Bites, Blogging and Barfing

Bites Blogging and Barfing Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

I’ve had yet another brief hiatus from blogging – mainly due to another bout of food poisoning (seriously what is going on with restaurants around here?) I feel like I’ve really lucked out in my gastronomic explorations with 3 cases in the past 6 weeks. I’m a little gun-shy about checking out dining establishments now…

I also did some major gardening and landscaping. Feeling very proud of myself since I’m no green thumb, but it is satisfying to walk through the yard amongst brightly coloured flowers and solar lighting. It’s completely metamorphosed the place. It’s magical at night time. If it weren’t for the kamikaze mosquitos I may sit outside to do a little writing (oh well). I did sustain a gardening injury – and not from my usual incoordination – my guess is mites in the soil. I was bitten all up my arms, along the waist band of my pants and around the neckline of my shirt. There is also a few itchy spots on my face making me feel like a teenager with spots again. Normally it wouldn’t bother me, but they are unrelenting, making me want to scratch constantly. So for the past five days I’ve been bathing in Calamine Lotion.

In amongst my digging, planting and technicoloured yawning, I managed to read another six novels and get some writing done on the sequel to Smoulder (Embers). So, I’ve been productive even though nothing has appeared on the blog for over a week. The Book Reviews will be coming hard and fast so I can catch up (watch this space), and looking forward to settling back into a routine with the warmer weather starting to ease in.

Bringing you some new material soon… in the meantime, happy writing!

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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 – Earth Star by Janet Edwards

Jarra – that girl has to fake it until she makes it!

Earth Star Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science fiction

No. of pages: 374

From Goodreads:

18-year-old Jarra has a lot to prove. After being awarded one of the military’s highest honours for her role in a daring rescue attempt, Jarra finds herself – and her Ape status – in the spotlight. Jarra is one of the unlucky few born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Derided as an ‘ape’ – a ‘throwback’ – by the rest of the universe, Jarra is on a mission to prove that Earth Girls are just as good as anyone else.

Except now the planet she loves is under threat by what could be humanity’s first ever alien contact. Jarra’s bravery – and specialist knowledge – will once again be at the centre of the maelstrom, but will the rest of the universe consider Earth worth fighting for?

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I began this series last year in October after some serendipity scrolling titles on Goodreads. This sequel one-ups the debut (Earth Girl) and still manages to indulge in all elements of sci-fi without our lead character stepping foot off Earth soil. And I can’t wait to tackle the next in this series later in the year.

I liked Jarra better in this instalment, she is more confident and ready to accept her destiny. The plot line felt a little contrived, forcing the situation to make Jarra indispensable, and many of the mechanisms in the story adding to that were eye-roll inducing. You could really feel Janet Edwards shaping the path of the novel rather than Jarra experiencing her narrative organically. But nonetheless, I really enjoyed it, much like I would an after school special.

The story is unique, and even with the author pulling the strings for much coincidence, remained true to its core predicament – there was no ‘cop out’ and magical discoveries to change the story and make it more sensational. Which I felt added to the tension throughout, making it a real page turner.

We still get more of the site excavation and its unusual technological advances that were present in the first book, and Jarra gets to use her knowledge and military background (well, faux background) to her strengths. As well as seeing some expanded group dynamics and see her stepping outside of the school environment.

Earth Star Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There is still some lingo (and slang) which felt unnecessary, and many of the secondary characters lacked depth. But Edwards writing style possesses an easy flow that allows you to delve into the new world and enjoy the pace and action. With a few comical moments to lighten the narrative, I found I was hoping for more, and with any luck we’ll see the characters returning in the third book of the series, Earth Flight, and embellish this fun read. But overall an easy and entertaining read to spark imagination.

Earth Star still managed to surprise me, some plot twists I could see a mile away, and others came out of nowhere – so it’s not totally predictable. Still a series I’d recommend to a young adult audience with a love for science fiction. I loved the additional threat… or benign threat… that is woven into the series – masterful!

Earth Star Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Overall feeling: Pretty cool!

 Earth Star Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Earth Star Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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 – More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Total Recall meets Will Grayson, Will Grayson

More Happy Than Not Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 293

From Goodreads:

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.

