Book Review – ‘Sky on Fire’ (#2 Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

The kids from the school bus go on a rough ride.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 215

From Goodreads:

Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope.

Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . .

Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected. . . .

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Another quick, realistic, and gritty read from Emmy Laybourne.

I loved the circumstances and the everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong tone of this series so far. In this sequel we see the Greenway teens split into two groups, one on a journey to Denver International Airport for medical care of a gunshot wound and evacuation point; the other group, with blood type O – the beserker kind – remain behind waiting for rescue, scared to endanger the rest of the self-made family. They both go through the ringer.

I really appreciate Emmy Langborne’s writing style and how she can craft a story. The pacing kept me glued to the page from start to finish and I completed the novel within a day.

When you’re dealing with teens and children, they are selfish, naive and self-important at their worst… and seriously, I wanted to slap a bitch many times. A few of the characters were so narrow minded and stubborn I would have lost my patience and tossed them outside to fend for themselves, or like I said, clapped them about the ears. What a brilliant accolade for Langbourne’s writing and character development!

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

This book does not pull any punches, the debut sets up that tone, and again we see death, blood and guts – many trigger warnings. Underage Drug and alcohol use, suggested sexual assault, underage sex, violence, shootings, murder and dismemberment by chainsaw. ‘Sky on Fire’ is not for the faint of heart.

But the strongest theme that shines through is that of family and survival. These kids band together and do whatever it takes to get the whole team to safety.

Because of the violent nature and constant plot twists I really had no idea of where this was going to end up. So I did not predict the ending at all. It ends on a good note and sets up the final book of the trilogy (‘Savage Drift’) nicely and I am eager to continue solely because of Langbourne’s writing.

This is one of the better dystopias I’ve read, and recommend of lovers of this genre.

The cover art isn’t that great for any of the novels in this trilogy, but I urge you not to judge these books by their dust jackets.

Overall feeling: ajklfmnato!.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Book Review – ‘Twilight Heart’ (#7 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Sorceresses, witch portals, Excalibur… things are getting interesting.

Twilight Heart (#7 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 214

From Goodreads:

How do you mend a broken heart?…

Put it back into the sorceress it came out of.

There’s only one way to lift Mallory’s death curse and Alec will do anything to save his friend.

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I’m starting to sit on the fence with this series. While it falls under the category of ‘guilty pleasure’ for me – entertaining, easy, quick read full of action; Wright’s writing is not evolving, and each subsequent sequel is feeling episodic, repetitive and serialized.

These novels are tending towards being entirely plot driven. No character development. Still the secondary characters are used as tools to service the main character and drive the plot forward. I was trying to figure out what it was that was bothering me so much about this writing style, and then it hit me: the novel reads like a Cliff’s notes version of itself. Not enough time is spent on the meaty parts of the story (where we have opportunities for the characters to grow and change from the adversity they face) and in between these scenes is longer than necessary with descriptions of menial facts. I wanted more world building, more ambience. I’d like to see Wright dwell in the key plot points, turning points, and conclusion of the novel. ‘Twilight Heart’ felt a bit rushed.

BUT. Having said all that, the saving grace is that the material is quite entertaining. I love all the paranormal goings-on… though lately is getting a bit scattered. And you can read the entire book within 2-3 hours.

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I will say that Wright’s writing has improved – I’m not getting the repetition of typical phrases that cropped up a lot in previous novels. The language is engaging and he can insert humour in the perfect spots. I just wish he’d allow the story to unfold organically. I get a real sense of the author guiding the story along. He’s got all the tools to write an outstanding novel in this genre – I just wonder if he’s putting undue pressure on himself to churn out a certain number of novels in a year?

