Wrap up – The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

An epic sci-fi adventure that left me gob-smacked.The Illuminae Files Wrap Up Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

There was a lot of hype surrounding the launch of this trilogy – and rightly so. It was phenomenal. I haven’t been so captivated by a YA science fiction series in a very long time. Not only does this grab reader’s attention with its format of collated documents to form the narrative, but the pacing jumps from chapter to chapter. I am in awe of Kristoff and Kaufman in creating this collection.

If I wanted to be picky, I’d say there are a lot of character to keep track of – and some may read similar to one another. The mostly have that sarcastic sense of humor and are ballsy hero types. Also with the change in perspective in the second book (‘Gemina’), which felt a bit slower, left me high and dry after I had invested so much into Kady in ‘Illuminae.’ But not to worry, all the cast are brought together in ‘Obsidio.’ Like I said that’s if I was looking for some elements to be critical of. Because of the main cast, their personalities are distinctly different, we get diversity  and a range of special skills that each of them bring to the team. One of them is an artificial intelligence (AIDAIN) who is in front and centre just as much as his fleshy counterparts. All the characters are fallible and make mistakes along the fight for their lives against greedy corporations only trying to save their own behinds and turn a profit.

The Illuminae Files Wrap Up Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

There is always more than one thing going on in the plot, it’s literally everything but the kitchen sink thrown at the main cast. This adds to the tension and pacing. And for a sci-fi it is not bogged down in world building or technical information to support the narrative. Apart from a lull in the first 100 pages of ‘Gemina,’ I did not put these books down except to eat or sleep.

I’m ecstatic to hear Brad Pitt had optioned ‘Illuminae’ for a film adaptation – after seeing how he treated World War Z, I am expecting marvelous things! You can bet I’ll be keeping my feelers out to see how this project develops.

So I won’t go into detail too much about the characters – I don’t want to spoil too much. But you can bet that this is one of my all-time favorites and comes vehemently recommended. I hope Kristoff and Kaufman team up for more similar projects in the future, because I’d add them to my shopping cart automatically.

The Illuminae Files Wrap Up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Illuminae’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/02/23/book-review-illuminae-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoff/

‘Gemina’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/book-review-gemina-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoff/

Obsidiohttps://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/book-review-obsidio-3-illuminae-by-amie-kaufman-and-jay-kristoff/

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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.

Advertisements

Wrap up – Burn for Burn Trilogy by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

What starts out as a teenage ‘First Wives Club,’ takes a surprising paranormal twist.

  Burn For Burn Wrap Up Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

In kicking things off in, the debut of this series introduces a lot of characters, and the multiple perspectives of Lillia, Kat, and Mary. So it took me a good portion of the novel to get into – I almost felt like taking notes so I could figure out who was who, and what was happening. However, the plot is interesting and with a hinted paranormal twist, I was totally engrossed. And just as things got interesting, it ended… So if you hate cliff hangers, make sure you buy this trilogy whole. I’d say ‘Burn for Burn’ was primarily world building (and way to many flashbacks) and setting up elements of the plot around intriguing characters.

The separation of ‘voice’ between the narratives of the three female leads were difficult to delineate, if it weren’t for the names of the girls in the chapter headings, I would not know who was taking charge of the first person narrative. The writing style also felt a little juvenile, but that is just my opinion and it hits the target dead in the eyes for its intended demographic.

Moving into the middle book is where this series hits its stride. The paranormal elements play a heavier part in the storyline, and there are so many twists, it feels like Han and Vivian are having fun with all the characters. With all the establishing done in the debut, pacing is upped and I was really enjoying this quick read. But again – another cliff hanger – so you’ve been warned.

The final chapter of this trilogy wrapped things up nicely, though very abruptly. And one thing that I noticed throughout this entire series, despite the tone of the writing style apparently directed at the younger end of the YA market, there was a ton of alcohol consumption. I felt like booking myself into rehab. The whole thing screamed ‘look at me I’m an adult’ despite the vain and vapid character portrayals.

