Book Review – ‘My Lady Jane’ by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

A fantastical romp through history…

My Lady Jane Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Historical

No. of pages: 491

From Goodreads:

The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.

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My Lady Jane’ was lyrical, humorous, melodic. Though not so much in the writing style. Don’t expect copious these and thous as expected in the historical setting of the novel. The narrative is decidedly modern and relatable. I was amused the entirety of the novel. It has sassy female characters helping to deconstruct the battle of the sexes and equality for women oodles before it’s time. Not to mention the magical element of characters suddenly transforming into one animal or another. It was all pulled off with charm and grace that befalls royalty – with all the political intrigue and macabre plots of assassination that comes in tow.

It strongly reminded me of ‘The Princess Bride’ and ‘Ella The Enchanted.’ Both with tones of whimsy, fun characters, and an interesting plot.

Jane is the epitome of every head-strong bookish heroine I’ve ever come across. She is stubborn and sticks fast to her beliefs – even in the face of certain death (which she may or may not see coming.) I love how she believes that books hold the answers to everything… a girl after my own heart. Even with the Victorian/Edwardian social pressures of being married off and being owned by a husband, Jane’s attitudes are years ahead of her time, making her obstinately endearing. The predicaments she finds herself in, dangerous or not, due to her pig-headedness and romanticism of life is something I myself do on a daily basis. So to say I related to Jane on a molecular level is not farfetched. And yes, I am a ginger too J

Edward, the king, is a man on the verge of an awakening – to that of the feminine whiles. Those of his cousin Jane, and the various women he meets on his journey. I remember at University, discussions on how history has been written primarily by white men in power and their perspective. Women and people of colour are often forgotten or villainised. If history were to be rewritten by women, I feel it should capture the spirit much like that of ‘My Lady Jane’ All those untold stories of female heroism and plotting and planning behind the scenes. Edward gets to experience the prejudices of class, gender, race (Edians) and have it shape him into a different person… I totally loved this.

My Lady Jane Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgG was adorable. Who doesn’t love horses. And cute guys? G (Gifford) was both rolled into one. While I found his ‘curse’ on the surface preposterous, it was in fact the source of great comedy. I think it also kept G in a state of innocence and adolescence longer to enable him to grow and develop as a character with Jane, rather than in the male aristocracy. He was in effect, mostly untouched by the prejudices of that era, and we see him go through an awakening similar to that of Edward.

My Lady Jane’ looks like a chunky book. And I have to admit, being classified with the historical fiction tag turned me off somewhat, that I had neglected to start reading for some time after its purchase. It was the continual positive reviews I saw popping up on my feed that finally did me in to give it a read… My idea of historical fiction is the likes of Chaucer and Jane Austin, where the language and social custom ooze from the page, where the tome is rich with subtext and symbolism – ultimately making it a little dense and difficult to read. You need to pay attention with these sorts of books. ‘My Lady Jane’ is nothing like that. It’s light, funny and has hints of fantasy.

Given this light tone of the narrative, I felt the novel for the most part was predictable – who would create a dark conclusion to such an upbeat novel – that is just nasty! This was like an entertaining rom-com, and I did not mind that things turned out the way I hoped they would – it gave me great satisfaction.

I almost cheered aloud when I read those famous words “Off with her head!”

My Lady Jane’ exceeded my expectations, granted they weren’t high, because I was anticipating an entirely different style of read, and while not exceptional, it definitely had me laughing and smiling. I engaged with the characters and was eager to see what was going to happen in the next chapter. A light Sunday read.

I may have rated it higher if the angst was dialled up slightly, and if I got that nervous energy in anticipation leading up to the climactic event of the novel. But the build was more subtle and the light comedic tone continued throughout – so not a big loss, but it softened the punch for me.

Some of the jokes felt like Dad jokes – but I always laugh at Dad jokes, so they appealed to my nature.

Looking forward to the next instalment of The Lady Janies ‘My Plain Jane’ due for release sometime in 2018 dealing with Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte. Bring it on!

Overall feeling: Surprisingly fun

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My Lady Jane Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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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 – ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ by Michelle Hodkin

Haunting.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Paranormal,

No. of pages: 470

From Goodreads:

Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.

There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.

She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.