While sticking to the now established pattern of solving one key crime/mystery per novel, and dropping breadcrumbs of others in the last page or two of another, I feel a little cheated. Again we could get more exploration of the new clues and mysteries. Have them scattered throughout the novel to build a momentum so that when the teaser for the next novel is delivered it packs a punch. Leaves the reader with anticipation. Instead it feels like a ‘Oh by the way… The End’

I also found more grammatical errors that could have been picked up with a read-through.

So while I am enjoying these novels, I’d only recommend them to their niche demographic, and, if Wright doesn’t start developing his storytelling methods, I’m going to get bored and abandon his books completely.

Overall feeling: Fun, but it’s getting a little meh…

Twilight Heart (#7 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Twilight Heart (#7 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ageism and Fear in the Jobscape and why writing saved my life

Ageism and Fear in the Jobscapr Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

It’s been a minute since I’ve written anything about writerly advice because I’ve been taking time to, well, write. But I thought I’d share how I created my own job, and the circumstances that led me to it. Maybe you can create your dream job too.

Having difficulty gaining employment once you reach a certain age isn’t a new story. I never really had to face this issue until I moved from the city to a small regional centre. This combined with the reality that my work experience and qualifications typically exceed that of the employers I’m interviewing with… and well, for whatever reason, I did not land a new position. But it is a little my fault because instead of applying for high stress, high responsibility vacancies, I choose to wind down and enjoy the coastal lifestyle – so targeting a less demanding position was key.

I was cited many reasons for the lack of success at the interview stage. I was too over-qualified, they were afraid I would get bored, or I was met with silent wide-eyed blinking when they perused my resume at job interviews. And typically, the jobs going to a more suitable applicant usually meant someone in their early 20’s with little education and experience. I know this because I followed up on every job I applied for out of professionalism and courtesy.

Stock Traders Conducting Interview

There is no sour grapes here. Just a little dumbfounded. I never had any complications gaining employment in metropolitan areas, but country regions have proven fruitless. It’s a smaller market and much less resources. And I hesitate to mention that there was on average 100-150 applicants for each vacancy.

I even went as far as explaining that I knew exactly what the positions I was applying for entailed. The kinds of positions that suited my lifestyle. I have a lot going on outside of a job (like writing, volunteering for marine conservation efforts, and exploring the area). And though I will dedicate 110% of my effort and commitment, when the day ends I like to leave work at the office, and enjoy my personal time with other endeavors. I’m not out to climb corporate ladders or build an empire. I want work satisfaction in a great environment and an income help me earn enough money for holidays, living, and retirement. I’ve already done the hard yards. I own my home and cars. My experience and qualifications should not be seen as intimidating or being over-qualified; but as a value add. An in-house all-rounder at your disposal whenever you need it.

So I was flummoxed to say the least.

My only alternative was an hour and a half commute to the city, to start my own business… or turn a passionate hobby into a new career. Determination and perseverance, and a little outside the box thinking has taken me to a place where I can breathe a sigh of relief. Otherwise it would have been selling up and moving back to the city (along with a substantial financial loss). But I have an emotional attachment to where I am currently located, so moving was a last resort.

I had already been writing in my free time. And when the idea to chase this pastime on a full-time basis struck, I thought – easy! I’ll just finish writing novels faster and send them out to publishers. Raking in the dough.

What a deluded creature I was.

Ageism and Fear in the Jobscapr Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Turning writing into a fulltime career meant diversifying the types of writing I was doing; and diversifying my skills.

Online marketing, website building, photography, and a foray into post-production of images, formatting, mastering algorithms, networking, professional development… and the list goes on! It turns out I’m not writing much more than I was when working full time, it’s just the remainder of my working week is taken up by all the bits and pieces involved in submitting and applying for work, and the industry as a whole.

So inadvertently, the jobscape in a small regional town has actually pushed me into creating my dream job through necessity. I don’t think I’ve ever had this amount of job satisfaction either. It’s interesting and diverse. I can pretty much choose my own hours, work remotely and travel if I wish.

