Film vs Novel – Every Day

Every Day Film vs Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe book by David Levithan consumed me. I read it in one sitting, totally engrossed in the condition of the human soul and its ability to love. I was really excited to hear a movie was coming out, and when I finally got to see it, while not disappointed, though felt the tone and narrative had moved away from the text.

The spirit of protagonist A goes beyond gender and sexual identity and into a space of simply ‘being.’ An exercise in gender fluidity. It was such an amazing perspective on existence. Juxatpose that with the love interest, Rhiannon’s perception and interactions with A, and her gradual understanding and acceptance of A, and their humanity, and you end up with a universal attitude of love and acceptance of everyone. It was truly inspired. This theme rings true in the novel, however in the film version we don’t get the insights and expansion of A’s experiences and it loses a lot of soul and context of the narrative. Additionally Rhiannon spent a larger portion of the movies length struggling and coming to terms with A. So many cuts had to be made to get this novel to fit into an acceptable length for a movie, we miss much of the characters struggles and development. But the cuteness and romance are still front and centre, as is the sci-fi/paranormal element of A inhabiting different bodies every day.

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On the reverse side, being A was weird. Always the interloper, unsure of your very existence. It’s a hard place to be. Alone and transient. Enough to send you completely bonkers. But A finds a way to balance it all – A’s own desires and wishes without impacting the lives of the bodies that are being borrowed for the day. The novel delves into this a lot, where the film mentions it in passing a number of times, and it’s not really discussed until close to the end when religious zealots Nathan (a body A previously inhabited) and his father Reverend Poole challenge A. (Thinking A a demon.) But both novel and film end the story on a big question mark.

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I loved the tone of zero prejudice about the physical being and of identity. I loved getting to walk, if somewhat briefly, in so many other people’s lives and feel that impact. The novel explores so many aspects, where in the movie much of it is reduced to a montage. I think that was the biggest let down for me. We lose all context of the connection and struggle between the characters and the tension that is slowly building throughout the plot.

While we only get the tiniest hint of the mythology behind A and his existence, the rest of the novel feels like a social commentary on identity and how we treat each other. How we are all different, yet the same. I wanted to get involved more into the reasons why A was the way he was – a wandering soul. I was hoping that in the sequel ‘Another Day’ I’d get more answers, but alas, only another brief touch on the mythology. I have my fingers crossed that we can really sink our teeth into the paranormal or science fiction of it all in the third book of the series ‘Someday’ due out on the 2nd of October this year. Not long to wait now! There is no news of a ‘Someday’ film as yet… and we may not see it given the performance of ‘Every Day’ at the box office. The themes weren’t fully explored and the social commentary on gender fluidity was not strong enough for audiences to pick up – at it still may be a confronting and confusing topic for the population of general movie goers. Maybe if there was more action and exploration of ‘soul-jumping’ it would appeal to a wider audience. I guess only time will tell.

There’s not much to say about this novel. It’s a romance, a character study with a heavy dose of philosophy. I loved it. The concept so fresh in YA! Unfortunately, for me the film fell much flatter than the novel. Still a fun romp and light escapism, but ultimately not quite there.

The book is a beautiful quick read that I highly recommend. The movie does not do it justice, but is still great viewing – though it concentrates more on the romance than of the theme – what is a soul and what makes us human.

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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 – ‘Love, Life and the List’ by Kasie West

An idea to broaden one’s horizons for the sake of art – great idea, flat delivery.

Love, Life and the List Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

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Another cutesy addition to my collection of Kasie West novels. But this one feels average in its place of West novel rankings. ‘Love, Life and the List’ lacked complexity, and quite frankly, failed to drag out any of the feels. Where some of her novels feel like a blockbuster rom-com, ‘Love, Life, and the List’ felt like a made-for-tv movie on the Hallmark channel. Not that it is any way a bad thing, just that it felt like it lacked layers and sophistication. I wasn’t even feeling the angst. For some, this might be the death knell for a book. But we still get West’s ever-present positivity and sunshine. Cuteness overload. It’s vanilla, very vanilla. Which is great for an afternoons escapism when you don’t necessarily want to be dragged over the coals of hurt and pain to get some character development, and where you know you’re going to get happy smiles at the end.

