Book Review – ‘Beauty Queens’ by Libba Bray

Sarcasm all wrapped up in a pretty pink bow.

Beauty Queens Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Adventure

No. of pages: 396

From Goodreads:

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

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At first I thought ‘Beauty Queens’ was going to be a steaming pile of bat guano given the over exaggerated aspect of the narrative with immature and shallow characters, but then it got sarcastic, funny and ironic… and then a little weird.

Beauty Queens’ is unlike anything else I’ve read before, some parts, and bits of the dialogue were like eating glass because of the low-brow idiocy, and others shine with brilliant satire – though one would not work without the other… it’s campy & sarcastic. It’s also dramatic, enthusiastic, hyperactive, and flamboyant.

Following a collection of teenaged vapid beauty pageant contestants in a reality television show who survive their airplane crashing on a tropical island – some of the girls continue in pageant mode, while others break out of character and form survival skills on an unforgiving island.

Each character is unique and brings a lot to the table as far a diversity and comedy. Libba Bray includes a transsexual and lesbian character in her cast of unlikely marooned teens. Later, the addition of a group of boys – from a pirate television show, which is produced by the same team that mastheads the pageant: The Company.

It was a little difficult to get into at first because it has such a unique narrative style, after which I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek, over the top antics of ‘Beauty Queens.’ This is all about hi-jinx! Don’t expect anything serious from this novel, except for a big case of sparkly ponies, eye-rolling, and snorting.

We have ‘ads’ interspersed in between chapters as well, like a word from our sponsor – The Company (again) that added a fun touch.

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At first I thought it was going to feel immature, like it was pitched to a young tween market, but then with some of the references and content, I discovered that it wasn’t taking itself seriously at all. It was like a drag queen had taken over the stage and was entertaining me with vicious quips, reading the audience, and strutting her stuff while downing a VB. It’s obtuse and entertaining

I may have rated it higher if it allowed me to connect with any of the characters, or had some realism in it to help me care. Instead it was like a really long episode of a teen SNL cast. And on a side note – there is a hilarious epilogue that is the icing on the cake.

I loved the funny, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. But I am really looking forward to picking up another title by Libba Bray…

Overall feeling: sugar sweet, like vomiting confetti

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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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Deportment and Assassination – got me hooked! I picked up this collection recently and keen to see how good it is. If you see me whiz by pretending to hurl throwing stars and executing a somersault (while grunting and groaning), Keep Calm and Read On – because I’m just living out loud the fantasy… what girl doesn’t want to be a fierce mercenary while sporting a set of pearls and a french roll?

Book Review – ‘Shug’ by Jenny Han

Realistic fiction at its best with Han’s easy-breezy style.

Shug Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

SHUG is clever and brave and true (on the inside, anyway). And she’s about to become your new best friend.

Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is beginning to think there’s nothing worse than being twelve. She’s too tall, too freckled, and way too flat-chested. Shug is sure that there’s not one good or amazing thing about her. And now she has to start junior high, where the friends she counts most dear aren’t acting so dear anymore — especially Mark, the boy she’s known her whole life through. Life is growing up all around her, and all Shug wants is for things to be like they used to be. How is a person supposed to prepare for what happens tomorrow when there’s just no figuring out today? 

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Shug’ is cute and thoroughly enjoyable. It is everything that I’ve come to expect from Jenny Han. A young protagonist dealing with the pressures of coming of age. Moments of flightiness, misunderstanding and heartbreak. It’s all here.

Shug Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgShug, an affectionate nickname for out protagonist, Annemarie, is teetering on the edge of childhood, about to take the first steps of maturity and claiming womanhood. Her perceptions of gender roles, of responsibility, are that mix of naive and clear black and white… but as in life, nothing really works that way. So Shug has to find a way to learn to deal with it all.

Her best male friend Mark, and BFF Elaine are facing issues of their own. As they start to grapple with independence and carve out the person they want to grow into, it inevitably leads to distance. Distance from Shug. Somehow they have to navigate this predicament and determine what it means for each of their relationships.

Jack, (one of Marks best friends) also faces the same conundrum, but as Shug grows to learn more about him, soon discovers he is nothing like she first assumed.