Ageism and Fear in the Jobscapr Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

I will say it was challenging to get started. There is no roadmap for this kind of thing. It’s all about building a portfolio, making industry contacts, and bidding for jobs. There are so many niches within the corporate, marketing, and technical sectors as well. You really need to research and investigate where there is a need for your services. My dreams of putting my feet up with a coffee and churning out the next best YA hit of the season is still there, but I’ve padded it out with screenwriting, speech writing, technical writing, ghost writing, proof reading and editing, and providing content for customers maintaining a website or social media platform. Heck I’ve even had work published for local news outlets.

I think exploring these other modalities has enriched my interest and skills as a writer. I love it.

Casey Carlisle at work 02My success feels like a bit of a ‘up yours’ to those employers who labelled me as too old, or felt intimidated to employ because of my qualifications and experience. They failed to see the passionate person in front of them. But those judgements say nothing about me and everything about them… so I just adapt. Innovate. Overcome.

Write on fellow wordsmiths!

 

 

 

What obstacles have you had to overcome to realise your career as a writer? I’d love to hear your stories… even if you’re only just starting on the journey.

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Book Review – ‘Immunity’ (#2 Contagion) by Erin Bowman

Bacteria fuelled telepathic zombies (sort of).

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Horror.

No. of pages: 434

From Goodreads:

They thought their nightmare was over, but Thea, Coen, and Nova’s rescue was only the beginning. After being imprisoned on a ship they thought was their ticket to safety, it’s clear that the threat they left behind isn’t as distant as they’d hoped—and this time the entire galaxy is at risk.

Now that threat is about to be unleashed as an act of political warfare. To prevent an interstellar catastrophe, the survivors must harness the evil they faced on the planet Achlys and learn to wield the only weapon they have left: themselves.

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This was a great conclusion to the series. Plenty of action. Copious twists and turns. All the sci-fi things that I love!

We follow the three escapees from Achlys: Thea, Coen and Nova, and introduce Amber as well as Naree – all taking pivotal roles in not only a political war, but one against the spread of the deadly bacteria.

We get the omnipresent perspective and insights into all the characters, and I like how the sections of the novel were broken up into locations.

The only thing that didn’t quite ring true for me was the pacing. Thea and Coen spent half the novel locked up in a cell, so it sapped all the action and pacing out of the novel.

There is slightly more romance and some of it tied into the Psychrobater achli with bonding pairs, but that felt a little forced rather than borne from a biological imperative, so it felt a little corny – as too did the telepathy. But the latter was a major plot point for the story so I can forgive these interesting side effects of the contagion.

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

While ‘Immunity’ is heavily plot driven, we get some character development as well. With everything the teens have to overcome and sacrifice, they grow up real fast and start taking into account the safety of planets above their own. Also having a spectrum of cultural backgrounds and sexuality as something every day and matter of fact was refreshing.

I absolutely loved Erin Bowman’s writing style and am definitely picking up her taken trilogy next. Hopeful I have discovered my next auto-but sci-fi author.

I can’t say I predicted this series all too well, I was always surprised by the plot twists and loved how Erin Bowman can craft a reveal.

Totally recommend this to sci-fi geeks like me everywhere, but the pacing wasn’t as good as the debut.

Overall feeling: Oh My SpaceOpera!

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wreck Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Wreck’ by Fleur Ferris

Uncovering secrets is a dangerous job.

Wreck Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Mystery, Thriller

No. of pages: 288

From Goodreads:

Tamara Bennett is going to be the first journalist to strictly report only good news. Finished with high school, Tamara is ready to say goodbye to her sleepy little town and part-time job at the local paper. O-weeks awaits, which means parties, cute boys and settling into student res with her best friend Relle. Things take an unexpected turn, however, when she arrives home to find her house ransacked and her life in danger. What is this mysterious note? And why does it mean so much to one of Australia’s most powerful media moguls? Caught between a bitter rivalry and dangerous family secret, who can Tamara trust? Or should she trust herself?

