Book Review – ‘Don’t Look Back’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout

A great story, but left me on the fence…

Don't Look Back Book Reivew Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all – popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it’s one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took “mean girl” to a whole new level, and it’s clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She’s getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she’s falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the truth about what happened to her that night isn’t just buried deep inside of Sam’s memory – someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

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This was a quick read. Mysterious. And the type of well written narrative I’ve come to expect from Jennifer L. Armentrout. A welcome change from the long, intimate and angsty titles she also writes.

I’ve been in the middle of three other books for a while, and though they are interesting and I’m enjoying them, my progress was sputtering and needed a novel that I could get through quickly, fast paced, and a story to keep me hooked – ‘Don’t Look Back’ was all that. And thank goodness, staved off the possibility of falling into a reading slump.

Don't Look Back Book Reivew Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gifI liked the aspect with memory loss, how Sam, our protagonist, was a blank slate and able to re-invent herself, leaving the mean girl she was behind. Her love interest, Carson is also another great excuse to indulge in ‘Don’t Look Back,’ gorgeous, loyal, and a voice of reason.

I was frustrated for much of the book, though, as Sam struggled to fill in the gaps of her missing memories. I’m kind of over the whole I have amnesia plot line. It’s overdone. To compound my dissatisfaction, Sam was a little dumb. She dismissed clues too easily, didn’t push and ask questions, and ignored her instincts most of the time. It was infuriating. I was so close to screaming at the book for her to wake up and do something. So I guess Sam engaged me really well – even if it wasn’t in the best way possible. And to that effect, I did not relate to her all that easily, but I loved the mystery she was trying to puzzle out.

The other thing that irked me is that I had guessed the entire plot very early on in the book. It was like I’d already read a summary somewhere. I don’t know if I picked up on the clues without difficulty, or if the narrative did a poor job at setting up the story, but it was difficult to really immerse myself in the novel when the plot was so glaringly obvious.

But I have a soft spot for Jennifer L. Armentrout. I have fallen in love with so many of her other books. I love her writing style – it has an easy tenor, and she manages to round out the cast members, giving them fantastic back stories. She is an expert at building tension and angst and always has a hunky love interest.

Don’t Look Back’ had shades of the television series ‘Pretty Little Liars’ and ‘The Lying Game’ so if you enjoyed those – this will be right up your alley. I’m on the fence if I’d recommend it though. It’s written in a tone for younger audiences, so possibly tweens would get much more out of it than I did.

Overall feeling: pretty good.

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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.

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I’m in the mood for a contemporary – and David Levithan never fails with a feel good read.

Book Review – ‘Why Not Me?’ by Mindy Kaling

Real life. Real empowerment. Said with a smile.

Why Not Me Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Memoir, Comedy

No. of pages: 240

From Goodreads:

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

In “How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions,” Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, (“Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn’t the land of appropriate–this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman’s traditional hair color is honey blonde.”) “Player” tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. (“I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.”) In “Unlikely Leading Lady,” she muses on America’s fixation with the weight of actresses, (“Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they’re walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.”) And in “Soup Snakes,” Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak (“I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.”)

Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper. 

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While ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’ was a collection of random stuff that was very much like taking a peek inside Mindy Kaling’s brain, ‘Why Not Me’ is like reading her journal. Though it in not as funny as the first book, it deals with topics of more substance. I still laughed out loud in parts, but appreciated her candor and insights – and really, truly, believe Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal. Without a doubt. Full stop.

Some parts of the narrative felt a bit waffly, and Mindy tends to wander off the topic many, many times. But that is her style. She is being genuine and true to her way of addressing the world. I actually appreciated it more than in the first book because it mirrors my own thought processes. My stream of consciousness doesn’t travel in a straight line, but jump all over the place before returning to the current topic. I’m like a dog whose attention is grabbed by a squirrel. SQUIRREL!

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I liked her musings over weight and food (and it should never be an issue – but it seems as women, our bodies will always be attached to our achievements. Sad but true.) Snippets of dating and making friends. Every nerd, book lover, outlier, goes through motions of doing ridiculous things to make friends, impress people, or try to fit in. Mindy’s honesty is like casting a gaze back into my own history and recognising a kindred spirit that has done many an idiotic and incidental event in order to have someone like me. Or something inexplicably random – just because – no reason… and wondered what the hell they put in the water to make me do or say such a thing. Damn Commie Bastards!

I liked her views on confidence, bravery and fear towards the end, but the reading did not feel as compelling as it should, and left the ending feeling a little flat.

But another, quick, enjoyable read from Mindy that will help enlighten other girls, women, and gay men around the globe to stand up and go for your dreams without sham and doubt. Recommended. That is all.

Overall feeling: Mindy always makes me want to dance.

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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.

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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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.

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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.