Book Review – Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Capturing misshapen love across International borders.

Isla and the Happily Ever After Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 339

From Goodreads:

Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last? 

Hopeless romantic Isla has had a crush on introspective cartoonist Josh since their first year at the School of America in Paris. And after a chance encounter in Manhattan over the summer, romance might be closer than Isla imagined. But as they begin their senior year back in France, Isla and Josh are forced to confront the challenges every young couple must face, including family drama, uncertainty about their college futures, and the very real possibility of being apart. 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I was both dubious and eager to jump into ‘Isla and the Happily Ever After.’ I did enjoy the previous two novels in this series, but wasn’t really blown away like many of my friends, so I started reading with trepidation and low expectations. However I was keen to complete the series and see how it all wrapped up. I’d heard that the characters from the other books all made brief appearances in ‘Isla’ and wanted to see if my love for this series would grow.

For some reason, I related to Isla and Josh a lot more than I have with any other characters throughout this series. Stephanie writes some very interesting and quirky characters, but Isla and Josh were somewhat more vanilla, and something I liked. Not that they were boring, but it was easier to put myself in their shoes. These two also felt younger and more innocent than the likes of Anna, Lola, Etienne and Cricket, and had an adorable story.

Isla and the Happily Ever After Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe build of the relationship between Isla and Josh felt more realistic this time – like it mirrored my own high school first love – not that is happened anything like their story, but the emotions were identical. The desperation and need to be together and the devastation when you are forced apart… This is by far my favourite Stephanie Perkins novel to date. She managed to capture the tension of first meeting/ first love brilliantly on the page.

One failing was that it felt slower to get going that the other two – I ended putting it down for a break just under half way.

It was a delight to get snippets of Lola, and Anna (and their beaus) here also – like a glimpse through a crystal ball to find out what happens after the books had ended. Additionally, viewing them from another perspective helped round them out even further and proved to be a valuable inclusion to the narrative.

I lurved the ending and how it drew in elements from the entire trilogy to wrap it up nicely – very cute and melancholy. It left me feeling satisfied and like the journey through this trilogy was worth it.

A pleasant end to a series, though pacing somewhat dragging, I was delighted and would recommend this to anyone who loves a contemporary romance with a quietly embellished writing style.

Overall feeling: Just beautiful!

Isla and the Happily Ever After Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Isla and the Happily Ever After Book Review Pic 04 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 – What They Always Tell Us by Martin Wilson

You can’t run away from life, your problems, or puberty….

What the always tell us Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 293

From Goodreads:

JAMES AND ALEX have barely anything in common anymore—least of all their experiences in high school, where James is a popular senior and Alex is suddenly an outcast. But at home, there is Henry, the precocious 10-year-old across the street, who eagerly befriends them both. And when Alex takes up running, there is James’s friend Nathen, who unites the brothers in moving and unexpected ways. 

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What They Always Tell Us” is a scrappy dark horse of a novel with a strong sense on how those gossipy conversations that take place behind closed doors can impact a life. How the struggle to keep up appearances can weigh down and debilitate. That living one’s truth is the only way to find happiness. And although this books deals with issues of coming out as gay, these same points apply to the rest of the cast in varying degrees. Being so invested in what other people think is crippling.

Having said that, this book is not heavy, it’s light and comical with a serious undertone. The characters are realistic and likable; I felt like I could walk down my street and run into any one of the cast.

Brothers Alex and James’ journey epitomises issues we all face, and the narrative is clever. The dilemmas they tackle encompass many questions we face coming into adulthood and discovering what we are made of. The point which is cleverly made, is that coming out is universal, not just for individuals grappling with sexual identity. Their relationships feel organic and rings true to many friendships that I had in high school. Sometimes you simply see things differently and your perspective on life changes.

I too grew up in a small town and could not wait to get out.

The growing relationship between Alex and Nathen is so indicative of discovering love and coming out in high school, I found it poetically beautiful.

Henry, the ten-year-old neighbour is a breath of fresh air, and a voice of reason. Even though you can see his cogs turning during moments of quiet stoicism, his blatant honesty cuts right to the heart of so many issues.

I really liked the dual perspective in this novel – and the fact there is more than one story line. With so much going on, I was surprised that it felt a little flat. Even the ending was somewhat anticlimactic. I wanted something poignant or symbolic of their growth (other than graduation).

I have a lot of praise for this contemporary for its realism. But I guess with realism, you lose that fantastical happy ending – because, well, life goes on…

A fast melancholic read. Understated.

Overall feeling: quietly cool

What the always tell us Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

What the always tell us Book Review 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.

In for the long haul?

Writing a stand-alone or beginning a series… what do you picture at the starting point?