She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.

Retribution has arrived.

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After a very long spate of novels where after the first 100 pages or so, I was still struggling to get into the book. ‘The Retribution of Mara Dyer’ broke that slump. It jumps right into the action and had me trying to puzzle things out, gripping me with every page. I had put off reading this last book of the trilogy for so long because of the difficulty I had getting into ‘The Evolution of Mara Dyer,’ but we get answers very quickly, and it puts the all the series of events up this this point into a new perspective straight away. Someone should had slapped me upside the head earlier on and forced me to get into this final book sooner…

With such a dark, captivating and complex tone, I was truly enraptured.

Our protagonist Mara is definitely a troubled teen – the way she handles the darkness, the things she does left me uneasy. It was compelling reading, but I don’t fully understand how the people around her can dismiss the gravity of what she has done (and what she is capable of) so easily. It’s the one issue I have with this book – zero repercussions for crime, murder and violence. All aspects of the mystery surrounding Mara Dyer are solved. And she is no longer the victim as I thought of her in book one, but an anti-hero. I really enjoyed her journey, but also found it disturbing.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Noah as lovely as he is, as gorgeous as the love between Mara and him is, is whipped. The romantic in me finds it endearing. But the realistic side of me wonders if he’s not being stupid… but that’s the thing with love isn’t it? It makes you do silly things. To have the gorgeous relationship blossoming between these two characters amongst so much tragedy is juxtaposing. A gothic romance.

At times the narrative felt a little long winded, but it did not detract from the excitement of the story. I was constantly wondering how the hell they were going to get out of the mess they were in. My mind was doing a lot of scrambling to work out what was going on. So any of my predictions flew out the window very early on.

With a great writing style, it comes off as lyrical and full of shadows. But also manages to give answers and real technical information to tie up the trilogy without spoiling the mystical feel of the novel. It was a brilliant end to the series. May I say cute even. Which is weird given the dark aspects to the story.

Highly recommend this trilogy, though I did struggle with the middle book. Recently hearing that The Shaw Confessions is getting added to this universe, with ‘The Becoming of Noah Shaw’ due for release on November 7th this year, I’m getting really excited. I may be making little squeaky noises, and jumping up and down…

Overall feeling: Blew me away, like a pile of ash.

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Retribution of Mara Dyer Book Review Pic 03 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 – ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline

It’s like television, an arcade, and the internet were mashed together – and you get to live there!

Ready Player One Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 372

From Goodreads:

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

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I had so much fun reading this book – the 80’s pop culture references, the inclusion of snippets around the origin of gaming… and a little exploration of social injustice. It turned out to be way more adventurous and inciteful than I was expecting.

Ready Player One’ was also more violent than I was expecting. Which was a good thing for the story. It really put some high stakes on the line. I was totally wrapped up in this futuristic universe.

One thing with all the pop culture references – not everyone is going to get them all, or understand the lengthy list of computer models and old model gaming consoles. So, while I appreciated the nostalgia of the references, at times I felt out of the loop, not geeky enough to fully understand the narrative. It made me sad, like my nerd status had been revoked. These moments that pulled me from immersion of ‘Ready Player One’ did not detract from my enjoyment of the story however, just moments of brow furrowing and googling for information. So if you don’t have an extensive knowledge of 80’s culture and gaming, you may find the endless list of name dropping tedious.

I marvelled at the growth and development of our protagonist Wade/Percival. His dedication, loyalty, and commitment grew organically through the length of the novel. Even though those traits were there to begin with, you see them move centre stage and become his driving force. It’s what had me relating and investing in his story. So too was his romance with Art3mis. We all want the geek to get the girl… even though it felt a little disconnected with the story, not entirely needed, I loved the inclusion and how it helped to humanise Wade and give him a connection to the outside world. The Oasis virtual reality had just about swallowed him up and she was the next adventure after he was to find a way through his online quest.

Ready Player One Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The pacing was great – I think most of the book was a page turner for me. Some moments where Cline started prattling off specifics, or info-dumped a bit of history, or backstory, killed the momentum, but on the whole it’s the most engaged I’ve been in a while. I didn’t have a lot of free time to read, but when I did it was very easy to slip back in to. There was no confusion about who was who, or where the story was going. It was pure entertainment.