Our protagonist Abby felt a little flaky, though I love how she decided to challenge herself with ‘the list.’ Notably, her achievements weren’t character defining, but merely experiences to help broaden her worldly view.

The chemistry between love interest Cooper was already existing – like an old married couple – so there wasn’t a lot to expand on. So consequently the vibes between these two felt a little flat. And also because the ‘G’ rating of this book don’t expect any twixt of your nethers, or engorging love scenes. This is very Disney.

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But the concept is intriguing… like a bucket list for personal growth. Testing out things you know to be true. And West does write an interesting complementary cast. Addy’s mother was a great addition to the story struggling with anxiety, and the all-knowing-but-hip grandfather was endearing. He reminded me of ‘Pop’s’ from ‘The Goldbergs’ in a way.

So while I enjoyed this book, and had a pleasant afternoon whiling in its pages – for the most part it’s forgettable. I think if there were some bigger challenges to test Addy personally and emotionally, and a more dynamic storyline with an arc or two thrown it, it would’ve ticked all the boxes for me.

I still enjoy West’s writing style, it is so easy to fly through, and just descriptive enough to let your imagination fly.

This is the start of a trilogy of companion novels, so it may have felt flat because of setting up all the characters in this universe (but it didn’t really feel like that) so we’ll see what characters take the torch in the next few novels and how they stack up against ‘Love, Life, and the List.’

Only recommend for hard core West fans, and younger readers with a thing for contemporary romances.

Overall feeling: cute, but flat.

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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.

How reading sub-standard and low quality novels has bettered my writing…

…and things to look out for when I publish my own book.

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I see it all the time on Goodreads, readers DNFing a novel, and a review of a sentence or two saying how horrible the writing was. And that’s it.

Good for them. I’m not knocking anyone’s opinion. I’ve tried to give up on completing a novel, but my brain won’t allow me. I at least have to skim through so I can find out what happens and reassure myself that what wasn’t working continued throughout the book.

The biggest aspect of my OCD with reading is that I now turn even the worst reading experience into an educational endeavour. There are always good points and bad points in each story. What worked, what didn’t. I like to list how I would improve the novel as if I were an editor and about to publish the book under my own label – what changes would I want to make in order for me to sign my name to the title?

It’s helped develop a critical eye, and use these tools on my own writing.

So I welcome low rated novels in my reading habits. (But not on purpose.) It helps to hone my skills, pick up on things I hadn’t previously thought to identify in my own writing, editing, and publishing processes. Things like complex characters and character development, spelling and sentence structure, pace and tension are a given. But I have found elements in context, and writing style that I hadn’t noticed before. Issues with cover art, formatting, font size and style, information for the end pages, the quality of the physical book are starting to jump out more and more. Especially for self-published titles.

It has re-iterated how important it is not to rush the publishing process. Steps to take to vet and proof your work. And skills in marketing and market research you need to acquire to help make your writing a success.

I am slowly compiling a checklist for the whole writing to publishing process to put my own work through. Granted it is going to grow and evolve over my career as I gain more experience and insight.

Reading Substandard Novels has Improved my Writing Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleI’ve heard some of my friends say that it is a useless endeavour to read low rated books – that I should be focusing on top quality literature as something to aspire to. What’s wrong with doing both? I find glaringly obvious issues with my low rated book reading that I would have otherwise overlooked in top rated books. It’s like brushing up on the basics. High rated books give me examples of nuance.

It also helps stretch that editing muscle – a must for your own writing process. And helps to create not only a critical eye, but gets you in a frame of mind to distance yourself from your own writing. So heavy cuts and rearranging aren’t so gut wrenching. It helps you identify what is lacking so you can get that second draft even more polished.

It’s not about tearing down other authors writing, or striving for perfection in your own. It’s more about exercising the essential tools you need to improve the creative process. Creative flow is one thing – having it make sense and relate to a reader is an entirely different thing. That’s why we have rules in language, spelling and grammar; to help set a standard that everyone can build from.

