#bookquotes

#BQ Final Draft by Casey Carlisle

After loving ‘Noteworthy‘ I was interested to see what Riley Redgate would offer next… another queer lit with ‘Final Draft‘ tickled my fancy with the main character writing a book on the road to self discovery. Review coming very soon 😀

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Book Review – ‘No Vain Loss’ (#3 No Ordinary Star) by M.C. Frank

All I can say is… blerg!

No Vain Loss Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 229

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. 

This is the One World. 

The year is 2524. 

This is by no means a standalone novel in a trilogy – more like the third act of a whole. Why M.C. Frank released these novellas in this format has me dumbfounded. The novel jumps right into the action and there is little back story or summary of what has come before. Again, like its predecessors, I found it extremely difficult to connect to any of the characters or fully understand their motivations.

One gleaming positive about ‘No Vain Loss’ is the plot. It was the most interesting of the trilogy so far. There are hardships, twists and turns, and definitely the most intricate so far. So viewing the novella from a mechanical standpoint, it was pretty good. But as for the rest, I found it miserably deficient.

There was not enough character development for me to identify with any of the cast, or cheer for their journey. The descriptions are bland and bleak. The world building (though confusing at times) is much more colourful. I wanted that same care taken to the characters as well. This, added with short chapters and alternating perspectives, also contributed to the distancing from the narrative. I never really had enough time to grow with either protagonist. And then calling each other ‘Tin Soldier’ and ‘Match girl’ might have been cute, but it was used so repetitively it lost the romance and became annoying. Slapping a throwback signifier also distanced me from either protagonist. It all felt a little forced and disingenuous.

No Vain Loss Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThis has got to be the worst series I’ve ever read. I had to force myself to complete each and every one of these novellas. And that’s not a great compliment because they are meant to be short, paced reads. I kept putting them down due to boredom and lack of interest.

I don’t even want to re-gift these to anyone, I prefer to toss them in the bin. The art work looks like it’s been done by a primary schooler on PhotoShop – couldn’t there have been some original images used that relate to the story and its symbolism instead of low resolution clip art?

Yes the concept of this trilogy, and the plot outline is fantastic, but its execution is the worst I’ve come across to date.

Definitely don’t recommend this one. (Or the series.)

 Overall feeling: Worst. Book. Series. Ever.

No Vain Loss Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

No Vain Loss 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 – ‘No Plain Rebel’ (#2 No Ordinary Star) by M.C. Frank

Great concept, poor planning for publishing.

No Plain Rebel Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 212

From Goodreads:

Felix finds out the truth. 

Or so he thinks. He’s trying to come to terms with that, as well as with the fact that the Clockmaster’s shack has been discovered by his fellow-soldiers, but he can’t exactly concentrate. The match girl’s fiery curls appear before his eyes every ten seconds, distracting him, and then he starts talking to her in his head. 

Because she’s no longer there. 

The Stadium is looming in the distance. 

It’s ten heartbeats to midnight. 

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I was really hoping the story would go somewhere after a ‘meh’ feeling from reading ‘No Ordinary Star.’ There is no doubt that M.C. Frank has a talent for writing, but why she released this trilogy in tiny instalments that aren’t resolved sections is beyond me. It tainted the whole experience.

Jumping around with perspectives of Felix and Astra, in different parts of the timeline, made it difficult to connect with the characters. I loved the descriptions of first time experiences. The alien-ness of customs and objects we use today through the eyes of someone in a dystopian future. It was sheer brilliance. But again, as with the first novel it was too brief, felt out of context, and was difficult at times to figure out where this is all going.

All of this aura of confusion and disjointedness overrides the beautiful writing. And with the addition of a number of grammatical errors, I was left yet again with a bitter taste in my mouth.

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I can see from Franks writing the potential, and why many readers love this series; but for me, it’s not polished enough, not planned out enough for each instalment to stand on their own and make sense. I kept putting down this short novella and spread it out over a couple of days, when it is something that I could read in hours because I was frustrated and disinterested.

I really hope things start to make sense in the final book of the trilogy ‘No Vain Loss.’

Concept is intriguing, writing style is fantastic, pacing is a bit sporadic, but overall the story was not engaging for me. I did not connect with the characters and kept getting lost in time jumps and flash backs.

Though I will preserve and read the final instalment and hopefully it will redeem my opinion.

Overall feeling: Disappointing… again.

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No Plain Rebel 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.

Wrap up – Sky Chasers Trilogy by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Not my favourite trilogy, but a great ending.

