Book Review – ‘Slayer’ (#1 Slayer) by Kiersten White

Re-visiting my ultimate fandom.

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

Genre: YA, Paranormal

No. of pages: 404

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Into every generation a Slayer is born…

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

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall feeling: A fun frolic in a favorite fandom

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

Slayer (#1 Slayer) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ by J.H. Trumble

Great issues, but losing relevancy in today’s market.

Don't Let Me Go Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: N/A, Contemporary, LGBT+

No. of pages: 352

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Some people spend their whole lives looking for the right partner. Nate Schaper found his in high school. In the eight months since their cautious flirting became a real, heart-pounding, tell-the-parents relationship, Nate and Adam have been inseparable. Even when local kids take their homophobia to brutal levels, Nate is undaunted. He and Adam are rock solid. Two parts of a whole. Yin and yang.

But when Adam graduates and takes an off-Broadway job in New York–at Nate’s insistence–that certainty begins to flicker. Nate’s friends can’t keep his insecurities at bay, especially when he catches Skyped glimpses of Adam’s shirtless roommate. Nate starts a blog to vent his frustrations and becomes the center of a school controversy, drawing ire and support in equal amounts. But it’s the attention of a new boy who is looking for more than guidance that forces him to confront who and what he really wants.

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Don’t Let Me Go’ was struggle that was a struggle to read. Mainly because it deals with bullying and discrimination. It’s not the lightest topic for a contemporary romance. Also, a number of aspects contributed more to my dislike… A storyline that jumps around the timeline was disorientating. A whiny and jealous protagonist Nate. I found the first quarter of the novel, well, boring. I hate admitting this – ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ has some great reviews and was recommended to me by someone I trust. So, I think aside from triggering themes, this is just not the method of storytelling that I related to.

After that first quarter of what ended up as me yawning and putting the book down for a break a number of times, we get a few chapters on bullying and teachers acting inappropriately (*cough* discrimination *cough*) It felt old. Like it had been written in the 80’s, though it was released in 2011. I haven’t read many other contemporary novels dealing with a gay protagonist published in 2011, but other genres published in this year with gay characters did not have this level of hate and discrimination. Yes, the characters faced adversity, but being gay and dealing with discrimination was not all they were about. Additionally, being an educator in high school for over 10 years – talk about a personal slap in the face with a wet fish at my profession.

Don’t Let Me Go’ did nothing particularly new. I had trouble connecting with the story or the characters. It went from the two leads groping, to campaigning for gay rights. There was no evolution or character development. Maybe I waited too long to read this? Contemporaries we see being published today are much more sophisticated.

Around the halfway point we start to see some intelligent discussion around gay rights through Nates activism in high school. The bullying had taken the forefront of the narrative and while I value the tone of the narrative, the situation again, feels dramatized and unrealistic. Like harkening to an age passed. So I felt the hand of the author pushing the story along. Add to that the jumping around the timeline and we get a loss of the organic feel to realistic fiction.

Don't Let Me Go Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Granted the story, writing, and pacing improved dramatically after the halfway point, but it felt like it took so long to get there. And that’s all this story seems to be about. Dealing with hate, ignorance, and bullies. There’s elements of friendship and exploring identity, but I wanted more multifaceted characters. Sure they’re gay, but what else are they? It left ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ feeling two dimensional. Like the author was writing this story to illustrate the negativity gay youth faces.

I did like how it attempted to change perception and educate its readers in the last quarter of the novel. But for me – and what I like in a contemporary – is to connect and relate to the protagonist, get wrapped up in the angst, get invested in their story as they overcome adversity… and well ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ lost me through jumping around the timeline and focusing on a single issue instead of developing the character and using many of their life experiences to draw me in.

I feel like this novel is either an educational tool to highlight the treatment of gay youth in unevolved places, or for a demographic of young gay men… but having said that, attitudes are much different today towards gay youth. We see a lot more community support, and frankly I’d be concerned this novel would scare some. It didn’t deal with the issues in a constructive manner organic to the story.

I’ve read so many fantastic LGBTQIA+ contemporaries that tackle the issues raised in ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ in a much better way while still telling a multifaceted character driven story, that I feel like I’d skip recommending this title in favour of many others. I may give J.H. Trumble one more chance with a title from later in her catalogue: ‘Just Between Us’ is her latest release, back in 2013, but nothing from her in the last 7 years. I’m not holding out much hope.

Overall feeling: Fizzled and faded away.

Don't Let Me Go Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Don't Let Me Go Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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

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

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

No. of pages: 268

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

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

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

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

Guess that someone will have to be me.

