Book Review – ‘Retribution’ (#5 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

The conclusion to worst series I’ve ever read. Love the concept but the writing was extremely undercooked.

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 301

From Goodreads:

War is coming between humans and Arvies, leaving me trapped between two enemies. This time, I don’t think I’ll survive.

The government will stop at nothing to get me back in their clutches. They want what’s inside me—a power I call Venge—and will use my greatest weakness to bring me to my knees. 

The Arvies know of my gift, and use my telepathy and their numbers, in an effort to take me out. 

My name is Abigail Park, and I promise retribution against those who’ve wronged me, even if it’s the last thing I do.

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All I can say is thank goodness this series is over and my OCD can pack up and leave! I still maintain the concept of The After Light Saga is brilliant, and I loved this story in theory, but the writing and execution was hella-poor.  It had every bad YA trope I can think of. I still cringe when I remember how Protagonist Abi named her gun and her psychic ability. Hellfire and Venge. Ugh! It wasn’t even done ironically.

Abi loves to blurt out everything to complete strangers. She hasn’t learnt to be cautious despite all of the crap she has found herself in since leaving the bunker. People are fighting to survive, so some caution should be common sense by now. Especially by book five. Not only does this reflect badly on her as a character, but is a form of info-dumping. I hope Cameo Renae grows as a writer because she has a great imagination and I’d love to read her stories if she can level-up.

How many times was Abi going to pass out? It felt like every two or three chapters ended with ‘my world went black.’ It felt like cheap storytelling. I was really gritting my teeth trying to get through this novel.

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI’m still not convinced of the romantic paring of Abi and Finn. I can’t relate to either of them. From the first novel until this finale, still every description of either revolve around how sexy they are. Nauseating. The overly lovey-dovey carry on didn’t feel like it was properly established or grounded in connection between Abi and Finn. It was all about muscles and abs – a strong emotional connection that wasn’t explored. This pairing could have been iconic if treated differently.

But having said that, some of the romance is cute – though other parts immature and sickly sweet, bordering on unrealistic. People that age don’t wax poetic like Cameo has written. It felt more like wish fulfilment than grounded in the character and relatable to the demographic of this series.

Reference to ‘normal’ life’ pre-bunker was made, but given that Abi has spent her life underground, she couldn’t have possibly experienced everything mentioned. Big contextual error there.

The introduction of the dog was a pleasant surprise – it added some interest and lightness to the narrative. Though this, and the astral travelling thing, felt a bit forced and not in the same vein as the rest of the story.

It feels like everyone is dumb. The army grunts, the government. And it only amplified how immature I felt the writing was. Characters are so quick to offer forgiveness and detailed explanations (more info-dumping) – they feel two-dimensional and obviously guided by the hand of the author. Where’s the complexity, the tension, diversity. It added to my frustration. This whole series reads like a child’s imaginings.

However, ‘Retribution’ cutely wrapped the series up (even if it had a tone of convenience.)

I hate to say this, but this collection makes me want to gag. ‘Retribution’ is a touch better than some of the previous sequels, but certainly not one I recommend. I’ll be donating the series, it’s not something I want to keep in my library.

Overall feeling: Blurgh!

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Book Review – ‘Shadow Land’ (#5 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Delectable Detective and Punchy Paranormals but some Morbid Machismo….

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

When a child goes missing, his mother asks me to help. After all, she believes he was taken by a monster and that’s my field of expertise. The search leads to the storm drains of Dearmont; not a good place to be when you’ve seen as many horror movies as I have. 

Turns out the monstrous kidnapper is also responsible for the mysterious disappearance of a patient from a psychiatric hospital nearby. And as I investigate further, I’m pushed into the waiting arms of an old nemesis. 

Missing children, fishy creatures, and icy curses are all in a day’s work for Harbinger P.I. But when Mister Scary shows up, the hardest job is staying alive.

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 I’m loving Adam Wright’s take on the paranormal, or preternatural as referred to in this series. There is always so much going on that I’m hooked and addicted to finding out what is going on. There is always more than one mystery to solve, an antagonist or two to fight or run away from. Wright’s concepts are fun and engaging.

However there is still one of the biggest gripes in ‘Shadow Land’ that I have had with this series front and centre – again with our protagonist Preternatural Detective, Alec having things fall into his lap, or his assistant Felicity doing them for him. I know a lot of detective work is boring and something we don’t necessarily want to read, but coming up with ideas and uncovering clues are prime aspects to test the protagonist and drive the story forward – watch any detective show on television for numerous engaging examples. This was a big miss for me.