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This series took me on a bit of a ride. I was kinda liking the debut, ‘Glow’ and then didn’t bother continuing with the series for close to two years because it failed to make an impression on me. Though, my OCD finally kicked in and I needed to complete the trilogy, however ‘Spark’ was underwhelming and my hopes began to sink. But ‘Flame’ ended the trilogy in brilliant fashion and is definitely my favourite of the whole collection.

This trilogy is a bit like ‘Lord of the Flies’ in space. It has a heavy religious aspect to it as two ships travelling to colonise a new planet each have a focus: one on faith, and the other on science and technology. It then further delves into beliefs, violence, vilification, and politics in a fight for survival. While there is certainly a lot packed into these novels – and not for the faint of heart – I did find the religious aspect somewhat preachy. You do get a very real sense of the isolation and insignificant-ness of being a tiny speck of dust – a spaceship – floating in space.

I cringed at the self-congratulation of many of the characters, as I did to the continual ramming down our throats of religious belief, this was so prominent in the second novel I ended up with a stress headache. I was also put off with the amount of violence and abuse of human rights. While a great novel to kick up discussion on many issues around these topics, it verged on unpalatable. But you cannot deny Amy Kathleen Ryan can write a novel wrought with tension and importance.

The final book of the trilogy brings some much needed action over the issues I has with the first two novels. There were a few major plot holes with the science of it all, but it ties up everything in a neat (if somewhat spoony) bow. You can definitely see Ryan’s growth as a writer with each instalment. And I truly think that if ‘Flame’ had not impressed me so much I would have happily torched this trilogy in a fire pit.

But would I recommend it? Probably not. It wasn’t all that entertaining for me. But, if you are up for a science fiction read that poses social issues to discuss, you might get something from it. It is confronting, adventurous and a little bit preachy.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Glow’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/book-review-glow/

Spark’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/05/29/book-review-spark-by-amy-kathleen-ryan/

Flame’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/book-review-flame-by-amy-kathleen-ryan/

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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 – ‘Honestly Ben’ (#2 Openly Straight) by Bill Konigsberg

A great perspective and an adorable romance.

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 330

From Goodreads:

Ben Carver is back to normal. He’s getting all As in his classes at the Natick School. He was just elected captain of the baseball team. He’s even won a big scholarship for college, if he can keep up his grades. All that foolishness with Rafe Goldberg last semester is over now, and he just needs to be a Carver, work hard, and stay focused.

Except…

There’s Hannah, a gorgeous girl who attracts him and distracts him. There’s his mother, whose quiet unhappiness he’s noticing for the first time. School is harder, the pressure higher, the scholarship almost slipping away. And there’s Rafe, funny, kind, dating someone else…and maybe the real normal that Ben needs.

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What a fantastic follow-up to ‘Openly Straight.’ I laughed out loud many times – I love the cookie humour in this series. It was great to break the tension and release the angst and anxiety of the novel.

Where ‘Openly Straight’ challenged the notions of labels, in ‘Honestly Ben’ I felt we got to live in a number of them and discover that they are merely descriptors that make other people comfortable (or uncomfortable) – and what it truly means to carve your own path.

Identity, sexuality, gender are all in different hues, and never too stagnant. People are different and grow and change over time, so it stands to reason that those concepts would evolve too. It was great to get a wider scope of what these terms are, and mean. It was an eye-opener on diversity for me. I got a bit of an education. And I like that I learnt something, but hand in hand with this kind of thing – and that I see in many other novels tackling these same topics – it always saturates the narrative in the world of socio-politics and correctness, and suddenly you find yourself submerged in a world that is less real, and consequently loses its relatable edge. But that is unavoidable – as you need to saturate yourself in something to truly understand it. I commend this novel for the aspects in this area.

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe romance was still angsty and steamy. Though at the same time a little stand-offish. I guess because in the first novel we’re dealing with Rafe’s identity, and here, with Ben’s. So the focus is on them finding their place in the world and not so much on a romance. You get a strong sense of Ben exploring who he is. I actually found it compelling and refreshing.

I revelled in the fact that life is allowed to be a big confusing mess, that somethings you just can’t put a label on.

As with ‘Openly Straight,’ I found Koinsberg’s writing style compelling and hard to put down. I completed this book in one sitting and was craving more when finished. There is always a sense of hope and desperation it the tone of the characters that has them practically leaping off the page.

There were issues I had with a bit of machismo in ‘Openly Straight’ which get addressed here – and in such a way it was delightfully surprising. Ben has such a knack for controlling a situation in a positive way and I felt involuntarily drawn to him. If he were a real life person, I’d be pathetically devoted to this young couple, simply because of how they treated the world. Truly inspiring.