I enjoyed the subtext of ‘avatar perception vs real life’ – a comment on the possibilities of where we could be headed and how thing like ‘catfishing’ is happening more regularly.

The plot is fairly simple – it reads like a quest for a video game – and it’s intentional, so in that sense it’s fairly predictable. Though I found a lot of sub-plots and roadblocks delightfully surprising and entertaining. I’m looking forward to the film interpretation masted by Steven Spielberg, with Tye Sheridan playing Wade, slated for a March 30, 2018 release. *squee*

Highly recommend. Cline paints a colourfully graphic world, addressing issues we are facing now as we grow with technology, and with all the pop culture references, it’s like nerd porn.

Overall feeling: It’s like my brain exploded from all the references to childhood favourites.

Ready Player One Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Ready Player One 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 – ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ by Ally Carter

A perfect political mystery to kick off a CW tv series, or a Disney movie…

Take the Key and Lock Her Up Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery

No. of pages: 327

From Goodreads:

The princess is dead. Long live the princess.

Centuries ago, the royal family of Adria was killed…or so everyone thought.

Now Grace Blakely knows the truth: There was one survivor, and that survivor’s blood runs through her veins. This simple fact could cause a revolution—which is why some people will stop at nothing to keep it from coming to light.

There is only one way for Grace to save herself, save her family, and save the boy she loves. She must outmaneuver her foes, cut through the web of lies that has surrounded her for years, and go back to the source of all her troubles, despite the risk.

If she wins, she will inherit a throne.

And if she loses, she will inherit the fate of all the dead princesses who came before her. 

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A trilogy that culminated in spectacular form! It still reminds me of ‘The Goonies,’ a bunch of teenagers pulling together against all odds, risking peril for their noble quest, ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ captured my youthful excitement with its drama, subterfuge and a European setting.

The narrative dragged a bit for me – continual repetition of clues, rehashing of the past, and Grace’s “episodes’ – all recounted in such efficacy that I ended up putting this book down numerous times because I just wasn’t that into it. But that’s the worst of it.

Take the Key and Lock Her Up Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI really liked Grace’s strength in this final installation of the Embassy Row trilogy. She was bad-ass. Though I found her continually slipping into PTSD mode : her episodes, were becoming tiring. I’d much rather see her come to terms with her demons earlier on in the piece. The whole wounded damsel thing was wearing thin. Especially when she was able to dismiss it and launch into terrifying situations in other moments. A little inconsistent from someone suffering the mental issues Grace was tackling.

The mystery side of things is expert level 10! I loved all of the plot twists, how facts were revealed, it is truly the best part of this series. Carter really knows how to plot and pace a story.

The rest of the Scooby Gang that featured so prominently in the first book, their relevance, and presence has slowly dwindled with each installment. To the point where I wasn’t really believing their friendship by the conclusion of ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up.’ Grace manages to push people away and get so tied up in her predicament, she comes across as being a friend only when she needs their help for something. And don’t get me started on her brother Jamie – he felt like a prop, rather than a key person to the storyline and her motivation.

The same can be said for the love interest, Alexei, I got so invested in them over the second book (‘See How They Run’) of the trilogy, but didn’t feel the magic here.

I liked the twists and turns, but ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ felt like some of the antagonists were practically cartoonish. The novel, and series, feels more like a Saturday cartoon serial than realistic YA fiction. It lacked a certain maturity in the writing style. I think it could have been streamlined and something extra injected into the narrative to give it some oomph without isolating its demographic.

It was fun, and I enjoyed ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up,‘ but as you can gather from my review there is a tone of disappointment. It’s like the complexity and character development has been decreasing with each instalment. I really wanted things to go out in a mammoth climax. And while it was spectacular as far as plot goes, I did not connect so much with the characters this time. I didn’t get that buzz when I finished the last page like I normally do.

I won’t say it was predictable – because what I assumed was going to happen, totally didn’t. I really think if I had been able to get emotionally invested in the cast more, I would have given this a full five stars/kisses because the writing is marvelous, the story outstanding… it was just slightly juvenile… (which *cough* is totally is marketed demographic, so maybe I should just leave the room)

Definitely recommend this for younger YA audiences who love a mystery, lost princesses, action, and a bit of political intrigue.