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Wreck’ roped me in straight away. Told in dual perspectives, alternating chapters between present day 18 year old Tamara, about to commence O-Week at a Melbourne University; and five years in the past from the 13 year old son of a media mogul William. It starts off with a bang – Tamara being burgled, attacked, held at gunpoint; and William navigating away from an abusive older brother and a ship unsuccessfully navigating a violent storm, about to succumb to the dark ocean. From that point it was hard to put this novel down. I read it in one sitting. It felt like it went fast. The pacing was fantastic, action and mystery at every turn.

I think this is the best Fleur Ferris novel I’ve read to date. And it gets even more props for being set mostly in Melbourne, Australia. A place I like to call home. We get a real sense of Australian life and culture without it feeling stereotyped in Ferris’ writing style. Tamara likes to surf and cares about our beaches, clearing rubbish when she can. Thongs are a big thing: that’s flip flops for my American readers. And we get the some local colloquialisms too. It helped me strongly identify with the main characters.

Tamara is an aspiring journalist, determined, righteous, and full of optimism. We get a strong sense that her character development is all about overcoming fear and uncovering the truth, something strongly tied to her journalistic integrity. William comes across as desperate and scattered, a victim. But there is a softer, more rational side to him. This novel is more about his redemption.

Wreck Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

One thing that really stood out to me with ‘Wreck,’ is that instead of the trend in YA where the characters isolate themselves from people of authority whose job it is to police, investigate, protect with flimsy rationale or convoluted circumstances, ‘Wreck’ embraces the adults and brings them into the story. It was truly refreshing and added a layer of realism to the narrative. And gave the protagonists a major helping of intelligence in my opinion.

There was instant hate and frustration at the antagonist of the story from the get-go. Knox makes the perfect villain, though I would have liked to have seen him a more rounded character instead of his only motivation being jealousy and greed.

Wreck’ is easily predictable for me, not like the uncertainty of ‘Found.’ Though it is a great ride right to the end. There was one thread left hanging that I felt was essential to the story. While it is resolved in principal, I felt it needed a stronger resolution and a more emotional ending to really pack a punch. That said, Fleur Ferris as cemented herself as one of my favorite authors. I really hope she keeps writing YA thriller/mysteries.

Definitely recommend this one to all!

Overall feeling: Ay Chihuahua!

Wreck Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wreck Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The flip side of Obsidian.

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Romance

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

I knew the moment Katy Swartz moved in next door, there was going to be trouble. Lots of it.

And trouble’s the last thing I need, since I’m not exactly from around here. My people arrived on Earth from Lux, a planet thirteen billion light years away. Plus, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that humans can’t be trusted. We scare them. We can do things they only dream about, and honestly, we make them look weak as hell. ‘Cuz they are.

But Kat is getting to me in ways no one else has, and I can’t stop myself from wanting her–or wanting to use my powers to protect her. She makes me weak, and I’m the strongest of our kind, tasked with protecting us all. So this one simple girl…she can mean the end for us. Because the Luxen have an even bigger enemy–the Arum, and I need to stay on my game.

Falling for Katy–a human–won’t just place her in danger. It could get us all killed, and that’s one thing I’ll never let happen…

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This was a nostalgic read. It felt like I was reading ‘Obsidian’ all over again. I enjoyed living in the Daemon-Katy world once more. Plus, I really enjoy Jennifer L. Armentrout’s writing.

Though, there wasn’t anything new brought to the story told from Daemon’s point of view. I would have liked the opportunity to learn more about Luxen history, more about Daemon’s relationships with others of his clan. It was all repetitive. If there hadn’t been so many years between when I had read the debut of this collection, and this read, I may have gotten bored. In fact I did a lot of speed reading because it was all so familiar.

The other thing is that ‘Oblivion’ felt dated. My reading habits have grown and evolved, the market has changed. The old tropes just don’t hook me so much anymore. A brooding, rude, on-again, off-again love interest is more frustrating than titillating. I found myself poking at character behaviour… but at least there was no eye rolling involved.