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Another fun entertaining read from Adam Wright.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This one gets the MVP trophy!

Overall feeling: I want more, gimme more.

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

Faerie Storm (#8 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Burn Bright’ (#2 Dark Star) by Bethany Frenette

A novel with the promise of a bright future.

Burn Bright (#2 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal

No. of pages: 339

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Audrey Whitticomb saved her entire city.

Well, kind of. The superhero Morning Star (who just happens to be Audrey’s mom) might have played a small part, and her sidekick, Leon—Audrey’s sort-of boyfriend, who is gorgeous… and frustrating—maybe helped, too.

But after two peaceful months, there is a vicious new threat in Minneapolis. Her name is Susannah, and she’s a Harrower, a demon hell-bent on destroying people like Morning Star, Leon, and Audrey—the Kin. Like others before her, she seeks the Remnant, a Kin girl who has the power to unleash the inhabitants of the Beneath. But to what end?

Audrey already has a ton on her plate: dealing with her best friend Tink’s boy drama, helping her other best friend Gideon figure out his nightmares, and exploring the highs and lows of “dating” Leon. But when she develops a powerful new ability, Audrey seizes on the chance to fight, despite her mother’s protests and Leon’s pleas.

As Audrey gets closer to figuring out Susannah’s motives and tracking down the Remnant, she’ll uncover more than she bargained for. The terrible truth is staring Audrey in the face. But knowing the truth and accepting it are very different things.

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This was a definitive improvement on the debut ‘Dark Star.’ Though the first half suffered many of the pitfalls I had with the debut: immature writing, fairly two dimensional characters, and a bumbling teen protagonist who kept getting in her own way. It can be very frustrating. But the pacing was much better in ‘Burn Bright.’ It still could have done with a decent editor to really tighten up the narrative and pacing, but this novel was a much better construction than what I was anticipating.

I won’t talk too much about the characters, they did not feel developed or explored enough for me. There are some character arcs for secondary cast members which were much more satisfying that those of the principal characters in this story. The potential is there, though ‘Burn Bright’ could have been so much bigger. Again, some lost potential subsequent of not having a decent developmental editor.

Burn Bright (#2 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Bethany Frenette did manage to surprise me with a few plot points and reveals that I did not see coming. What a joy. It has completely redeemed the trajectory of this series in my eyes. Still the concept of ‘superheroes’ and demon slayers juxtaposing is grating to me, but I found myself getting invested in the story towards the end.

I’m glad to see some improvement in storytelling and an elevated standard in Frenette’s writing; there is still a way to go before I would recommend this. It still feels more like juvenile fiction than young adult. Attitudes, reactions, and vision seem to fall in the scope of that demographic. I did not think I would continue with this series, but after reading ‘Burn Bright’ I am curious to see not only where the series will conclude, but also how much more improvement Frenette gains as her experience grows with each publication. The final book in this trilogy ‘Fire Fall’ was only available in e-book form on amazon.com when I first bought the novels, but when I went to purchase recently, found it is now cancelled and removed from the site. It was available on another website, but, unfortunately would not allow overseas purchases. I’ve even gone as far as contacting the author directly through email and social media, but Bethany Frenette has failed to respond to date. Disappointing that it has been pulled, and readers purchasing the first two novels cannot complete the series in any form – or that the author is engaged with her audience.

However, ‘Burn Bright’ does end on a resounding conclusion. There is only one plot thread that is potentially unresolved, so if you read these first two novels you will feel like you have reached an end… but from what I can garner from the book blurb and review on ‘Fire Fall’ we see the mythology concluded with a holistic approach – which may have answers and explanations to many of the issues I’ve had with the concept of this series from the start.

Still, I don’t think I would recommend this series without reading the final book in the trilogy – or the fact that it is no longer available. With it being cancelled, has Disney Hyperion given up the rights to the novel? Is Bethany Frenette able to self-publish for her fans? I haven’t seen any activity from her since the end of 2015…

Overall feeling: much betta!

Burn Bright (#2 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Burn Bright (#2 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss’ by Kasie West

Acting, school and boys – typical teen stuff. But sabotage – yikes!

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 384

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Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

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It looks like Kasie West is back on her winning formula. Another enjoyable escapist romance with ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss.’