Overall feeling: Bring me more popcorn!

Take the Key and Lock Her Up Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Take the Key and Lock Her Up 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 – ‘No Ordinary Star’ by M.C. Frank

Did not shine brightly for me.

No Ordinary Star Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 150

From Goodreads:

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do. 

A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive. 

A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack. 

The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty.
The year is 2525. 

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‘No Ordinary Star’ hit me hard from the get-go. With little world building and jumping straight into the action; I was clamouring to makes sense of what the book is about. The writing style feels clunky and I haven’t quite worked out what the subtext of the narrative is yet. Unfortunately this confusion stayed with me right to the end.

It’s hard to give this a good review because the story didn’t go anywhere and left everything hanging. Not even a cliff hanger as such. It felt like someone left half way through the conversation. Upon further research, I discovered that it’s one book released in three parts. I’m uncertain if this is meant to be a marketing ploy, or a way to get around contractual obligations to a publishing company (similar to Colleen Hoover and the Never Never trilogy.) But I wasn’t left with a feeling of completion once reaching the end.

So with the clambering to work out what was going on in the world of the novel, the cumbersome writing style, which is beautiful and intelligent, but does not match the genre or tone of the plot, and then concluding with-

It literally felt like it stopped mid-sentence.

I did like how the main characters, Felix and Astra are experiencing so many things for the first time. Things of nostalgia set in our present. Their reactions are delicious. But it only added to the dysphoria I had. It needed more context. Another aspect I found cool was the polar bear – he had more personality than the main characters. Even if he felt like a guest star – there one moment, gone the next without explanation.

Yeah, I can’t give this a nod of approval at all. My opinion may change drastically after the next instalment ‘No Plain Rebel’ but if I go to the point of buying a book, I want to slip easily into its fantasy world, relate to the main characters, understand what is going on, and feel like I get some pay-off, some resolution of an issue faced at the beginning of the story. I don’t feel like I got any of that with ‘No Ordinary Star.’

It was too metaphysical for my tastes, painting a landscape that took until the end of the novel for me to grasp, and so many underlying philosophical musings to enjoy how ‘a boy rescues girl and then…’ storyline. Additional to my issues with the way it has been published, characters and story. I found a number of grammatical errors that could have been picked up from a basic proof read which also added to my disappointment.

With a concept that is highly intriguing, I will give this trilogy one more chance to hook me in. Fingers crossed M.C. Frank can serve me some humble pie!

Overall feeling: one big poop emoji

No Ordinary Star Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

No Ordinary Star Book Review Pic 03 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 – ‘By Your Side’ by Kasie West

Locked in a library for the long weekend sounds like a dream come true for me… but this novel was a snooze.

By Your Side Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 346

From Goodreads:

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

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I don’t know what happened, but this has to be my least favourite book by Kasie West. It was still cute, saccharine and romantic goodness. But the characters felt less nuanced, the plot not so credible, and the angst barely there.

I still enjoyed her narrative style, it flows easily and lends to a quick read. I enjoyed the aspect of the protagonist, Autumn, having anxiety disorder – though I feel it could have been explored more, taken more seriously.

Autumn. What to say about Autumn. The anxiety certainly gave her interest, but other than that, she lacked complexity and intelligence. I hate to say it, but she was so bland. Vanilla. #likeeveryotherwhitechick.

Dax showed some promise. A cute, overlooked loner. Hiding pain from a troubled family life. I was waiting for more. Waiting for the twist. But none came. All the characters seemed to be exactly what they were upon first impression. There were no surprises, no big reveals. I think that’s why I found this novel disappointing.

By Your Side Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Though, Dallin, one of Autumn’s larrikin friends added some much needed tension, it didn’t put enough pressure on the plot to raise the stakes high enough for me to get really invested. And Jeff, the guy Autumn had been pining over was so agreeable and happy, he was like a cute puppy. I think there was a major opportunity lost in not giving him any more depth of character than that. So too can be said for Lisa, the best friend. Autumn’s clique did little to add to the storyline, other than a static choral of hyperactive, generic teens.

I really loved the concept of this novel, but on the whole it felt under-cooked, under-developed. It lacked the punch that I expect from her writing by now.