So when I read something that makes me cringe for all the wrong reasons, I’m glad for the opportunity to identify what is not working for me and go about fixing it. Then I can mirror that exercise on my own content. It will help me grow – and hopefully keep the professional editing fees lower 😉

What is your opinion on completing novels that feel like a dog’s breakfast? Are you one to scrap it in and not waste your time, or do you at least have to see what happens at the end?

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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.

Wrap up – Burn for Burn Trilogy by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

What starts out as a teenage ‘First Wives Club,’ takes a surprising paranormal twist.

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In kicking things off in, the debut of this series introduces a lot of characters, and the multiple perspectives of Lillia, Kat, and Mary. So it took me a good portion of the novel to get into – I almost felt like taking notes so I could figure out who was who, and what was happening. However, the plot is interesting and with a hinted paranormal twist, I was totally engrossed. And just as things got interesting, it ended… So if you hate cliff hangers, make sure you buy this trilogy whole. I’d say ‘Burn for Burn’ was primarily world building (and way to many flashbacks) and setting up elements of the plot around intriguing characters.

The separation of ‘voice’ between the narratives of the three female leads were difficult to delineate, if it weren’t for the names of the girls in the chapter headings, I would not know who was taking charge of the first person narrative. The writing style also felt a little juvenile, but that is just my opinion and it hits the target dead in the eyes for its intended demographic.

Moving into the middle book is where this series hits its stride. The paranormal elements play a heavier part in the storyline, and there are so many twists, it feels like Han and Vivian are having fun with all the characters. With all the establishing done in the debut, pacing is upped and I was really enjoying this quick read. But again – another cliff hanger – so you’ve been warned.

The final chapter of this trilogy wrapped things up nicely, though very abruptly. And one thing that I noticed throughout this entire series, despite the tone of the writing style apparently directed at the younger end of the YA market, there was a ton of alcohol consumption. I felt like booking myself into rehab. The whole thing screamed ‘look at me I’m an adult’ despite the vain and vapid character portrayals.

On the whole this series was a mostly average read, but I loved the contemporary/paranormal juxtaposition in the plot. It felt unique, and with its Teen Vogue-esque cover art ticks all the boxes to be a teen favourite. Who doesn’t like a group of girls exacting revenge on bullies and ex boyfriends? It’s the tagline that drew me in.

I’d recommend this for lovers of YA or fans of Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. The tone and pacing may turn older readers off.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Burn for Burn’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/book-review-burn-for-burn-by-jenny-han-and-siobhan-vivian/

‘Fire with Fire’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/book-review-fire-with-fire-2-burn-for-burn-by-jenny-han-and-siobhan-vivian

Ashes to Asheshttps://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/10/31/book-review-ashes-to-ashes-3-burn-for-burn-by-jenny-han-and-siobhan-vivian/

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle© 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 – ‘Not Your Villain’ (#2 Sidekick Squad) by C.B. Lee

A sequel that super excels in all areas.

Not Your Villain (#2 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 307

From Goodreads:

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

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Not Your Villain’ was a fun read. A great superhero adventure with a social conscience.

I am definitely going to re-read this entire series once it has completed its release. With a diverse cast and a unique, almost Star Trek mentality on the human condition, I was engrossed from start to finish.

Where the debut ‘Not Your Sidekick’ followed Jess, in this sequel we are treated to another member of the gang…

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Our protagonist, Bells was written beautifully, a trans (F-M) protagonist was treated as a human being, never was his identification as being male brought into question. It was simply accepted and we got on with the story. I think the viewpoint on acceptance and diversity is what adds layers to the story that we don’t see enough of in YA. In reality, gender, gender identity, and sexuality should not be issues for difference, as neither should be the colour of our skin, nationality, able-bodiedness, metal agility, or how much money we earn. C.B. Lee manages to create an environment where all these prejudices are eliminated and gets on with a quirky, amazing superhero story.

The cast is dynamic, and so too is the future dystopian world where resources are scarce.

Lee’s writing style and humour shine brightly, and even with each of the characters being funny and sassy, they each have their uniqueness and all come together to form their own superhero group that rocks.