Set in the same universe as ‘Love, Life, and the List’ we follow protagonist Lacey, and aspiring teen actor in her first big movie role as a zombie. Only she has a helicopter/hover father and schoolwork to contend with as well as her acting job. Enter the cute tutor Lacey’s father hires to ensure she at least gets a passing grade, because, you know this whole acting thing may just be a whim no matter how serious, and how long Lacey has taken on being an actor. Tutor Donavan is straight-laced and all business. The business of learning. Only adding to Lacey’s daily pressures. Then little things start to go wrong on set… nothing like piling on the stress.

Again this is a cute contemporary, a quick read, as West has established as her brand. It didn’t quite have the quirky field of characters as her earlier works, but ‘Fame, Fate and then First Kiss’ still managed to captivate my attention and keep me engaged until the end. Lacey is cute and sassy but with a mostly level head. I almost wanted her to be a bit more headstrong to create some more tension. Or at least something so she wasn’t so… vanilla. So to with her love interest Donavan. He was very much a perfect wish-fulfilment type of guy. I’m used to a bit more character from West’s leading men.

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Contrasting that we have some of Lacey’s co-stars who are very sure of themselves (or very full of themselves) which added some colour to the mix.

I did love the small mystery plot line as well; it helped keep the pace and tension right to the end, rather than this being an angst-fest. So a slightly different tone to West’s usual fare, but a welcome change. Though, please bring back those interesting characters…

There is not necessarily a lot of character development, rather more of a burgeoning understanding and better lines of communication being established. So while the plot is mostly predictable (small mystery aside) and because of the ‘vanilla’ characters and less angsty storyline, the pay-off wasn’t as great as I was hoping. Though still entertaining and definitely a step in the right direction after a lull in late 2018 to early 2019.

I liked the connection to Abby  and Cooper and am looking forward to the final book set in this universe ‘Moment of Truth’ to be released in March 2020.

A solid entry into my guilty pleasure collection, though I wanted a bit more complexity of plot and a dash more interest in the cast. Recommend to lovers of teen YA romances, it was a pleasant way to wile an afternoon on the lounge with a hot cup of tea.

Overall feeling: *sips tea*

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Winger’ (#1 Winger) by Andrew Smith

A masculine approach to some heavy themes.

Winger (#1 Winger) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

No. of pages: 439

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Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids in the Pacific Northwest. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

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A realistic contemporary coming from a uniquely masculine protagonist.

Winger’ was a challenging read for me. On one hand, the narrative is quintessential for our protagonist Ryan Dean ‘Winger’ West. Short satirical chapters resounding clearly from his fourteen year old brain as he navigates private boarding school, playing rugby, bullies, girls, and having a best friend who happens to be gay. The writing style is perfect for the main character and the target market. It deals with themes and issues expertly through this lens.

Alternatively, it was really hard for me to swallow all the toxic masculinity and immaturity. I just about tore my hair out. But this is my personal choice – I tend to shy away books that blatantly wave these flags in my face. Understandably, as difficult as it was for me to stomach, if you set foot in any private boys’ boarding house, you’ll find this atmosphere front and centre.

The other thing that had me going ‘hrmm’ was the plot twist at the end. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t know how it affected the protagonists journey… he’d resolved and changed by this point. Then, in the aftermath of the event, I don’t think it was dealt with sympathetically. It felt an emotionless observation. And while it did affect Ryan Dean, it did not seem to have a resounding permanence. What was the lesson learned? How did it change him? Maybe we’ll explore these themes further in  the sequel ‘Stand-Off,’ but I failed to see what its inclusion in ‘Winger’ was apart from shock value and driving home the theme of toxic masculinity, bullying, and homophobia.

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

The characters were summarily interesting, but not altogether complex. I did not really find myself investing much in any of them… apart from maybe secretly shipping Ryan Dean and Joey. But, even considering ‘Winger’s’ length and simplistic plot and character outlines, the development and world building was fantastic and held up the story. So too did the witty anecdotes, short chapters, and large formatting of the hard cover. So ‘Winger’ was a relatively fast and easy read.

There is a certain type of dry immaturity to the humour in ‘Winger’ that would really appeal to a certain type of reader, and while it was hilarious in some spots for me, I did not find it as funny as I was expecting. I guess as an older female, all the young teen boy amusements were lost on me. In fact I was in danger of my eyes falling out of my skull from the excessive eye-rolling.

All in all, ‘Winger’ was an okay read for me. I’d only recommend it for younger male readers, or those looking to experience a new perspective. I appreciate this novel for all its merits, but it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable read. But I will finish the series with ‘Stand-Off’ as I am curious to see how author Andrew Smith addresses the themes presented towards the end of this novel, and whether protagonist Ryan Dean grows because of the experience. I’ll be very disappointed if it is another journal-esque account of boarding school and fails to address the damaging attitudes of Pine Mountain boarding school.