I’m still getting a sexist vibe, and a little of that ‘things conveniently happening’ around Alec’s treatment of the cast, in addition to secondary characters popping into the story when relevant to the plot, but otherwise ignored… it feels like they’re being used but not developed, not allowed to become complex. It feels like lazy writing… so many missed opportunities.

But the narrative improved after the half way mark.

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We re-visit the on-again, off-again thing with Alec and Felicity… its feeling tired. Was it done to drag their relationship out over a few more books? Something was missing in the tension between these two with ‘Shadow Land.’ And it was awkward – not between the characters Alec and Felicity, but in the writing. As much as I enjoy this world and the characters, I question whether Wright is rushing through the writing-publishing process to keep the momentum of sales for the Harbinger P.I. series instead of taking a little extra time to polish the manuscript.

Upon reaching the end of the book I wasn’t totally satisfied – there were so many new clues and elements introduced in ‘Shadow Land,’ and less than half were resolved. Great for getting me to continue with the series, but reflects badly on this novel alone. Plus, we end on a cliff hanger which was incentive enough for me to want to pick up ‘Midnight Blood’ – but some more resolution to the Mr Scary storyline would have been good – or the Cabal… just saying.

I was a little perturbed by the death of a paranormal towards the end as well – though it was explained – it felt unjustified, and frankly, rushed.

But the writing style is pleasant, and I like the folklore references. I wish we would delve more into the mythology of things. We are starting to get there as Alec was more involved in the research with Felicity. It’s nice to see he can actually do some detective work for himself because he tends to outsource a lot and spend much of the time wandering around thinking.

The pacing is good and the plot jumps all over the place as well. The point of view briefly switches to Sheriff Cantrell and then is daughter Amy (a deputy) interrupting the flow of a narrative and follow a story arc. It was interesting, and in the past few novels Wright has started to add in different characters perspectives… it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it should be though. And we jump from first person to third person narrative.

I did guess the puzzle to the main case solved in ‘Shadow Land’ in the first couple of chapters. I don’t know how, or why, maybe I’m getting tuned into Wright’s mind. So I guess that’s also why this wasn’t such an impactful novel for me.

Still, this is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the supernatural elements and Wright’s take on the world of things that go bump in the night. Also, where has all the thing about Felicity becoming a fully-fledged P.I. gone? She’s back to acting like a glorified secretary again, and the sizzle between these two has left the pages. And it might be the feminist in me, but I’d really like to see Felicity play the hero apart from Alec, and not constantly running around providing answers before Alec even knew he needed them… how about he do it for himself and let her get into the action!

Still a really fun and interesting world. Wright puts his little twists on the preternatural that I find engaging and fascinating.

Overall feeling: Trying to ignore the flaws…

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Dead Ground’ (#4 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

The Preternatural Investigator is at it again….

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

When my old friend Jim Walker asks me to fly up to Canada and take a look at a strange murder case, it sounds like a good excuse for barbecue and brewskis. 

But the party gets crashed by a pit-load of demons and things take a turn for the worse. Throw a faerie queen and a couple of ancient vampires into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. 

Time to sharpen the stakes and start slaying the undead. 

Because if you gaze long into a vampire’s eyes, the vampire gazes also into you. 

Then it glamors you. And kills you.

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Another instalment in the Harbinger P.I. series sees great twists at the end which redeemed this book in my eyes despite some issues I had in developing the plot and secondary characters. We get a heavy dose of paranormal happenings – witches, fairies, vampires, magical swords and spells.

There’s still more of the machismo that urks me in the narrative, but I am beginning to enjoy this series like b-grade 80’s horror films… there is something camp about it, and find it entertaining despite its faults. There is something addictive and compelling about the Harbinger series.

I wish there was more character development to help me care more about the characters. I’m starting to fall into a speed reading mentality just to find out what is going on because I’m not forming any attachments. This distinct lack of development of characters pulled in to aid protagonist Alex Harbinger in his quest, or in their relationships – they simply came to his aid without question whenever he asked. Even if it meant they could lose their lives. To this end it felt like they were merely a plot device, like Adam Wright couldn’t be bothered taking to time to grow a back story and help the reader develop an emotional attachment to the characters. Overall this was the biggest issue I had with the story.

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

To this end, while full of action and fast paced, I felt a little despondent at times. It was feeling a little repetitive. Again not enough is resolved and only little seeds of clues are mentioned for an overarching plot for the series. Much of what stood out to me about the prequels.