On the whole this series was a mostly average read, but I loved the contemporary/paranormal juxtaposition in the plot. It felt unique, and with its Teen Vogue-esque cover art ticks all the boxes to be a teen favourite. Who doesn’t like a group of girls exacting revenge on bullies and ex boyfriends? It’s the tagline that drew me in.

I’d recommend this for lovers of YA or fans of Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. The tone and pacing may turn older readers off.

Burn For Burn Wrap Up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Burn for Burn’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/book-review-burn-for-burn-by-jenny-han-and-siobhan-vivian/

‘Fire with Fire’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/book-review-fire-with-fire-2-burn-for-burn-by-jenny-han-and-siobhan-vivian

Ashes to Asheshttps://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/book-review-ashes-to-ashes-3-burn-for-burn-by-jenny-han-and-siobhan-vivian/

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle© 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.

Wrap up – To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before Trilogy by Jenny Han

Fun realistic contemporaries about family and facing the loss of security of childhood.

  To All The Boys I've Loved Before Trilogy Wrap-up Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

It took me a while to pick up ‘To All The Boy’s I’ve Loved Before’ – there was something about the blurb that failed to hook me, but thanks to continuous rave reviews from friends, I eventually picked it up and gave it a go. I was blown away by the family dynamics and the relationship between the sisters at the forefront. I must admit though, I found myself rolling my eyes many times. But the stand out character was Kitty, Lara Jean’s annoying little sister. Their dynamic felt very real and created expert tension for the story.

You get a strong sense of how these girls grow up throughout the trilogy, still in that cute, light and fluffy narrative tone of Han’s writing. It really captures the worries we experience when facing the world after school, losing family (either to death, divorce or moving away,) school grades and, of course, boyfriends. I was transported back to the nostalgia and angst-ridden years of my own high school experience. Though I wasn’t as goody-two-shoes as Lara Jean.

Even though the finale ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean’ deals with some great issues, it fell a bit flat for the conclusion of this trilogy… but in saying that, ringing true to the realism that embodies this collection, Lara Jean’s story has not ended. It is only just beginning as she take her first steps into adulthood and academia. Maybe we’ll get more of Lara Jean’s story in many years from now?

To All The Boys I've Loved Before Trilogy Wrap-up Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleDefinitely one I’d recommend if you’re into romantic contemporaries with a strong familial presence and a fairly passive main character. Though there is some light wit that keeps the tone delightful. This series certainly gets better the further you get into the series, with the last book switching up the tone a bit as Lara Jean faces an uncertain future and has some hard decisions to make.

And with the film adaptation due for release in 2018 (at this stage,) starring Lana Condor; I’m excited to see how this series will fare – and if all three novels with get a treatment… of course depending of the performance of the debut at the box office. In a world where the majority of film successes are white-washed (with a male lead,) it is going to be an interesting social experiment seeing how this movie is launched and received by audiences.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before Trilogy Wrap-up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

For individual reviews click on the links below:

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/book-review-to-all-the-boys-ive-loved-before-by-jenny-han/

P.S. I Still Love You’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/book-review-p-s-i-still-love-you-by-jenny-han/

Always and Forever, Lara Jeanhttps://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/11/21/book-review-always-and-forever-lara-jean-3-to-all-the-boys-ive-loved-before-by-jenny-han/

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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.

What I read in 2017

I can’t believe January is already over… so much for posting my 2017 reads early *awkward*

Last year proved to be a year of distractions and interruptions, and consequently I fell short of my goal of reading 100 novels by 18 books. And I overall I read more books that I ended up rating lower because I was extending my reading habits out of my preferred genres and giving many new authors a go.

So, what did I read…

Goodreads 2017 Year of Reading Casey Carlisle.jpg

And I’d have to say that my favourite book read from 2017 is ‘Gemina’ by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman which was the second novel completed that year.