In for the long haul by Casey Carlisle

With NaNoWriMo in full swing, I wondered how many of us writers sit down and have full intention of composing a series, or is it merely a case of the story growing larger that we first intended, leading us to subsequent volumes?

It is a bit of a mix with me (as art and the creative process always is). I remember starting my Smoulder series with every intention of it being a trilogy. I had the story of my Firestarter mapped out. But upon reviewing, I completely changed the direction of the plot and added in a whole lot more, afraid it was being too generic… and a four book story line emerged. You could put all of that down to a little self-doubt and exposure to countless reading hours of YA. I think my reading habits (market research) helped me identify major plot problems before I got too deep into the writing process.

The For keeps duology was initially one book, but fears that it would end up being a mammoth book and not lucrative for a budding author, I split it in to two volumes. It was fairly easy – There is definitely a break in the middle of the story where things change in context and was perfect tone for a GLBT contemporary novel to end (and pick up with a second instalment). As it was my first attempt at a completed novel (there had been MANY different books written beforehand but abandoned after 30 or so pages in), it needed the most work. It’s been re-written and edited to death! I’ve found that leaving it for 6 months and coming back with fresh eyes for a final edit to be the saving grace.

A science fiction series (LONERS) I started early last year popped into my head fully formed as a four-book series. It is structured a little differently to a traditional series, where either of the first three books can be read as stand-alone, companions, or out of order. That’s the beauty of sci-fi – you can mix things up a little. This experience has really flipped my attitude towards writing and made me realise that finishing a novel can be a quick, easy and rewarding experience. Or maybe that’s be buying into my own insanity :p

In for the long haul 03 by Casey Carlisle

And finally, the re-boot trilogy started from a few scenes in my head, and evolved into three books… and I’ve yet to decide between one of two different directions this series could take.

And so… I had books that have grown into a series, and those I plotted that way from the outset. Additionally I have some titles which could quite easily become a series, but none of the characters have raised their voices with a desire to continue their adventure as yet.

I’m always amazed at creativity and how it just shows up.

Most of the time I simply just sit and write, no planning, just me and a blank page where I’ll scribe away for hours. Then, if it feels like something, I’ll go back, tidy it up, add to it, and eventually plot out a novel, or series. So, out of 23 concepted works in progress, only two were forecasted as a more than one book franchise.

I’m really great at organising things, and could quite easily plot out everything I write before a letter appears on the page, but find I lose my characters voice that way – and consequently, my passion for writing. Plus I like to keep the work malleable, open to change or exploring other arcs. The debut in the For keeps duology deviated into a major arc that added so much to the story (and how it came about to be a duology) that I’m greatful I let the story stray from my initial imagining.

Who knows if what I’m writing is any good or makes any sense – but the point is: I have to write. I write for me. To be entertained, to escape, to laugh, to vent (and the list goes on…)

In for the long haul 04 by Casey Carlisle

And I’ve committed to the decision to give this writing thing a professional go.

In for the long haul 05 by Casey Carlisle

I guess everyone’s process is different, but I simply wanted to share mine and am interested to learn of other author’s process. How do you write a series? Do you need some major brainstorming before beginning, or does it just happen?

Smoulder series by Casey Carlisle

re-boot trilogy by Casey Carlisle

LONERS series by Casey Carlisle

For keeps duology by Casey Carlisle

Stand alone titles 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 – We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

Summer has come to an end.

We'll Always Have Summer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Comtemporary

No. of pages: 219

From Goodreads:

It’s been two years since Conrad told Belly to go with Jeremiah. She and Jeremiah have been inseparable ever since, even attending the same college– only, their relationship hasn’t exactly been the happily ever after Belly had hoped it would be. And when Jeremiah makes the worst mistake a boy can make, Belly is forced to question what she thought was true love. Does she really have a future with Jeremiah? Has she ever gotten over Conrad? It’s time for Belly to decide, once and for all, who has her heart forever. 

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The final instalment to the Summer trilogy – something I enjoyed and appreciated the way it all culminated, but not a series I was particularly in love with.

We really see Belly grow up. Literally and figuratively in this trilogy, and I am happy to discover the woman she turned into after the stubborn and naive girl in ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty.’ Her trait of burying her head in the sand, going boy crazy and disposition to storming about and a stubborn streak had be wanting to put the book down several times. Though the vivid landscape of the Summer House, the well written cast and realistic portrayal of life is what kept my interest. So while I may have had issues with the protagonist (and her love interest(s)), the overall story is beautiful. It’s about growing up, loss, and love.

Life is messy – and so is Belly’s story.