On a side note: for some reason my copy of ‘By Your Side’ felt cheaply produced the quality of paper and bind-up was thin and wrinkled. I was in constant fear I’d damage the book just by reading it.

By Your Side’ is still a fun read. By no means up to Kasie’s normal standard, but hits all the marks of a soppy romance. Where her books remind me of a satisfying rom-com or cheesy CW show, ‘By Your Side’ felt like a bad Hallmark movie production. I think only die-hard West fans and readers who gorge on romance novels will get anything from this novel, but unfortunately, it’s not one I’m going to recommend freely.

Let’s hope her next release ‘Lucky In Love’ to be released on the 25th of this month returns to her usual writing style and we can chalk ‘By Your Side’ as just a bump in the road.

Overall feeling: it was like warm soup in my hands…

By Your Side Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

By Your Side 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 – ‘The Crown’ by Kiera Cass

The aloof princess cracks…

The Crown Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 278

From Goodreads:

When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.

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This book is by far the my most favorite of the Selection series. Though the story is not as complex as the initial trilogy, ‘The Crown’ pulled more emotion from me than I expected. It is a guilty pleasure, a soppy romance, and was great escapism.

Its predecessor ‘The Heir’ left me a little despondent, I did not entirely like Eadlyn. She was cold, stuck-up, and a part from moments of a childish temper, fairly flat and boring in nature. But her journey through ‘The Crown’ made her endearing to me. It brought out her caring and compassionate side. The suitors (or bachelors) managed to drag emotions out of her and open her eyes up to the society she is slated to rule.

I was in a little disbelief at the ease in which the men vying for her hand left the competition towards the end, with little theatrics or heartbreak… it felt manufactured. I applaud the inclusion of Ean and Hale’s fate. It came out of left field but added another dynamic and commentary on Illéan society.

There are a few expected plot twists, and many unexpected. It was a nice surprise. As I’ve said about the entire Selection anthology, much of it feels derivative and trope-driven. But if you like a large helping of sugar with your reading this will go down smoothly. Like a B-grade horror film, or a cheesy Hallmark movie, ‘The Crown’ is entertaining and hits the bullseye for its intended market. There’s a heavy dollop of girlie fashion, food, and cute boys to gush over.

I read the book in a day and it was easy to get swept into, especially with storylines and characters we’ve known throughout the series getting involved in the culmination. A fun snippet of nostalgia. It was an effortless read, and only something I’d recommend to staunch fans of this series.

Overall feeling: Sugar-sweet-teen-girl-fantasy

The Crown Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Crown Book Review Pic 03 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 – ‘Red Rising’ by Pierce Brown

Being a Martian is difficult.

Red Rising Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 382

From Goodreads:

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

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I’ve owned ‘Red Rising’ (well, the whole trilogy) for a while, but have only just started reading it after a number of rave book reviews popping up on my feed to remind me why I bought this collection in the first place. While an amazing story, at the beginning I was resistant to the narrative. There is a lot of information to process, and the writing style feels dry, or sparse, making it hard to connect with our protagonist, Darrow. ‘Red Rising’ read like an institutionalised Lord of the Flies on a futuristic Mars. Brutal.

Darrow is a complex protagonist, but there is something hinted at in the narrative, at to how his destiny is shaped the way it is, but not revealed. I think this is a major part that stopped me from truly connecting with him. The novel is full of puppet masters pulling strings – and Darrow is ultimately just another pawn. I never felt his motivations and actions were truly his own. But I love an underdog story, someone fighting against insurmountable odds, so I was invested in his story though not truly convinced by his convictions.

Red Rising Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The friendships formed – especially in the school, were barbarous and endearing. I see it in my best friend and his buddies that were in the S.A.S. together, there is a certain type of connection that is formed on the battlefield that nothing can break, and others will not truly understand. Piece Brown captured that comradery perfectly.

There are a few things about the society and its technology that puzzle me in the face of human nature. Such as the role carvers (doctors) play and how malleable the body, and its genetics can be. They are truly playing God… and from the hierarchy and accounts of the ruling factions they pretty much are, but this aspect did not seem to be explored as far as I think it would be naturally with such a powerful instrument to play with.

