Book Review – ‘The Night We Said Yes’ by Lauren Gibaldi

… but I think I’ll say no.

The Night We Said Yes Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 294

From Goodreads:

Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without any more distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she’s lived her entire life. 

But Matt—the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town—was never part of that plan.

And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying “yes” to every crazy, fun thing they could think of.

Then Matt abruptly left town, and he broke not only Ella’s heart but those of their best friends, too. So when he shows up a year later with a plan of his own—to relive the night that brought them together—Ella isn’t sure whether Matt’s worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future. 

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I picked up ‘The Night We Said Yes’ solely due to the hype it had been receiving on the blogosphere, the gorgeous cover, and a catchy blurb…

Though honestly, by the halfway point I was bored. The reasons behind Matt (the love interest) moving away had me intrigued, and the dual narrative from the present, alternated with that from a year ago and added interest, but the characters came across as bland and silly. I was still waiting to be gripped by something.

The Night We Said Yes’ is a story about flawed characters. It’s well written, but on the whole, it’s a story that could be of any teenager… and that was just it… I felt like it was an anecdote from my past, or my friends past. There wasn’t anything extraordinary to grip me from this tale.

The teen drama was just so juvenile. The behaviour of the main characters was frustrating. And the storyline very, very simple. I wanted more complexity, more tension. The stakes for the protagonist, Ella, just didn’t seem that high. Maybe it was because I didn’t connect with the cast, or the plot.

It’s not a book I would bash for being poorly written or having sub-par construction – like I mentioned, its done well, but just not for me. It’s fairly short and easy to read in one sitting. I spread it over a few days, putting it down frequently due to boredom or annoyance. I think the younger end of the YA spectrum of readers would enjoy this more.

Overall this book felt a little – I hate to say it – bland. It is a cute contemporary, but there wasn’t anything about it that grabbed my attention, and I did not connect solidly with any of the characters or their predicament.

Overall feeling: ho-hum

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The Night We Said Yes 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.

…the one where my girlfriend was peeing in the bushes and the cops showed up.

Some memories of high school still make me roar with laughter.

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Picture this: Alice Springs, a small outback town in the middle of the desert, nineteen eighty something.

When there isn’t a lot to do in a dust bowl of a town like the one we were fortunate to grow up in, you make your own fun. And this night it happened to be in the form of ‘cruising around.’ Were hapless teenagers would drive from the Truck Stop to the Golf Course, to the Speedway or Drive-In on an endless loop, hooting and hollering at other kids from the same school indulging in the same activity. Aimlessly wandering the streets in a car said that we were free! And to have a car was a massive status symbol… and my Mum’s Mercedes Benz was the biggest statement of all – especially filled with a four-pack of gussied-up teenage girls.

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We call it cruising around because not only did we partake in the automobile activity, but it was usually accompanied by Vodka Cruisers, Goon-bags of wine, or in our case, West Coast Coolers. But before you get your fingers out to waggle at me, I was the designated driver, so no alcohol for me. If my parents had gotten a sniff of trouble, or I so much as sullied the shine of the Merc, my car privileges would be revoked until I was a hundred years old. And that meant no freedom, no flaunting for boys, and nights filled with lame video marathons and grumpy parental chaperones.

As it sometimes happens when you’re driving about with a car full of four buzzed pubescent girls, someone needed to pee. Real bad. And we were ages away from the nearest facilities. Being Alice Springs, it’s just a case of pulling over on the side of the road and you can sneak into the bush to do your business – So that’s what we did.

I had to angle the cars lights off the road so my friend could see where she was walking, and while she ventured into the scrub we turned up the radio and proceeded to dance in the headlights – as you do when you’re feeling the chemical rush of half a West Coast Cooler in the middle of nowhere.

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Just as we bust a move, hear the trickle of pee splash from behind a shrub, a cop car pulls up. Great!

One of my friends freaks out, dives into the car and is desperately shoving our coolers under the seats – yes, we were drinking under the legal age. She’s a bit of a goody-two-shoes, so to say it looked like she was in the throws of a heart attack is an understatement.

I’m a little shocked and dumbfounded to see the men in blue show up in the most deserted place in Australia, one friend gyrating in the headlights, another hyperventilating inside the car, as another stumbles out of the bush yanking up her jeans. What must they think?

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They do what cops back then did – posture a little, have us line up and invade our space… no doubt trying to detect a waft of booze on our breaths. Luckily we all managed to pull it together long enough for the boys in blue to believe our story that we only pulled over for an emergency toilet stop. I didn’t know it at the time, but they had actually suspected that we’d stolen the car and were out joyriding (another activity of the local youth in this armpit of a town.)

Just as they were about to leave, headquarters radioed them back, a check on the licence plate number had yielded a result, and wouldn’t you know – my parents hadn’t paid the latest registration fee.