We'll Always Have Summer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Another quick summer read, and even though it is angsty and deals with death, it is still light enough to enjoy on a banana lounge in the afternoon sun. Jenny Han’s writing style in supreme in its ability to lavish the surroundings but deliver characters and their dialogue in a matter-of-fact way. The story line is predictable in that, it concluded with only ending it could have really – I liked it.

Overall feeling: happy/sad… just like the end of summer vacation.

We'll Always Have Summer Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

We'll Always Have Summer Book Review Pic 04 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 – Gone by Lisa McMann

Bringing new meaning to sleeping your life away.

Gone Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, Paranormal

No. of pages: 214

From Goodreads:

Things should be great for Janie—she has graduated from high school and is spending her summer with Cabel, the guy she’s totally in love with. But deep down she’s panicking about how she’s going to survive her future when getting sucked into other people’s dreams is really starting to take its toll.
Things get even more complicated when she meets her father for the very first time—and he’s in a coma. As Janie uncovers his secret past, she begins to realize that the choice thought she had has more dire consequences than she ever imagined. 

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It took me a while to pick up this final book in the Wake Trilogy… mainly because, even though I enjoyed the first two books, I wasn’t all that invested in the story. That, and I wasn’t sure if this conclusion would do the series any justice.

Well, ‘Gone’ totally blew my expectations away.

I enjoyed this much more than the other two – maybe because there was less forced lexicon to connect with the YA audience, maybe because it wasn’t so over the top, or maybe because a lot of questions got answered. It has been two years since I read the previous novel, ‘Fade,’ and I think the break did me some good.

There is always plenty of action and controversy in these novels. And yes, the writing style annoyed me, but ‘Gone’ was better in all accounts in comparison to the previous two instalments.

I enjoy the bitter-sweet of this series – how Janie’s ability comes at a cost, and she has to weigh her conscious over whether to use it for good, bad or try and supress it. It gives her an inner strength that I really respect. In the start of the series, Cabel was continually coming to her rescue, but by this book, they were in more of a symbiotic, equal relationship.

I have a love/hate affection with this series. The premise is great, but the writing style, juvenile; and some of the mechanics in the plot a little too convenient or fantastic. The mythology of Janie’s ability is organic, and I loved how it is spread throughout all three books, and some questions don’t really get answers, although we get some resolution in Janie’s acceptance of her fate.

The real crux that lifted this book above the rest for me was that there is more character development and spiritual dilemma, moving away from the action/conspiracy centred story lines in the start of the series.

While not an outstanding novel, it provides a satisfactory culmination to Janie’s predicament, and we really get to see her shine. A great fast paced read with a paranormal twist.

Overall feeling: Yes!

Gone Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Gone Book Review Pic 02 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 – Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

A tale that sparkles in more ways than one.

Lola and the Boy Next Door Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 338

From Goodreads:

Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. When Cricket, a gifted inventor, steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door. 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I was really looking forward to jumping into this series by Stephanie Perkins after all the wonderful things said about it on Goodreads and from my friends and family. I do like a fun contemporary on occasion – and fun is exactly what ‘Lola and Boy Next Door’ is.

It is quirk to the max! Lola, Cal, all the things.

It took a while for me to get into as the first half felt slow. Although Perkins paints a colourful landscape of San Francisco that jumps from the page and is just as bright and blinding as Lola herself.

Lola possess a strength around not giving up her identity (or childish things – well things that could be viewed as childish) which really labels her as an outcast. She is the embodiment of a true artist – they see the world a little differently – and that difference is the thing that brings us joy and other scopes of emotion. And we get all these feels from Lola as she meanders through high school expressing herself through fashion and design.

Lola and the Boy Next Door Book Review Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleCal, one of the twins who has moved back next door, is quirky in his own way – and behest to say, did feel a bit of a weak character – but that’s Cal – introspective and intelligent. He has his own subtle way of expression, and you can see it is much like that of Lola’s (but less extreme) and we get a real connection and appreciation of their passions.

Honourable mention of Lola’s functional, wholesome family with gay parents. You really got a feeling of safety and security wrapped up in a big bubble of love.

As I mentioned earlier the pacing felt slow, but leant to Lola’s relationship growing at a slow burn… and completely adorable. I wasn’t as invested in these characters though. ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’ is pleasant enough, but it didn’t grip me as much as other contemporaries. But this is a great summer read – light, happy and loveable.

Ending was hella-cute – it brought together a lot of what our cast offered into a heart-warming event and has to be the single thing I liked the most about ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door.’

I’d recommend this to my friends, it has plenty of charm, won’t have you bawling your eyes out, but leave you feeling like you’ve just had a really good hug. A great follow up to ‘Anna and the French Kiss.’

Overall feeling: Has an okay charm

Lola and the Boy Next Door Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Lola and the Boy Next Door Book Review Pic 02 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.