Overall feeling: Teen boy tunnel vision.

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

Winger (Winger #1) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Dark Star’ (#1 Dark Star) by Bethany Frenette

Superheroes and demons.

Dark Star (#1 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal

No. of pages: 384

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Audrey Whitticomb has nothing to fear. When your mother is the most powerful superhero in the Twin Cities, it’s hard not to feel safe. But when Audrey is lured into the night air by something most definitely not human, the time for feeling safe is over.

Now Audrey knows the truth: her mom doesn’t just stop criminals. She fights Harrowers-merciless beings who were trapped Beneath eons ago. Some have managed to claw their way into our world, and they want Audrey dead because of who she is: one of the Kin.

There is some good news, though. Audrey has powers of her own. Being able to read someone else’s mind and glimpse the future can be very useful. If she’s able to get close enough to Patrick Tigue, a powerful Harrower masquerading as human, she could use her Knowing to figure out his next move. But it won’t be easy, not if Leon, her mother’s bossy, infuriatingly attractive sidekick has anything to do with it. Lately, he hasn’t let Audrey out of his sight.

When an unthinkable betrayal puts Minneapolis in terrible danger, Audrey discovers a wild, untamed power within herself. It may be the key to saving herself, her family, and her city. Or it may be the force that destroys everything-and everyone-she loves.

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It’s been a minute since I purchased ‘Dark Star’ and getting around to read it. From my foggy memory, I’m certain I purchased this from a Goodreads recommendation and liked the blurb. All I can say is Goodreads, you let me down. We need to have a serious talk. The concept of ‘Dark Star’ brings a lot of promise… a superhero in the making. But the delivery – yeesh.

The biggest thing that played against me was the writing style – it felt more targeted towards a juvenile market. The narrative felt so immature. The plot felt scattered, shooting off in tangents that had promise, but then retreating to a more simplistic storyline. Honestly, I took a long time to read this because I kept putting it down from boredom. ‘Dark Star’ did not find its legs until the three-quarter mark. At that point all of author Bethany Frenette’s talents came into play: pacing, tension, character growth, and world building. But too, little too late. Sorry ‘bout it.

The rest of the novel just teased me. Protagonist Audrey starts off as a whiney, belligerent teen, and we get glimpses of ways her character can face challenges and grow, or interesting paths to take… but she does not take them. It left me frustrated. If it weren’t’ for my OCD about finishing every novel I start, I would have DNF’d this title.

Dark Star (#1 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 02a by Casey Carlisle

I was also a little confronted about the theology and concept of superhero in ‘Dark Star.’ It was a mix of X-Men styled abilities and demons. It just wasn’t married together enough to feel convincing. I think this boiled down to word choice. We see ‘Guardian’ toted about in the novel a lot – maybe if it was marketed as an apprentice Guardian learning the ropes to protect the city of Minnesota against the hordes of demons trying to take over the city I would have been sold. But we get this Supergirl treatment in the beginning of the novel (and in marketing the book) that peters off and goes nowhere. Plus there is no explanation into the theology – I mean demons are steeped in religion (or at least an alternate reality,) but that aspect is completely ignored apart from a perfunctory mention.

Given this is Frenette’s debut novel, and she’s cutting her teeth in the publishing arena, maybe I shouldn’t be so precise in my critique – but considering it was traditionally published Hyperion should have executed a proper developmental edit to tighten the narrative and plot. This is the start of a trilogy, so maybe Frenette grows from her experience and the team begins to gel together to produce a better sequel in ‘Burn Bright?” I will continue with the franchise to find out – and because I have already purchased the books. But, on a side note, Hyperion dropped Frenette from publishing the third instalment ‘Fire Fall’ – which was only available in ebook format – and she hasn’t published anything since 2014… so things don’t look promising at the moment. But we will see.

I found ‘Dark Star’ entirely predictable, there were no surprises, and it wasn’t a very unique concept. Frenette has the tools and creativity to craft a really great story, she just needs some experience and a good team backing her up. I can see the potential in her career but ‘Dark Star’ had pacing issues, flat characters, predictable storylines, and an immature writing style. All things that can be improved on with a good developmental edit and experience. But as ‘Dark Star’ stands, it’s one I would not recommend. There are plenty of other novels in this genre that excel.

But watch this space – I’ll revisit Frenette’s writing journey and this franchise again in the sequel and see if it is heading in an upward direction.

Overall feeling: Well… it’s a start.

Dark Star (#1 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Dark Star (#1 Dark Star) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

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