The books feel like they’ve been rushed to publish and not given the benefit of a good editor. Nonetheless, I’m becoming a fan and will continue to support the author. I am noticing improvements in his writing with each book in the series. It is starting to become a guilty pleasure with me. I have issues with the writing, but the concept, and potential of Adam Wright keeps me intrigued and coming back for more.

Really interested to see what his next release ‘Midnight Blood’ brings. I know Adam Wright has stated that its publication date has been pushed back because he’s moving house before the final edits, so maybe a fresh set of eyes and experience so far will push this sequel even further.

As much as I enjoy this series, I would only recommend it sparingly, but they are quick, adventurous, fun reads.

Overall feeling: Big on imagination, little on execution

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Dark Magic’ (#3 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Your Preternatural Investigator is at it again.

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 231

From Goodreads:

Zombies on Main Street. Not my finest moment. 

The police aren’t exactly thrilled with me, but when a cold case heats up and starts to stink of the supernatural, suddenly the sheriff is in my office offering me a job. 

When the case hits boiling point, I’m dealing with monsters, black magic, and ritual killings. I even have to call on the two craziest witches in town for help. Things must be bad if the Blackwell sisters are my only hope for survival. 

Maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. After all, those who fight monsters should beware that the monsters aren’t frog-faced, soul-eating demons.

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As campy as the Harbinger P.I. series is, I was still lost and entertained in this paranormal tale. I wish Adam Wright would bust away from the tropes typical to this genre and raise this collection to another level, but nonetheless, the multiple mysteries and collection of cast members are both endearing and captivating.

Harbinger didn’t seem as chauvinistic in ‘Dark Magic‘ and we get many kick ass moments from his female co-stars. We also see plot points introduced in the previous two books resolved – but there are plenty more loose threads leading up to even more mysteries to be solved in future sequels.

The climax was all things apocalyptic, Wright is definitely upping the ante and improving with each installment of this series.

I feel I wanted some more development on the ongoing story lines, only because I wanted a bigger hook to have me reaching for the next sequel, ‘Dead Ground.’ Wright’s books are falling into the category of reading I associate with the likes of Clive Cussler : adventurous, entertaining, with a strong masculine sense to the writing style and not to be taken too seriously.

With our protagonist Alec healing from a gunshot wound and straight into hand to hand combat… and even a shower afterward – the author should think a little before writing implausible scenarios to prevent the reader getting pulled from the story with a wtf moment.

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlilse

Still an element of misogyny- kinda like James Bond and Moneypenny- the male swoops in to save the day and solve the mystery where the female companion does all the hard work behind the scenes and fetches coffee. And of course the male lead has any number of attractive females around him, all trying to land him in bed.

Unfortunately I identified some spelling and grammatical errors that could have been solved with a simple read-through from an editor. But this is an entertaining collection and I am able to forgive a few oversights. Plus the cover art has been eye-catching and spooky, really capturing what Alec Harbinger is all about.

Dark Magic’ has great pacing with multiple storylines that kept me hooked. Beginning to love the magical mythology, it is unlike nothing I’ve read before, it’s intricate and we’ll realised. Bring on book four!

Overall feeling: *knowing smirk*

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Hostile’ (#4 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

This series is turning into one big *facepalm*despite a promising concept.

Hostile (#4 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 257

From Goodreads:

Wanted. It’s something I’ve had to get used to since being placed on the government’s Most Wanted list. On the run, with my family and Finn by my side, we now have to evade not only the Arvies, but teams of soldiers sent to find and capture me.

Little do they know, I’m battling my own demons. After receiving large doses of mind-enhancing serum, a monster has been unleashed inside my mind. It promises death and destruction; its power, greater than anything I could imagine. Now, I’m too dangerous, and the lives of my loved ones depend on my separation from the group. I must leave and face the hostile world alone.

My name is Abigail Park. I will do whatever it takes to save the ones I love.

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Again, another book in this series that really isn’t a novel – more like a tale… the middle part of something happening.

I found ‘Hostile’ awfully spoony and over-ridden with typical YA tropes. Instances of bad grammar and immature writing. I was hoping this series would get better as the author got to hone her craft, but it is just getting repetitive with the same kind of underdeveloped writing style.

The concept is still full of potential, but feel like the author should take some classes or spend a year or two honing her craft.

Hostile (#4 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgProtagonist Abi was very two dimensional. The story at times is led by the author’s hand. Some of the events are implausible, even in this dystopian fantasy because there is no motivation, or not driven forward by the plot.

Some of the action scenes were well crafted though, and I enjoyed a few of these towards then end of the novel.

Hostile’ is a very quick read: 2-3hrs was all it took. Which is lucky, I wouldn’t invest any more time than that on such a poorly executed novel.

