As well as the main characters’ behaviour and reactions, more fitting to youths around thirteen and fourteen years of age. And then there were some of those overused tropes: The love triangle, the ugly loner main character who turns out to be the most special one of all, the in love with your best friend thing… I was grinding my teeth together. After the first five chapters this story moves along and gets really good. I just would have liked to have seen some of these stereotypical devices switched out for something a lot more dynamic and turn Caleo into something to knock the competition out of the park.

The pacing is fantastic after we get over that stumbling first section; and it increases and builds with tension right up to the end. I didn’t want to put the book down. I did get a little frustrated about two thirds of the way through when the story line switched gears and the love interests of our protagonist, Caleo, got a switch-hit in dominance from the narrative. It was literally flipped in a page, and nothing was developed around it. A very weak turning point, or change in perception… I don’t know, it just didn’t completely work for me.

caleo-book-review-pic-3-by-casey-carlisleI really liked Caleo’s struggle with hiding who he really is from those who he loves: whether it be coming out as gay, or revealing his ability, different people got to see different versions of him. His fears felt very real and motivated a lot of Caleo’s actions. At times he seemed to have bouts of immaturity or even anger that I found confusing, but I’m chalking it up to a testosterone thing… But on the whole he is a likable, relatable protagonist, and I became very invested in his story.

Jack annoyed the crap out of me. In the first half of the novel he didn’t seem to care much for Caleo, letting him get in harms way far too much. I’m sure there could have been a more palatable dynamic to their relationship. It seemed like they were mates who looked away when the other was in physical danger. That appearing tough and popular to peers was more important to Jack than saving Caleo from some pretty serious beatings. Later in the second half of the story Jack became enraged and jealous, even over small things, which, effectively being Caleo’s step-brother, was somewhat uncomfortable. So I’m on the fence with Jack, he seems impulsive, flippant and a little unstable.

Jillian was everything you’d expect from a pig-headed, yet loving step sister. I was living for her throughout the entire story. As I was Grandma. Both of these women kicked ass.

It was also refreshing to see the family dynamic play out in the storyline, they stuck together, had each others back, and did things without question. I was really cheering for them to survive everything that was being thrown at them.

Nolan turned out to be my favourite. He has a quiet masculinity that appealed to me. He seemed to respect where Caleo’s head was at and never pressured him. So I was angered when the narrative switched gears and suddenly Nolan was pushed to the periphery. It strongly felt like a storytelling device to give Jack some of the spotlight and fuel a love triangle. I was also annoyed at the continual interruptions, I wanted them to have a break so I could really find out what was going on.

Caleo ends with major cliff hangers – I didn’t feel like I got a whole lot of resolution, so, luckily I bought this novel with its two sequels…. It better give me some sort of pay off otherwise I’ll be really angry. The books are fairly short, we don’t get a great deal of answers, I recommend the trilogy as a whole instead of the book as a singular, but only if you sit comfortably with some really overused YA tropes. Great escapism for me 🙂

Overall feeling: pretty good…

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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.