Needless to say the night ended with my father coming to collect us, screaming at the cops because they wouldn’t let him drive an unregistered car. But like hell he was going to leave a luxury car sitting on the side of the road waiting to be stolen. My friends were dumped home, and, like ninjas, my parents collected the car in the shadow of night while I kept a lookout for the police as we sneaked the car home.

I don’t know when they found the bottles of booze under the seat, the next time I checked, they were gone. But I didn’t get into trouble, or have my car driving privileges revoked… thankfully they were too embarrassed at having my friends and I hassled by the police for driving an unregistered car.

That’s what I call a lucky break! And that’s how we roll in country towns 😉

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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.

#bookporn

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Haven’t started reading this series yet – am committed to finishing of a couple of other series I’m in the middle of first – but I just keep staring at these beautiful covers. Can’t wait to jump into time travel adventures!

Book Review – ‘Telling Jase’ by Penny Wilder

Interesting and sexy, but not fully realised.

Telling Jase Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Contemporary, LGBT

No. of pages: 35

From Goodreads:

Sean Taggert has been in love with his best friend and former college roommate Jase Shaw for the last two years and nine months. He’s never told Jase how he feels, though. There were always other people in the way. Up until six months ago, Jase was shacked up with his cheating college boyfriend Marcus. Up until last night, Sean was engaged to the mother of his two-year old child, Cody. Cody may have been the result of a drunken one-night stand, but Sean would do anything for his son, including marry a woman he doesn’t love. But when Sean’s fiancée Lisa, calls him from her New York vacation to say that she’s left him and Cody for good, Sean calls Jase, the only person he knows who can get him though this. Now that they are both free, maybe it’s finally time for Sean to tell Jase how he really feels.

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I love getting recommendations from other bloggers, so when Kara Skinner @ Lover’s Quarrel sung praises about ‘Telling Jase’ I went and got my copy right away.

This was titillating, but also awful. It hit many triggers that I absolutely loathe in contemporary short stories. Also, calling people ‘Babe’ or ‘baby’ makes me cringe, that and a few other words had me wanting to bang my head against the wall when combined with all the other factors I’m about to list.

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The whole instant attraction thing –  the protagonists’ romantic relationship was introduced that way, and then went back and contradicted itself. Also the coming out aspect of it was written for maximum drama and minimum realism. Well… the whole tone of the book was exactly that. Lots of bang for your buck (pun intended) but little authenticity.

There were so many facts that were overlooked, ignored, or simply not researched. I understand these novellas are a complete guilty pleasure: read for the angst and highlights of intense relationships, but I need a solid believable storyline, a build-up, and backstory. I want to live in the character and feel their motivations. Grow as they develop, so when we get to the pay-off or climax (pun not intended this time) it means something and has all the pieces clicking into place… and ‘Telling Jase’ did not do that for me.

The two-year-old Cody was unlike any two-year-old I’ve ever known – underdeveloped, quiet, well behaved, and seemed to need little looking after or attention. In real life, children of this age are loud and all-consuming, they don’t sleep through the night and Carers are a delusional mess half the time. Kids are a beautiful miracle, but the early years are a struggle, especially for a sole parent to handle.

Our protagonist and father, Sean, kept falling asleep exhausted from his emotional dilemma, but not from all the attention on his child? Erm…

And Jase all of a sudden is Superdad… not to mention how he and Sean skip through so many massive developmental milestones in relationships and get straight to the old happy married couple stage after one conversation.

I want to enjoy this book for what it is. A fun steamy story about a single dad in love with his best friend, but the practical side of my brain won’t let it be. And though the sex scene was erotic, it felt obviously written from a woman’s perspective on what she thinks man on man sex is like. I felt a little more research could have been done to make it outstanding.

I really liked Penny Wilder’s writing style, she painted great scenes that I could see in my head clearly. I’d love to read something from her that was fully realised instead of a novella. I can almost taste her potential to create a best seller.

These types of stories are so short and predictable, so I didn’t get any surprises. But one would have been nice. Additionally, when a story is reduced to a few scenes, it’s hard to comment on plot or character development. I do like reading these on occasion as a guilty pleasure, but as I’m moving forward in my writing career, I’m increasingly becoming dissatisfied. I don’t think I’d recommend this to anyone I know. Sorry ☹

Overall feeling: Awkward

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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.

Trigger Warnings for me as a reader

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Things that make me want to vomit, scream or pitch a novel out the window…

I tend to shy away from content I know that will freak me out or cause mental anguish – I read to be entertained, to escape and sometimes to learn. It’s only on rare occasions I read to be challenged.

So some of the trigger warnings that I’ve found which send a book plummeting in my ratings include:

Trigger warnings Pic 11 by Casey CarlisleI know I’m a bit of a prude. That’s just how I am. And I don’t mind a bit of titillation – and there are times I pick up an erotic title for a bit of a change to my normal reading habits. But I like my erogenous encounters to mean something, to have a point to make within the plot. Pages and pages of banging bodies in different positions with no story is porn. Flashy, pointless and unsatisfying. It gets the same reaction I have with watching porn – I feel violated, objectified, and my skin feels itchy and dirty. If there is no emotional connection to the characters and plot it just feels wrong. For me. If that is something that you enjoy reading, I say wave that flag from the highest mountain… but it’s a big no-no for me. I’ll squirm, eye-roll and eventually put the book down. When did I turn into an old Nun?

