Book Review – ‘Untouchable’ by S.A. Starcevic

Cute story, great writing, but too short.

untouchable-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, GLBT

No. of pages: 39

From Goodreads:

Unlike most people, Ethan Elliot never wanted to be a superhero. Nevertheless, when his powers flare up to save his life—and the lives of innocents—he has no choice in the matter. Plunged into a world of capes, costumes and derring-do, he’ll do what it takes to succeed. Even if that means casting away his old life to become someone else. Maybe even someone better…  

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Fun, campy, everything you’d expect from a superhero tale.

But ‘Untouchable’ was a little too short. There was little world building and hardly any time to give the characters’ back story or motivation. It just jumped straight into the action. The narrative has a comedic dry wit that is pleasing, and I wish this had been longer, more developed because Starcevic’s writing style is brilliant.

I staggered a little catching up with the lingo as well. Without the landscape being step up and time taken to explain the slang I was left re-reading parts to make sense of it all.

untouchable-book-review-pic-03-by-casey-carlisleIn the same vein, the relationship between Ethan (our protagonist) and Greyson didn’t have time to build, and felt rushed – forced even. I love the concept of gay teen superheroes, but we need more “story” for this coupling to truly shine.

Additionally, because of the plot being rushed along, some of the character’s reactions felt fake/forced. Would have loved this story to progress organically. It would have been brilliant. There is so much potential here, I was really hoping this could have been developed into a full length novel. With the campy, witty writing style I got to sample, it would become a fast favourite.

We get introduced to some interesting characters and superheroes. Their powers are fun (even if a little derivative,) but the tone of the novella is set early and you get a lot of punch for such a brief short.

Looking forward to the next installment, ‘Unmasked’ but given the authors publisher has gone belly-up, it’s uncertain when Starcevic’s work will be available for purchase again. I emailed the author directly to get an e-copy for this review. I’m keeping my eye on this one – great things could happen 🙂

Overall feeling: Brief, but brilliant.

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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.

Outback sleepovers (it’s called camping people)

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In a world where glamping is the ‘in’ thing today, back in the ‘80’s, growing up in the desert, one of the things we did for fun (and to get away from the parents) was good old fashioned camping.

You only had to travel five minutes out of town to find a spot if you wanted to – there’s not much as far as facilities outside of Alice Springs. Smack bang in the centre of Australia, surrounded by bush and desert. So, as teens if we didn’t go ten-pin bowling, attend a Birthday Party, have a video night, hang out at the Truck Stop, or visit the Speedway on a Saturday Night (alternatively, there was the Drive-Inn… yep there were no cinemas in those days – the fun was seeing how many people you could fit into your car, admission was $10 per car. After we parked up, it was like a circus automobile with dozens of teens exiting and heading to the cafeteria before the matinee started) In a small town everyone knew everyone else, so if you wanted to get up to no good – you needed to go bush!

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Our idea of debauchery was gossiping and telling ghost story’s around the campfire… and maybe partaking in whatever booze we could get our hands on. Which usually consisted of bag wine, West Coast Coolers, or Port. Oh how times have changed, I’d sooner stick my arm up a Yeti’s bum than partake in any of those beverages these days. But what can I say, we were teen rebels! Sometimes we’d also play Spotlight. Which is a form of tag, or touch-chasey in the dark, where the person who is “in” has a handheld torch and it’s everyone else who hides and tries to get close enough to touch the torch bearer (and hopefully scare the pants of them as well) without being “spotted” by a beam of light.

I’m undecided if these nocturnal activities sound lame or not. I think I’d still prefer such idiotic fun over scrolling through social media feeds on a phone for hours. The only thing that could entice me away was a good book. But hey, I am a huge nerd. #nerdpride

Taking anywhere between one and four cars, packed to the top of the windows with food, bedding, water and contraband, we’d randomly head off in a direction away from the prying eyes of our parents. Little brother’s in tow (usually the payoff for some bribe to keep his mouth shut from witnessing a previous indiscretion.) And we were free!

Usually our campsites were pitched in or around the numerous dry riverbeds that meandered the landscape. Our outback sleepovers were always eventful. It meant flirting with your crush (however ineptly in my case), and we could make as much noise as we wanted – no adults to tell us to keep quiet. Yay!

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But the outback is fraught with perils: poisonous snakes and spiders, large goanna’s, and other four-legged wildlife. We were survival savvy though, and nothing nasty ever interrupted our partying. The only notable incursions took the form of a dingo, riffling through our belongings as we slept, and took particular favour to my leather camera case… there were bits and pieces scattered everywhere when we woke the next morning. And the canine perpetrator sitting beside the car patiently waiting for another morsel when we cooked our (usually inedible) breakfast. Of course I had to wail “A dingo took my camera case” for a few laughs (if you don’t get that joke google Lindy Chamberlain.) Another encounter, and one that could have been dangerous in hindsight, was when we woke to find ourselves surrounded by cows. Close to a hundred of them. I opened my eyes to find a bovine staring back, stupidly chewing its cud, threatening to drop a huge gob of saliva on my forehead. We literally had to push the ambivalent things away, careful not to spook the herd and avoid getting trampled. Thank goodness no-one was stepped on overnight.

It was all in a night’s fun for this outback girl, until we discovered how to get fake ID’s and hung out at the only club that would permit us entry… but that’s another story.

I miss my friends, and our (mostly innocent) fun, and look forward to a reunion of the old gang later in the year – maybe I’ll dredge up some more humorous anecdotes to share… watch this space!