The politics, however is an intricate web and blindsided me on a number of occasions. I think this, and the battle scenes are the best parts of the novel.

I may have rated ‘Red Rising’ higher, because it is truly a tremendous tale, but if not for my issues connecting with the writing style, and near boredom through two thirds of the novel. But aside from that, it is a magnificent book that others may find outstanding. The writing style was sparse, dry, distinctly masculine. Even though the protagonist is male, something about the narrative made it difficult for me to immerse myself into the Martian landscape. I was frequently putting the book down for a rest or lack of interest. The last third of the novel, however, is an entirely different creature. The pacing is gripping, and so is the plot with all its twists and turns. The cast start to show their true colours and get tested… I was truly riveted and could not put the book down. The only thing that kept my persistence in the beginning was that I had heard so many wonderful things from friends about this series and kept telling myself that it will get better… any time now… any time… and finally it did.

I think there is so much to set up for this series to work, the world building, the motivations, the politics, that it takes some time to get its legs. That didn’t bode well for this debut, but promises that the following two books in this trilogy should be amazing. That’s what I am hoping for anyway.

The main purpose of ‘Red Rising’ is easily predictable – it has to be to continue on to the second and third in the series, but the journey there was not. There were some minor points that I had been spoiled from my friends, but they confirmed what I thought as I was reading, but did not detract from the enjoyment near the end. I still got shocked and horrified. It’s a great story, but because of the issues I had with the writing style, did not get emotionally invested. Had I been sucked in, I think ‘Red Rising’ would have brought all the feels.

On a side note, I found elements of this society synonymous to that of the Japanese yaoi ‘Ai No Kusabi’ (minus the sexual nature of the anime.) This book has also been optioned to be turned into a movie. I’d be interested to see how this series will be treated… maybe it will fix the issues of pacing because there wouldn’t be the need for pages and pages of explanations. And I can just imagine the special effects! No news has come through on the development of this project as yet, but I am certainly keeping my eyes peeled. Additionally, Pierce Brown is starting a new series in this universe, with the first novel ‘Iron Gold’ due for release in January 2018. It’s all so exciting!

I think I’ll reserve judgement on whether or not I’d recommend this novel until I’ve finished the trilogy because there are so many unexplained elements that worried my brow…

Overall feeling: Huh?…. OH! *lightbulb*

Red Rising Book Review Pic 03 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 – ‘Reached’ by Ally Condie

A slow decline into obscurity…

Reached Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 512

From Goodreads:

After leaving Society to desperately seek The Rising, and each other, Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again. Cassia is assigned undercover in Central city, Ky outside the borders, an airship pilot with Indie. Xander is a medic, with a secret. All too soon, everything shifts again.

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I think what I’m glad about most, is that I managed to finish this trilogy. This wasn’t the series for me. As interesting as the concept was, the delivery and characters didn’t grab my attention like I had hoped. One hundred pages in to ‘Reached’ and I was so bored. The story jumped forward in time a little from its predecessor ‘Crossed’ and I had difficulty connecting with the cast. Additionally, it tells the story from three points of view (Ally has added a POV with each novel,) changing in each chapter, adding more strain for me to get into the narrative.

I liked Xander’s strength of character, Ky’s determination, but Cassia, though steadfast, lost the oomph she had in the previous two books. She actually felt somewhat superfluous for most of the novel.

While the plot was interesting enough, the writing style and wordiness ultimately left me on the bored side. I pretty much adopted a speed reading method for the entire book because I never got that engrossed to slow down and lavish in the language. Again, as I did in the previous books, completely skipped over the poetry sections – for some reason I didn’t find these appealing at all.

It felt like there was a compulsion from the author to pair everyone up as well, which came across as cheap and cheesy – but that could be because my experience was starting to tilt more towards the uninterested side. I wasn’t invested in the characters or the story.

The myth of The Pilot and the other places were introduced too late in the storyline for me to give them any credibility, and weren’t explored/explained enough to add value to the plot. Felt a little wishy-washy.

The premise is great and well thought out, but the execution was wobbly and waffly. I enjoyed how the priorities of the society changed because of the rules and regulations, what was valued and what wasn’t, what was considered powerful… it really is a thing of beauty, I just couldn’t get into it. There was no grit, the stakes didn’t feel high enough for the characters, and the world did not feel fully realised through the eyes of Ky, Cassia & Xander.