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Trigger warnings Pic 12 by Casey Carlisle– if the ‘hook’ on the back cover does not hint at some emotional connection to the main character, or at least a point of interest, I’m not going to buy it. Nine out of ten times it has proven right that a terrible blurb has meant the story was lacking in some way.

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Trigger warnings Pic 13 by Casey CarlisleI’m no atheist or anything, but when I’m reading a book, I don’t want to feel like the author is shoving his or her spiritual beliefs down my throat. With fantasy books, we get magic systems, mythology and never do those aspects of the narrative feel like they are imposing on me as a reader. But for some reason when it comes to religion, many of the novels I read are so heavy with worship and forced opinion, I can feel the vomit gurgling in the back of my throat. It’s a sensitive topic to talk about, but I feel a fictional story should be balanced and not overshadowed by the authors personal beliefs. I feel a great author will not isolate their audience.

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Trigger warnings Pic 14 by Casey CarlisleSometimes they work if the author is great, but on the most part, I’ll skim over, or simply refuse to finish if it is littered with unoriginal content. The main reason for reading about characters is to walk in their shoes, experience something new… so it needs to be inspired and not a regurgitation of many books that have already been published. A number of books deal with stereotypes and tropes in a tongue-in-cheek way, completely aware of these devices, and that can be fun. Others submerge themselves into the genre but include a twist or great dialogue, which usually fit into the guilty pleasure category. But cookie-cutter writing is about as palatable as eating a brown paper bag.

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Trigger warnings Pic 15 by Casey CarlisleThis one is hard to judge until you’ve already made it a ways into your novel, but having protagonists constantly making silly decisions – just to fit into the plot are a sure fire way to have me throwing the book across the room. Nothing worse than being aware of the authors guiding hand – or having a delusional main character that can’t think for themselves. Some may find it endearing or even cute, I feel like I want to push them in front of a bus.

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Trigger warnings Pic 16 by Casey CarlisleYou can usually gauge this from the blurb, or by reading a few pages and a light skim. I’ve read some books that have great writing, but the whole novel ended up being a number of scenes attached together through a flimsy line of narrative. I need a discernible beginning, middle and end. I need to know what the protagonist is risking for the pay-off at the end of the novel – and a well written climax! There is a fine line between a great concept and fitting it into a story format…

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Trigger warnings Pic 17 by Casey Carlisle– they are a selling point! If you don’t go to the trouble of designing an attractive cover I’m going to think you don’t value your writing, and therefore, skip your title in favour of another. Also covers with models in a half-naked display are a big turn off, I’m going to think your book is one big naked sex romp… see first point above. Plus who wants to be on the tram flashing about sexy body parts on the cover – people will think you’re a sex fiend! Some other book covers look like they’ve been put together by a fifth grader with ‘Paint.’ With so many easy to use tools available, PhotoShop, and a bit of imagination there is no excuse not to have an attractive cover that fits to your genre and target audience. You spent a lot of time writing a book, so take some time to get the cover right. There are so many cover artists for hire out there too. When I see stock photos and crappy covers now, I take it as a personal insult. Boo to you!

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Trigger warnings Pic 18 by Casey CarlisleIf a character is living in their head all the time in ponderance, it often comes across as boring or whiny. It’s also a bit of a case of telling instead of showing. I like characters who act on their convictions and interpret them through the scene. Long lamentations also bog down the pacing of the novel – and continual navel gazing is not an attractive quality. I come across this from time to time, protagonists getting on their soapbox, all hidden in the stream of consciousness of their mind. All I can say is they probably look like those first person video game characters when they glitch and continually run into a wall. No fun for anyone.

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Trigger warnings Pic 19 by Casey CarlisleIf you are going to go to the point of describing facts, objects, or scenarios in your story, make sure you’ve researched them thoroughly – I’ve read too many novels where the scene is so unrealistic that it has pulled me from the narrative…. Ultimately leaving me with the thought that the author couldn’t be bothered taking the time to present a realistic story. Insulting. Sheesh, Google it, crack a reference book, it’s not that hard.

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There are many more, but these have been the generally issues over the past year of reading. And I think I’ve ranted on long enough. But it is all in fun, and my personal preferences. It is still a great accomplishment to actually publish a novel so I commend anyone who has spilled out half their brain to create a world on paper…

Happy reading.

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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.

The month of May be like…

A week of feeling under the weather but trying my best to soldier on. But did not get any writing done.

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Dealing with connectivity issues, call centres. Seriously had to take a break and zen myself out many times. It gets so frustrating when technology won’t cooperate. Zero internet for ten days.

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But it did give me some time to kick up my heels and indulge in some reading – so the world isn’t so bleak.

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