Again, I love the premise, but the basics of structuring a novel were amiss. One more book in this series to go, which I will read, just because I want to confirm how it all ends. Then I’ll probably gift the entire collection to one of my nieces or nephews because I have no intention of keeping books of this calibre in my library.

Even the covers are recycled of stock images – it hurts my heart to see, and read this kind of book.

On a side note, I burst out laughing at her shameless plug for another series she’s written – ‘Hidden Wings’ in the narrative. Big brass ones lady! I like it.

It was so cheesy and poorly written it was funny. Like a low budget syfy movie. Not recommending this one unfortunately.

Overall feeling: I think I have to dub this the book of eye rolls and gag noises.

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Hostile (#4 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Intransigent’ (#3 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

It’s all going pear-shaped.

Intransigent (#3 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 235

From Goodreads:

Arriving at the new government bunker, things quickly go from bad to worse. I am separated from Finn and my family because of my ability to connect with Arvies through telepathy. Housed with three other Readers—and kept away from the general population—we are given serum injections in effort to enhance our thought transference. The end goal? Thought manipulation.

We are considered humanity’s only hope in the war against the Arvy race.

With the ever growing threat of an invasion, the government demands results from the Reader program by doling out ultimatums, and using our loved ones against us.

But they will not break me.

My name is Abigail Park. I am intransigent.

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Intransigent’ has got to be the weakest book of the series so far. My reaction is one massive eye roll. I had high hopes that the writing and plot would grow and develop through this series, but it seem not to be the case. The best reprieve is that these novels are short and can be completed in half a day.

I still love the concept, though the story took a direction that really didn’t interest me. A new batch of characters were introduced, but they felt generic and two dimensional. I’ve been wanting for this series to start getting meatier, delve into character development, mythology, a more complex plot because we have already done all the world building and got to know the main characters… none of that happened. The writing in this series has been taking a slow nose dive since the debut.

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I’m caring less and less about protagonist Abi and her fiancé Flynn – as a couple and as characters. The only reason I’m continuing with this series is because of my incessant curiosity, and bloody O.C.D. There’s only two novels left to wrap things up, so we’ll see how it all goes and if Cameo can redeem herself.

At this point I’d only recommend you give this collection a hard pass. The writing and characterization feels immature and underdeveloped. It is very predictable and has about every tired YA trope you can think of.

Overall feeling: …really?

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Sanctum’ (#2 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

What a doozy… thumbs down from me.

Sanctum (#2 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 272

From Goodreads:

The Arvy threat worsens each day. They continue to destroy the hive’s vital fuel resources, leaving us with one option— evacuate to the largest government bunker, located in South Dakota. 

The injured hive members are moved as first priority, but a disastrous event occurs on the way to our drop-off zone. We find ourselves in a ghost town, surrounded by spiteful, revenge-filled Arvies. Chaos ensues and our death toll rises. Just when we think the end has come, unsuspected help arrives. We are rescued and brought to an underground bunker.

They call it Sanctum.

With no way of reaching outside help, we must depend on each other to reach our pick-up zone, thirty miles away. If we don’t make it in time, we will be left for dead. 

Time is ticking.

My name is Abigail Park. I am a survivor.

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This is the worst book that I have read in a while. I’m finding it difficult to even review ‘Sanctum’ because of the numerous issues I had with the writing…  This sequel is a step down in quality from the debut ‘ARV-3,’ and considering it was recommended to me from a well-known reviewer I am flabbergasted as to what entranced his attention so vigorously.

All the lovey-dovey stuff between protagonist Abi and her fiancé Finn was getting over the top. It felt inappropriate to the tone of the novel and failed to serve much of a purpose in the plot.

Additionally, since when are Finn and Abi the leaders and experts with all these army guys from the unit around them who have specialised training and instructions. I’m getting exasperated with the poor context of writing…

Sanctum (#2 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The story concept was again interesting and had potential, but the plot was very simplistic. I found myself wanting more sophisticated storytelling. To be frank, I’ve read better from my high school students when teaching.

All I can say is lucky it was a quick skim-able read, especially the long drawn out love banter. I just wasn’t feeling it. So a saccharine sweet.

I’m still hoping that Cameo is going to up the ante and this series will improve with the next installments. Here’s wishing that ‘Intransigent’ brings some vast improvements, but I’m not holding my breath.

Notes on the physical book include how the chapter headings suddenly changed after chapter 9 like the book wasn’t formatted properly. And the cover art… using the same clip art throughout the series left it feeling amateurish.

Overall feeling: thththththth

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Sanctum (#2 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.