Shug’s parents are grappling with difficulties in their own relationship as well – and this throws her compass for safety spinning.

All of this leads to an engaging read about life, relationships and saying goodbye to a part of your childhood.

The narrative is deliciously innocent, while the tone of the novel more melancholy. So, combined with Han’s smooth writing style and a slow but gradual build with pacing, ‘Shug’ braces at that edge of adulthood expertly. The story did feel a little flat – but I liked the simplistic plot and easy to read style (though it is targeted to a young audience). A pleasant read for an afternoon.

Overall feeling: sweet and pleasant, like a deep breath of fresh mountain air…

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.

Cheap Hair Hack to add moisture and re-condition your hair.

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It’s always nice to go to a salon, have the relaxing head massage and tended to with a lovely assortment of perfumed treatments followed by a gorgeous blowout to make your hair feel like brand new. You do that hair flip as you walk down the street feeling like a million bucks… and it certainly nearly cost that much. Then you feel guilty for having spent money on something so vain and frivolous.

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Well you shouldn’t you are worth it. Spending money on yourself every once in a while is not something you should associate with guilt. At the end of the day, we have to look after ourselves.

But, if you don’t have the cash to go out splurging when you want to. A handy tip you can do at home with the products you already have can give you that same new treatment feeling to rescue your hair.

I’m a hairstylist of nearly 40 years and have used this hair hack on myself many times. Instead of an in-salon treatment, or even going out and purchasing one from the store, you can use every day conditioner. That’s right, in damp towel-dried hair, slather in a generous amount, (plait it back if you have long hair) and leave it in overnight. I suggest to put a towel over your pillow to protect it.

When you rinse it out in the morning your hair will feel just as silky smooth as if you got an expensive treatment.

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You don’t have to do it overnight, of course. But I’m lazy, and busy, so it’s the only time I can spare to pamper my locks.

If you are spending the morning doing some house cleaning, you can add the conditioner to damp hair, then wrap some plastic wrap over the top – the heat your body temperature generates while tidying the house will help the process along. Rinse, then ta-da! Alternatively, if you have a day at home when you are not going to see anyone, add your choice of conditioner, put on a plastic shower cap and rinse out at night… how you get the job done isn’t important. As long as the conditioner remains in your hair for a decent amount of time, you should get results.

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Some conditioners can weigh the hair down for those with fine hair, but it helps seal the scales of the hair down to lock in moisture and give a shiny smooth appearance. You will see varying results with different brands of conditioners too. But as you already have some in your shower caddy – it’s free! And you don’t have to make time in your schedule to visit a stylist.

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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 – ‘Confess’ by Collen Hoover

Secrets and Art in an angsty contemporary tale

Confess Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: N/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 306

From Goodreads:

Auburn Reed has her entire life mapped out. Her goals are in sight and there’s no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a risk and puts her heart in control, only to discover Owen is keeping major secrets from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it.

The last thing Owen wants is to lose Auburn, but he can’t seem to convince her that truth is sometimes as subjective as art. All he would have to do to save their relationship is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin… 

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I really enjoyed this. It had a certain type of interconnected symmetry. Some of Colleen Hoovers past novels have been gut retching, destroying – but wonderful. ‘Confess’ was beautiful without being soul crushing. It was palatable, artistic and heart-warming.

Confess Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgWith alternating POV’s between hard working yet untrusting Auburn; and struggling artist Owen, as they both struggle to come to terms with events from their past and the feelings they share, it had a laid back narrative style which I read in two sittings.

Auburn was a great protagonist, she persevered. So many heroines possess strength and special talents, where Aubrun simply survived and battled on in any means she had. An understated kind of strength that not many see (especially in novels) today. It was a pleasure to share her journey and see her grow.

Owen was a little bit cliché – the quintessential hipster artist, but luckily we got to see more than just this trope. I have to say his sensitivity is what impressed me the most: but it was more about compassion for fellow creatures than being emotional (or emo). That too, has a special kind of quiet strength.

Trey, another person connected to Aubrun’s life, annoyed me from the first line I read about him – I can’t say entirely what it was that had me forming that opinion, but there it is. He also fell into a bit of a predictable cliché – but with Colleen Hoovers expert writing, she manages to breathe life into the story despite my first impressions of the cast.