I’m hoping that I can read more novels, and even more diversely this year… and maybe I’ll even give at least one book a 5 star rating (as in 2017, sadly, I did not award one.)

 

How did your reading year shape up? What was your favourite book from last year? Let me know in the comments below – I might just find my next outstanding read 😉

uppercase-lowercase-banner-by-casey-carlisle

© 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.

Wrap up – Embassy Row Trilogy by Ally Carter

A contemporary with international political intrigue.

   Wrap Up - Embassy Row Trilogy Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I was really keen to jump into this trilogy – at the time only the first book had been released and I was eager to read out of the dominating genres in YA – a murder mystery with an international setting felt like the right ticket. The Embassy Row trilogy felt like a mash-up of The Scooby Gang from ‘Scooby Doo’ and the movie ‘What A Girl Wants’ starring Amanda Bynes. Plus I’d read some cracker reviews from book blogger friends…

As much as I loved the concept, there are moments when I felt the story went a bit juvenile – unrealistic, overdramatic that I found tedious or even frustrating. But given the demographic, and the fact that it’s YA, it was to be expected. It was easy to overlook these hindrances and really enjoy the world Embassy Row presents.

Grace, our protagonist, a damaged heroine, thrown in the deep end of secret societies and political drama was an interesting character to read. She had all the necessary flightiness, drama and curiosity to engage the reader, but as the series progressed, some elements were repeated to death, and others had her looking like a flake, and even bipolar. I bit more research and cohesiveness would have seen Grace as a strong protagonist.

All Fall Down Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleHer friends on Embassy Row, which I dubbed of the ‘Super Crack Teen Spy Squad’ came and went from the narrative with each successive installment of this trilogy. So strong in the debut, but were reduced as mere plot points to move the story along in the consecutive two sequels. That was highly disappointing for me. There was such great chemistry and such interesting characters in this group, I would have liked to see them featured more prominently.

The flip-flopping with the love interest Alexei was the most frustrating part. It really established doubt in Grace herself instead of the motives of the mysterious Russian. The middle book of the trilogy needed the most work in editing to bring it to a much more palatable novel in my opinion, As it stood, I actually got a little pissed and the treatment of the cast.

The adults in this world all seemed to be James Bond characters. Members of secret society, spying on each other, manipulating each other, secret tunnels and meetings… It lost a sense of family that this series was missing to ground it in something solid. Consequently, the adults for all their nefarious activities felt a little two dimensional.

The basics of the storylines in each novel – the mystery – is crafted excellently. I loved the mechanics and storyline of all three novels. Ally Carter can weave a mean plot. It was just the delivery and immature tones that dragged the pace for me that lowered my ratings.

We get a spectacular ending – ‘Goonies’ style, though after a promising debut with ‘All Fall Down,’ both ‘See How They Run’ and ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ flatlined. Great mystery, fantastic twists and turns, but the wiring style was a little ‘meh’ and predictable.

Marvelous hook and concept, eye-catching cover art, and a quick easy reads. A fun trilogy I happily recommend – falls more into a guilty pleasure than an outstanding recommendation.

Wrap Up - Embassy Row Trilogy Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

All Fall Down’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/book-review-all-fall-down-by-ally-carter/

See How They Run’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/book-review-see-how-they-run-by-ally-carter/

Take the Key and Lock Her Upcarter’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/07/09/book-review-take-the-key-and-lock-her-up-by-ally-carter/

 

© 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.

Wrap up – The Matched Trilogy by Allie Condie

A dystopian adventure that left me a little disturbed.

  Matched Trilogy Wrap Up Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

Such an amazing concept – the Matched trilogy has hues of ‘The Giver’ and ‘Divergent’ but did not deliver as well as those did. Sad to say, but this series has got to be the lowest rated I’ve read to date. Maybe it’s because it was released at the start of the dystopian craze and marketed towards a tween demographic, leaving me feeling like I’d read it all before and the immature narrative tone felt boring.