Why does happiness have to be so hard?
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The story itself was great, and the way the plot unfolded – expert! However the narration felt cumbersome. Sometimes the material was a little in your face, but if fits with the setting of More Happy Than Not: future Brooklyn is rough and still has a deep-seated old timey sense of morality, making it detrimental to your wellbeing if you stray from the norm. That clashed a little with the youngsters casual attitude towards sex, but not sexuality… for a technological developed society all of these aspects did not gel together well for me.

Aaron Soto is wonderfully cute, altruistic and naïve. He has this purity of spirit whereby he navigated the world with a moral compass, somehow always guiding him to ‘true north.’ Like any journey, there are obstacles to overcome, and even those are unique in this story. I did get plenty of small surprises, but guessed the plot well in advance.

Thomas was adorable, and surprisingly non-pressuring for his age. It was refreshing to have a cast painted so realistically where you could find aspects to like and dislike for all. It really enhances the reading experience.

More Happy Than Not makes a quaint point in the face of self-acceptance. It reminds me of the day of reprogramming camps for gay and lesbians, except approached with a sci-fi angle. Such a wonderfully unique storytelling device.

More Happy Than Not Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Pacing felt a little slow, scattered with seeming inconsequential facts and side notes. In hindsight, a re-read would illuminate their presence, but from my initial experience, the writing style felt clunky and frequently meandering.

I’d recommend this to glbt and sci-fi fans alike. It’s an interesting novel apart from your typical futuristic or dystopian type of novel.

Overall feeling: so-so. Cool, but no swagger.

More Happy Than Not Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

More Happy Than Not Book Review Pic 05 by Casey CarlisleCritique Casey by Casey Carlisle© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.

Olfactory onslaught

The dangers of crappy first jobs…

Olfactory Onslaught Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

My very first job was at the age of 13 going on 14. I wanted a stereo and my parents said they would pay for half if I saved up the rest. Thinking I would start a paper route, or yard work on the weekends, the parents  figured it would be some time before I had the cash for the sound system of a generation (don’t forget, this was in the ‘80s, so big stereos were in – CD’d hadn’t been invented and massive collections of records and cassette tapes were all the rage.)

But my loving parents had momentarily forgotten how determined I can be. I still don’t know how I pulled it off, but I managed to land a job working at a shoe store, despite my youthful age and mouth full of metal and unruly red mop of hair (and the fact that I honestly looked like I was 10 years old).

It took me three weeks to collect the funds for my musical purchase and the ‘rents had to cough up.

That was when I discovered I could buy more things – big ticket items – in the same manner. Like a computer, or a car!

But there is a rub… I don’t think you understand how much of a challenge this was for me. Especially if your reading about it… Picture a small town in a desert climate with soaring temperatures, and remember this is a shoe store…

Got it yet? Sometimes it is a very stinky job!

Olfactory Onslaught Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Some of those Thursday nights and Saturday mornings were a constant procession of foot odours that had me using all my will power not to retch. It was enough to singe your nose hairs right off. Even though Hi-top sneakers were the bomb, plastic glitter gel sandals were quite popular… talk about petri dishes for sweat and toe jam strapped to your feet! And there I was crouched down on the floor amongst women insisting they were a size smaller than they were, and old men with ingrown or blackened toenails politely smiling.

I managed six months before quitting.  I think I’ll leave the stinky shoes to the enjoyment of my dog…

Olfactory Onslaught Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I did find another job shortly after, because those big ticket items were still surely set in my sights… but that’s another story.

Tales of a Temp by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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 – Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Getting lost in the High School Conversation – or just being lost in High School.

Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda Book Review Pic 1 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 303

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

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Blackmail, best friends, bullying, and a boy called Blue…

Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda Book Review Pic 2 by Casey CarlisleSuch a cute read!! (Yes it deserved two exclamation points.) With a mix of emails, text messages and playlists this is an easy to read narrative told from Simon Spiers point of view, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda had me glued to page after page. It’s funny, gripping and ultimately huggable.

Full of misunderstandings and character growth, this book conjures up an image of a baby duck in the pond… Simon being the baby duck, fluffy and cute, following the rest of the clutch across the surface, meanwhile underneath his feet are scrambling tremendously to keep up. It is a light coming of age story with witty and sometimes ironic dialogue, and holds a few surprises to grab your attention.

If I could deduct any points it would be for the repetition of ‘I mean,’ ‘seriously’ & ‘I can’t even’ – it made me feel like I was watching and re-watching an outtake reel of Lindsay Lohan bloopers.