As expected Hoover weaves an interesting narrative, slowly revealing secrets to uncover layer upon layer of complexity between the characters. I have to marvel at the reveals she performs in ‘Confess’ – I was literally gagging for more.

I also liked the occasional instances of humour that had me laughing out loud. I picked this up on a whim because I couldn’t get into another title and ended up finishing it in two days. I couldn’t put it down for long. It is so compelling and had me caring about Auburn and Owen.

Best contemporary that I’ve read in a while. And an added bonus was pictures of Owen’s artwork included in the middle of the book. A great novel to bust me out of a reading slump.

Overall reaction: A cool surprise.

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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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Been hearing great things about this novel, and I haven’t read anything “witchy” since ‘Beautiful Creatures,’ so I’m interested to see what ‘The Merciless‘ is like.

Plus the cover is gorgeous, textured hot pink with gold foil embossing – yes please!

WORD COUNT : Are you a numbers fanatic or measure your writing in stages?

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Many of my writer friends measure their daily progress by scribing a certain number of words to deem the day productive… and a few concentrate on finishing a scene or chapter – which one are you?

Personally I hybridize both of these concepts – I have a minimum of what I want to see written each day – 1,000 words (and that’s quality writing), but I aim to try and finish a chapter or scene each day. If you’ve read any of my blog articles on writing before, you’ll know I set ridiculously high goals for myself. Yes, rarely do I achieve the large volume of work I schedule – but when I do, it is a real rush.

But in this manner, I personally, achieve more than I would with lower goals. Smaller, more realistic goals lead to procrastination with me… I can catch up tomorrow, missing just one day is not too bad… and it just snowballs until a month passes and my performance is dismal. So I set huge tasks and take each day as it comes.

Are you a Numbers Fanatic Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gifA word count goal works on days of low creativity, or when I’m doing re-writes works well. Mainly because that way I can always count on a certain amount of progress on my manuscript; and in turn keep to a deadline. I feel it is important, so that publishers can have confidence in me delivering a completed book on time.

Plus, sometimes it just takes putting words on paper for inspiration to strike and I push past the creative glut and end up exceeding my goal for the day.

Alternatively, when my writing is really flowing, aiming to complete a scene or chapter works better. It’s a small bite of the novel that has a start, finish, and needs to hit certain plot points somewhere in between. Having that overall view and see it all come together gets me excited and keeps fuelling my enthusiasm. It also leaves me jazzed to tackle the next part in the story.

Are you a Numbers Fanatic Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI try to end my day on a high note too. Leaving excitement about what I’m going to write next. When I first started writing, I’d sit down whenever inspiration strikes; but ended up typing like a maniac for days and emerging out the other end like I’d been drip fed coffee while locked inside a tumble drier to write. And crash. For days.

It taught me the valuable lesson to pace myself. To not disappear for a week or so just because I had an idea. Many of these ‘episodes’ is what lead me to setting daily goals and scheduling my time appropriately. A writing hangover is not fun. I’m like a bear mid-hibernation with hunger pains and PMT. Totally not cute.

Plus, there were times towards the end of the writing sprint that I entered a delirium, and upon re-reading had me questioning my sanity.

The most important thing about having a goal, be it weekly or daily, is the fact that it makes you accountable for your writing – but – and I can’t stress this enough – don’t let it pile on any pressure if you are not getting there. Stress. Anxiety. Pressure. None of these helps in a creative situation (usually). It can kick off a downward spiral of ‘I’m not good enough.’ Or feed the frustration that you are unable to string words together. Not meeting a word count is not going to end your career or doom your novel to Hades. It’s merely a tool for you to measure progress and for publishers to categorize your finished product. A guide. So use it as such and let your mind free. Writing can be an emotional enough journey without adding another layer of expectation to it.

This whole activity is about tricking the brain into flexing its imagination on a daily basis so I can create a lifelong passion and habit of writing novels. And I’m forever learning and training. That attitude has let me handle critique and daily word counts with ease. It’s a concept as fluid and ever-changing as creativity is itself. But once you find that sweet spot, stick to it!

Happy writing 🙂

 

What tools do you use for meeting a word count or writing goal?

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.