I didn’t know what to expect going into the series because of such mixed ratings on Goodreads and from my friends, so I took it on faith of Ally Condie’s popularity as an author.

I guess the best way I can sum this series up is ‘soft,’ having all the elements to make a great dystopian, but not quite hammering them home for me. The pacing felt slow to start with, though the descriptions of the landscape are inspiring, the story lagged. The poetry elements were also lost on me – I skipped over every one of them.

Each book seemed to be an improvement on the last; especially in terms of character development and pacing. Though I can say I was never sure where this story was going to go. Not because of predictability, but because of its narrative style. The changing perspectives and what felt like a lack of direction left my interest waning several times. The world-building felt over simplified and at times waffly. There felt like a compulsion from the author to pair all the characters up too. It was too nice for a dystopian series. I wanted more grit, higher stakes for the characters and the world.

Matched Trilogy Wrap Up Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I supposed ‘stylized’ is the best way to describe the treatment of this trilogy. While it was entertaining, the characters took a while for me to care about, I was frequently bored or frustrated. And ultimately, upon finishing the series, I did not feel satisfied. Book 1 ‘Matched’ dealt with escape; Book 2 ‘Crossed’ with a battle for survival in the wilderness; and ‘Reached’ turned out to be a rebellion… fought in a Lab. It wasn’t cohesive and felt like an author’s first draft.

The elements of medical science and technology were really interesting and I would have liked them more in the forefront of the plot (with details – many times the details were skipped over or dumbed down.) As too with the survival aspects – fighting in a war and trekking across inhospitable landscapes. I love these aspects, but wasn’t lead to feel like they were desperate and on the brink of death – which they were.

I did like the covers, the simplicity and symbolism. They definitely drew me in. The collection as a whole blended well together aesthetically. Large readable font in the hardback boxed set that I purchased. The cover art definitely lead me to believe there would be a heavier sci-fi element than was represented.

So a great premise, but lukewarm delivery for me. Sadly the trilogy took a slow downward slope to disappointment. Not a collection of books I’d recommend. 😦

Matched Trilogy Wrap Up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Matched’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/book-review-matched-by-ally-condie/

Crossed’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/book-review-crossed-by-ally-condie/

Reached’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/06/22/book-review-reached-by-ally-condie/

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

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

Wrap up – The Leech Trilogy by James Crawford

A fun X-men type trilogy with a gay protagonist that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Leech Trilogy Wrap Up Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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. With the final book 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. Plus he was my favorite character, so I was shipping him all the way.

The character development is subtle as each of the protagonists grow up facing their changed world and the looming threats – not to mention their sexuality and fears of love ans acceptance. There are a lot of tropes in this trilogy, but it falls into the guilty pleasure category for me. I found myself swooning in the romance, coming out stories, and elemental powers. So my enjoyment for this collection is based on entertainment value. It certainly fired up my imagination and left me to escape into a world reminiscent of X-Men characters.

I admit having some issues with the writing style and plot in each of the books, but if marathoned you’ll get a much better experience. There were also 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.)

It warms my heart to see diversity starting to become mainstream in the publishing universe. It offers up a greater opportunity for escapism, and education of the challenges other people face. Be it fictional or not, there is generally some adversity for the main characters to overcome which we can pull strength and real life lessons from. The Leech trilogy was no exception. It tackles bullying, ethnic cleansing, and being a refugee as undertones of the ‘being different trope.’

So while no literary masterpiece, its magnificent escapism to indulge in if your into superheroes and origin stories with a gay twist. A fun addition to my library.

Leech Trilogy Wrap Up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Caleo’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/book-review-caleo-leech-1-by-james-crawford/

Jack’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/book-review-jack-leech-2-by-james-crawford/

Nolan’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/book-review-nolan-leech-3-by-james-crawford/

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

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