Over-simplified in world building and the structure of the society gave this book a tone of a first draft. Additionally the general population in the novel were grouped enmass in descriptions, like there was very little individuality, leaving it feeling unrealistic. The series came across as too stylised. On the whole, this trilogy left me uneasy. I had too many unanswered questions.

With what turned out as a pathogenic war – a complete departure from where I thought it was going and from the type of action established in the previous two books. 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 went from a physical challenge to an intellectual one. And Ky, Cassia and Xander are the only ones capable of succeeding against all odds as a team? Too much of a cop out! What happened to all the experts in technology and science who built this world. Cue me growling in frustration. With all that (unrealistic) pressure there was also a huge missed opportunity – there was such little tension and emotion between the trio… it all fell flat.

At the end of ‘Reached’ I got no feeling of triumph or accomplishment, the book was mildly interesting but when I reached (pun intended) the last page, I kind of thought ‘okay, well that was that…’

Overall feeling: A lukewarm wet mess on my front lawn…

Reached Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Reached Book Review Pic 03 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 – ‘Flame’ by Amy Kathleen Ryan

A book in another world to its predecessors.

Flame Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 309

From Goodreads:

Waverly and the other members of the Empyrean have been scattered, and their home ship destroyed. The mission to rescue their parents didn’t go quite as planned, and now they’re at an even greater disadvantage: trapped with their enemies on the New Horizon, trying to find a way to survive. Will Seth’s health hold out long enough to help Waverly topple their enemy? And will Waverly find a way to unite her friends before the final battle? Nothing is certain and every second is a risk in this explosive finale.

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The final book in the Sky Chasers trilogy and another collection down in my Slay That Series year!

Flame’ is so much better than its prequels. The religious aspect was kept to a respectful belief system of those who chose to live by it, and I didn’t feel like it was being crammed down my throat or the crew being oppressed by it.

The political struggle became raw and visceral. It was thrilling. And action – I don’t think I’ve read a book with so many twists and turns. I was thoroughly impressed. Such a departure from my experience so far in this trilogy.

Again, like in ‘Glow’ and ‘Spark,’ I loved the character growth and arcs. People are fallible and it could not be more true about the cast of the Sky Chaser trilogy. Some redeemed themselves, some didn’t. and I loved this aspect of the story. One thing that has stood out about this series is the types of characters, how their beliefs motivate them, how they are changed by their experiences.

I found the long-winded postulation and stream of consciousness were just about gone. The pacing far superior than in ‘Glow’ and ‘Spark.’ I read this in one sitting. I get distracted by long speeches or pages and pages of deliberation – it goes down as well as a fart in a space suit with me. So I was delighted that the lamenting had been replaced with sci-fi action.

A factual thing that is still niggling in the back of my brain is in regard to the gene pool – how many off spring of a couple of girls are there? It was mentioned over 100 embryos were ready… the new generation sounded like it was going to be majorly made up of Waverly’s children. Doesn’t leave much room for them to repopulate the new planet when prospective partners consist mostly of your half brothers and sisters… They’d have to map our genealogy out carefully. I felt like this was an important issue not to be addressed. You go to all this trouble of kidnapping, murder, and essentially raping your girls of their genetic material only to risk the future of the human race to genetic degradation from inbreeding. I mean, c’mon!

Flame Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The ending was lovely, if a bit spoony. Having everyone coupled up and all the loose ends tied up neatly can feel cheap in an epic sci-fi; I tend to like it conclude with possibility and wonder, or just a hint at an amazing future. It was a cute ending, and I liked it, but after wading through so much I was hoping for a bit more of a significant event or image for the series to end on.

It has been a bit of a journey for me. I had a low opinion of this series and Amy Kathleen Ryan at the start, but after completing ‘Flame,’ I have to eat my words. She crafted a marvellous story. I still feel the issues I had with the first two books are legitimate, but have seen Amy’s growth as a writer over this series, I now actually look forward to reading more of her catalogue.

Overall feeling: Wow! Where did that come from?

Flame Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Flame 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.