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The novels so far read more like origin stories, so the plot points we get about the universe – the roles of heroes and villains, the control of the Collective, are introduced, explored slightly, and then left for further development in a later novel. So I was immediately wanting to read ‘Not Your Backup’ (this time following squad member Emma) upon finishing, because there is just so much juicy aspects left to solve.

We get a lot of character study and development in each novel, but ‘Not Your Villain’ managed to increase the complexity and stakes from the debut. We are starting to see more interaction with the cast of characters, and uncover differing factions fighting for dominance over the region.

Because of the writing style, sassy characters and punchy subject matter, I flew through this book. But because it’s largely about how Bells handles his identity, and relates to the world at large as a superhero in training, and the main over arcing plot is still continuing through for the next instalment, I can’t comment too strongly on predictability, because most of the plot points remain unsolved. Though, I found this novel refreshing and brilliant and can’t recommend it enough.

Overall feeling: I totally geeked out!!

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Not Your Villain (#2 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 05 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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A fun standalone – a mix between science fiction, thriller, and paranormal. So far all of Dan Rix novels have been quick interesting reads. He’s co-authored a series with his wife Laura Thalassa which I’m eyeing off next.

Book Review – ‘Dreadnought’ (#1 Nemesis) by April Daniels

Comic book heroes, conspiracies and a social conscience.

Dreadnought (#1 Nemesis) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 276

From Goodreads:

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero.

Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl. 

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.

She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction. 

I loved this book because – hello superheroes – but also because of the diversity in its characters and unique perspective on the superhero genre. April Daniels brings together child-like fantasy and social commentary on identity, gender, and trans issues with ‘Dreadnought.’

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One point of contention, and even though this is an ‘own voices’ book, something about the start of Danny’s story and transformation did not sit well with me. She was oversexualised at times, and many of the cis-gendered characters reactions were so stereotypically gendered that I felt it was almost reverse discrimination… but then I realised that while the author was giving an authentic representation of the facets some transgendered youth experience, I think it was that the reactions were crammed into a short space of time, and that Danny’s physical transition was pretty much instant. Where in reality much of this is spread out over years and there is a much more diverse selection of attitudes from supportive and non-supportive people throughout the life of a trans person. So I think my issue comes from the science fiction side of things, rather than the underlying social commentary around someone’s transgendered experience.

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The introduction of Calamity/Sarah was a great tool for viewing the whole superhero industry and the role of villains with an outside eye. She also acted as a voice of reason and a level head that grounded Danny. Not to mention it felt like the only genuine friendship in the whole novel. Which is something ‘Dreadnought’ needed as Danny was essentially isolated from her transition.

Doc was in interesting character that merits a mention. The tech guru, patch-em-up, and gadget geek all rolled into one. While Doc was a great support (team) for Dreadnought, there were some obvious secrets being kept that had me wanting to keep an eye on Doc’s motives, despite being a trusted member of the gang.

But I loved all the issues that this narrative brought to light – and that it wasn’t all about being trans. It was about government conspiracies, complex characters, good versus evil; and all the shades of grey in-between, passing high school, making friends, confidence, and discovering how to take control of your life.

There were elements of body shaming and comments of hormonal emotional states that were a little off-putting for me. Danny kept saying she was the same person, but all of a sudden having a different outside did change her behaviour…it was a little contradictory.

The superheros deal: I loved how there was not a cut-and-dry side of who was good and bad. Each had their own motivations and none of them were all completely righteous. Just like people, we are all fallible, superpowers or not.

Daniels can craft some great fight scenes – I was glued to the page through it all, almost bobbing and weaving in my lounge chair. If that doesn’t give you a hint about how well paced this novel is… I completed it in a day! ‘Dreadnought’ definitely kept surprising me. There was so much going on. I really can’t say I predicted the ending at all. Instead I was just so swept up and engaged in Danny’s story that when I reached the end I was blinking in a stupor.

Great ending too, it resolved enough of the story to give me satisfaction, but teased enough for me to want to rush out and purchase the sequel. Which I did – I added ‘Sovereign’ to my shopping cart immediately. So stay tuned for a review on the follow up soon.

Overall feeling: Blown away – this is how I felt while reading…

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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.