Though all the characters are fallible, it was in an endearing way, making them feel like people I knew. Even with their growth through the course of the novel there is a strong note that their journey is far from over at its conclusion.

The general crux of the novel is very predictable, but the way the story is told distracts you from the inevitable, and leaves you with a sense of wonder. I totally felt like I’d been given a great big warm hug – and I wanted to live in that moment for as long as I could.

I enjoyed how Rafe and his mother were challenged on how they labelled people – seriously or not, almost like reverse discrimination I want to say – just because you know something, doesn’t mean you know.

I can only hope we get to visit the world of Rafe and Ben again sometime in the future – I’m completely down for that. So I’m sending out vibes into the universe for Konisberg to get inspired and continue writing for this collection.

Overall feeling: Totally amazeballs.

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) 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 – ‘Ashes to Ashes’ (#3 Burn for Burn) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

First Wives Club meets Mean Girls meets The Craft.

Ashes to Ashes (#3 Burn for Burn) Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Paranormal

No. of pages: 387

From Goodreads:

New Year’s Eve ended with a bang and Mary, Kat and Lillia may not be prepared for what is to come.

After Rennie’s death, Kat and Lillia try to put the pieces together of what happened to her. They both blame themselves. If Lillia hadn’t left with Reeve… If Kat had only stayed with Rennie… Things could have been different. Now they will never be the same.

Only Mary knows the truth about that night. About what she is. She also knows the truth about Lillia and Reeve falling in love, about Reeve being happy when all he deserves is misery, just like the misery he caused her. Now their childish attempts at revenge are a thing of the past and Mary is out for blood. Will she leave anything in her wake or will all that remain be ashes?

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Sibohan and Han combine to give such a breezy writing style – it’s so easy to fly through the pages. The snarky banter is amusing and the jokes tickled me pink. I enjoyed this book, despite having a vehement dislike for the majority of the cast. The setting was such a beautiful backdrop. The pacing of the story is fantastic, if a little slow at the start. And the concept – that was the biggest drawcard in finishing this trilogy.

As for our three protagonists…

Ashes to Ashes (#3 Burn for Burn) Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleLillia maintained her more annoying personality traits. She was clingy and somewhat self-absorbed, not to mention times of indecisiveness and being completely clueless. I don’t even think she grew all that much as a person from the events – yes there was a note of wisdom there, but nothing ground breaking or poignant.

I actually got a little scared/nervous at some point due to Mary’s vengeance and paranormal-ness, which was a delightful surprise, it’s not something I expected in this genre! However, Mary was disappointing. It was ramping up to an epic climax and then I don’t know what happened. I get that she was able to get some resolution, but the way it was delivered felt flaccid.

Kat was probably the one who changed the most. She got to try on a number of personalities before the ending. I like to think she chose herself and never looked back.

Don’t get me started on the boys – they felt as vapid as Lillia.

I did not enjoy the amount of alcohol consumption – I felt like checking into re-hab just from reading the book. Additionally, there was no resolution to the rape storyline… and I understand many of these types of cases are never reported, but it was practically brushed under the carpet. Lillia had a few episodes of despair and was over it.

I got the feeling from the tone of the novel as though it was targeted to the younger end of the YA market with its protagonists acting like ‘look at me I’m a grown up’ when they really have no clue and are just stumbling about in the darkness of their lives. I guess in that respect it nails what it was to be a teen – though I was hoping for a more intelligent interpretation. This whole trilogy has been a bit of a ride, the debut felt like a contemporary, and then follow-up blurred the lines between contemporary and paranormal, and the finale – witchy central. There is a lot to love with the concept of this trilogy, but I wish the characters were a little more likeable, relatable. That the topics were handled with a little bit more social responsibility. Even though an entertaining read, it is not my favourite from either of these authors.

I feel like there was a part of the last chapter missing, or an epilogue got cut in the editing process because it culminated on such an abrupt tone. I’m a little thrown after finishing the book, it wasn’t completely satisfying. Lukewarm.

The cover art is very Miss Teen Magazine spread, with a bleached treatment to signify a paranormal, ghosty element I’m guessing. Attractive and representative of the connection of the three main protagonists, it definitely stands out from many others in this genre. It certainly had me flipping through the pages.

Fans of both authors will most likely love this trilogy, and I’d recommend it for readers who love YA and don’t mind the tone of the characters dominating the story. I appreciated it’s uniqueness.

Overall reaction: well… that just happened

Ashes to Ashes (#3 Burn for Burn) Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Ashes to Ashes (#3 Burn for Burn) 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.