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For all of the aspects that detracted from my enjoyment, the nostalgia, great writing, humour, and guilty pleasure all helped keep this novel in the wheelhouse of indulgent fun.

There’s not much I can add to the characters than what has already been said in reviews of the previous books in this collection, so this is a very short review. I’m relieved that Jennifer L Armentrout is moving on from this series, because it was starting to feel like flogging a dead horse.

I am interested in reading ‘Obsession’ a book told from an Arum’s perspective, and there is a new trilogy set in this universe following different characters which I will tackle next. We do get more of Katy and Daemon, but they are not the protagonists. Hopefully this will grow the universe and breathe new life into something that was getting slightly repetitive and drawn out.

Overall feeling: Nostalgia

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Oblivion (#1.5 Lux) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) by Sarah J. Maas

Christmas, revisiting familiar characters, but my least favourite book in the series.

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 229

From Goodreads:

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.  

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I was actually looking forward to delving back into the fantasy world of Feyre, but not too far into the novel little things started to chip away at my enjoyment. There is a lot of repetition in the narrative – even using the same words. It became tiresome. So too did the sexual carryings-on between Feyre and Rhysand. Maybe it was meant to be sexy or romantic, but the language choice and the way it was delivered (far too many times in the story) came across as smarmy and icky. I actually said ‘blargh’ out loud many times and skimmed through these scenes. It totally was not cute.

I also balked at all this smelling of each others’ scents… really that’s kinda, well, gross. It was okay mentioned a few times, but when it hits a beat in nearly every chapter about smelling the desire of one’s mate conjures up an altogether unpleasant smell – dude go take a shower and keep your nose to yourself.

The story line of ‘A Court of Frost and Starlight’ pretty much only deals with the Winter Solstice (their form of Christmas) and touch on the aftermath of the battle with Hybern.

We get a number of perspectives: Feyre, Rhysand, Cassian, Nesta, Morrigan, but mostly the first two aforementioned. The chapters are short and give a little insight into how each character is handling the loss and devastation of the war, piecing together their life and finding joy again to celebrate the Solstice.

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere isn’t a lot of character development, but we get a small amount of growth from many of the cast. This was a quaint whimsical story, and I’m not a huge fan of fantasy, but there was something about Sarah J. Maas’ writing style in ‘A Court of Frost and Starlight’ that was bland. I put this book down many times due to lack of interest, and for a short novel, that’s not a great thing. I found a number of comical moments that had me laughing out loud and definitely lightened the mood and dragged me back into the narrative.

There was too graphic a sex scene for me – it went on for pages. I don’t know – again something about the writing style made me feel uncomfortable and dirty. Not romantic, just smutty. I think it’s the masculine tone of these encounters. The forwardness of both Feyre and Rhysand which I find aggressive and not alluding to images of love and comfort, but of rutting animals and seedy drunken passes in some dive bar.

I don’t know what I was expecting going into this story – There wasn’t anything really to predict other than Feyre’s assembled family coming together for the seasonal gift exchange and party…

So there’s going to be another three books for this series, and frankly, I’m kind of tired of Maas’ writing, the characters are starting to feel laboured, and the repetitive nature of her storytelling does not inspire me. Though she can weave a great plot when she wants to, and I have enjoyed some of her novels in the past… we’ll just have to see what teasers she can deliver to weigh up on whether I will continues to follow Feyre and Rhysand’s journey any further.

Nice to visit the characters again, but the story is a bit pointless. You could skip this book if you wanted to, it doesn’t really add any plot points to the first three novels in the series. I’m choosing not to recommend this one unless you are a hardcore fan.

Overall feeling: Bit of a struggle-bus

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

A Court of Frost and Starlight (#4 A Court of Thorns and Roses) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.