There is plenty of teen angst without being over dramatic. I like the way Simon was able to explore his emotions and feel safe confident about it. It was nice to read, instead of the ‘whole world is going to end if they find out I’m gay’ vibe that some books have.

Simon, in addition to his love of Oreo cookie type deserts and coffee, is trying to sleuth out the identity of Blue – the only boy who he’s had a real connection with (even if it only exists online). I appreciate the fact that Becky Albertalli did not make this Simon’s only relationship, and allowed him to explore the world on a larger scale, even though his understated manner. The cast of characters are each driven by their own motives, mostly unknown to Simon, which I think adds another level of sophistication to the narrative.

Modern, loveable and a little bit kitsch, a definite recommend in my opinion.

Overall feeling: A big warm hug – fangirling!  *squee*

Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda Book Review Pic 4 by Casey Carlisle

Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda Book Review Pic 3 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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 – Anything Could Happen by Wil Walton

Authentic as hell.

Anything Could Happen Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 288

From Goodreads:

When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.

Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody’s in everybody else’s business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels – and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.

The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.

Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he’s got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained. 

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An awkward tale that is so sweet. It rings true to how we can all feel a little out of step as we battle through high school and adolescence. Even though this is a contemporary romance, I felt it had more to do with finding a happy place with who you are – accepting yourself – rather than finally getting the girl or guy; or a coming out story. Even though it’s all of those things, the undercurrent with Anything Could Happen is like a resounding boom. I loved it. It’s upbeat, quirky, and written to a familiar soundtrack. Halcyon (by Ellie Goulding) is featured prominently, and you can hear the lyrics singing up at you from the pages.

Anything Could Happen Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleWith an easy to read narrative, this is one of my favourite GLBT books at the moment. I’ve read half a dozen in this genre in the past month to experience a protagonist apart from young heroines – and it’s been fun. Walton’s book is a positive story, much like a warm hug, but oozing realism. A totally authentic account of Tretch’s journey. I particularly loved how he danced without abandon in his room… so cute!

The cast (notably Tretch’s family) are beautiful and very prominent in the story line and not in the periphery like in much of YA. And while there were some surprises around their story, the plot is a little predictable. But in a good way.

I’d definitely recommend this book for an afternoons reading in the sun – something to leave a smile on your face.

Overall feeling: I’m happy to be me!

Anything Could Happen Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Anything Could Happen Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.

Formidable girls

Formidable Girls by Casey CarlisleFinding great female role models in life and literature.

There came a tap-tap-tapping and a screeching of wooden fingers along the roof during a windy night. It was disconcerting when strange noises echoed from outside in the darkness, and while I didn’t strap on my black leather and wave a trusty crossbow – no sensible girl would venture into the pitch black bushland alone –  I was resolved to rectify those ominous sounds come daylight. Some tree was going to get a severe haircut!

I love reading novels with strong female leads. I also lose myself in writing, about independent self-minded young women as protagonists. But does that translate into real life? Do readers feel empowered, or is it all simply living out a fantasy, stepping into someone else’s shoes for a fleeting moment?

I’d like to think it’s that and more!

I’m not taking down demons or an egalitarian government, but lopping off a few limbs of a tree. Courage and determination came from within. Constructed from images of my mother, my girlfriends, movies and, yes, my reading. It’s not about obnoxious ultra-feminist girl power, but the strength to look after and be proud of myself.

And that translates to looking for a partner, or friends (both male and female, or in-between) that embrace this power also. I don’t want to be treated like a princess, I don’t want someone making decisions for me. I want to carve my own path and share that experience with others who are doing the same.

My man friend/slave loathes it when I do things traditionally reserved for the masculine – you know, like heavy lifting, gardening, lawn moving, fixing a leak, moving furniture… you get the picture. Needless to say, that is what most of our disagreements are over – me emasculating him. It doesn’t help that he is old school and he feels it’s disrespectful to let a lady do manual labour.

But today, with no man friend to help out, I had to complete tasks on my own (as I did before he started to help out; and every other time he goes home or to work). Pulling out a chainsaw and pruning the suspect tree which had become annoying – I thought – heck, I’m as bad-ass as Buffy or Katniss.

Yes this train of thought is all a little too altruistic; but don’t you think it’s worth it. All of us being equal. Blind to gender, sexual orientation, race, social status…

And all of that from a plethora of wonderful women in my life and in my literature.

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.