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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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This is going to be a tie-breaker for me. The ‘Across the Universe’ Trilogy was so-so and this novel will determine if I want to bother reading any more titles by Beth Revis. Fingers crossed its good. The premise of dream-walking sounds fun!

Book Review – ‘Survive the Night’ by Danielle Vega

A surprising read of rock chick goodness and terror in abandoned railway tunnels!

Survive the Night Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Horror

No. of pages: 263

From Goodreads:

We’re all gonna die down here…

Julie lies dead and disemboweled in a dank, black subway tunnel, red-eyed rats nibbling at her fingers. Her friends think she’s just off with some guy—no one could hear her getting torn apart over the sound of pulsing music.

In a tunnel nearby, Casey regrets coming to Survive the Night, the all-night underground rave in the New York City subway. Her best friend Shana talked her into it, even though Casey just got out of rehab. Alone and lost in the dark, creepy tunnels, Casey doesn’t think Survive the Night could get any worse…

…until she comes across Julie’s body, and the party turns deadly.

 Desperate for help, Casey and her friends find themselves running through the putrid subway system, searching for a way out. But every manhole is sealed shut, and every noise echoes eerily in the dark, reminding them they’re not alone.

They’re being hunted.  

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Survive the Night’ is like a teen horror flick – a gathering of rebellious youths track down an underground rave, get isolated and then picked off one by one. It’s a campy, scary, short book (fast read) and I felt like the story was only half way through when it ended… because I wanted more.

This girl was impressed with the cast of characters – nobody was perfect, and each had their own story to tell. A great way to draw the reader into the book!

Survive the Night Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgCasey (our protagonist and the novel is told through her point of view) is recovering addict who is slowly coming to terms with her illness and is taking responsibility for her condition and rectifying her life. It was nice to see how Casey’s perceptions, on and off drugs, shows an unreliable narrator at times. It added to the suspense and tension. I’d be dropping a load in my underwear if caught in abandoned underground tunnels with something hunting us in the dark.

The rest of her friends joining her for the adventure: Sam, the typical gorgeous lead singer type, has a great character arc well worth the read. Shana, the annoying druggy (passive aggressive) mean girl you love to hate. She had the most interesting personal journey of all.

And then we have Aya, the innocent (of sorts); Woody, the grungy musician; and Julie, the boy loving victim that sets off the chain of events… It has been a very long while since I’ve read such a diverse cast of personalities that felt so organic in the narrative. For this alone I highly recommend you give this book a go.

I liked how there were urban legends around previous disappearances in the tunnels that this group find the rave in after an extensive egg-hunt. The ‘big bad’ reveal was fun (a bit silly) but still scary and monstrous. I was shuddering and pulling my legs up onto the couch in several places – a sign of a well written book. There are only a few authors who have forced a physical fear response from me when reading.

Survive the Night’ is predictable on the most part as far as plot goes – who survives and who doesn’t – my initial thoughts were proven right; but I was thrown towards the end and changed my mind. Vega’s narrative lead me to a different conclusion, and then snatched it away. Loved that she had me questioning myself.

Such a fun exhilarating read. Vega’s writing style is punchy, cool and full of pop culture as you would expect from a YA horror. I would have rated it higher if there was more complexity in the story and less predictability.

Can I mention the cover art! I bought the hard cover and was struck by the design, bright colours, mixed with a skull covered in glitter- it so sums up the tone of the novel. Love the tactile feel of it too! A blurb on the back quotes “Page-to-page Stephen King style terror” and I’d have to agree.

I was a little confused at some of the low ratings I’ve seen this book get – it’s nothing other than what it states to be. A strong favourite for me.

Overall feeling: this gif of a baby sums up my reading experience…

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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 – ‘Drag Teen’ by Jeffery Self

A road trip with a sprinkle of glitter!

drag-teen-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

When life’s a drag, you gotta drag it up.

JT feels like his life’s hit a dead end. It looks like he’ll always be stuck in Florida, his parents are anti-supportive, and his boyfriend, Seth, seems to be moving toward a bright future a long way from home.

Scholarship money is non-existent. After-school work will only get JT so far. There’s just one shot for him – to become the next Miss Brag Teen in New York City.

The problem with that? Well, the only other time JT tried drag (at a school talent show), he was booed off the stage. And it’s not exactly an easy drive from Florida to New York.

But JT isn’t going to give up. He, Seth and their friend Heather are going to drag race up north so JT can capture the crown, no matter how many feisty foes he has to face. Because when your future is on the line, you have to be in it to win it, on fraught and fabulous step at a time.  

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I spotted this book on a friend’s blog and instantly knew I must have it! Teen angst mixed in with drag glamour and bitchiness – sign me up. So, it’s easy to see I had some expectations going in to ‘Drag Teen,’ but were they met?

This novel is an easy, fun read. Engaging. A bit too much postulating at times. But contains a nice message, even though, in my opinion, left out a lot of drag culture (and the real reasons people do it.) So while entertaining, not as fabulous as I hoped.

drag-teen-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleJT, our protagonist became annoying a lot of the time – seriously whiny – and that was the major factor keeping me from truly loving this story. It also felt like his motivations for the pageant, and doing drag, were flimsy. JT was also very serious. All the aspects we come to expect from drag – beauty, sarcasm and humour, living out loud… he failed to embody any of these elements, and it was difficult to see even why he wanted to embrace that world. Granted his fascination with RuPaul’s Drag Race is understandable, but I didn’t get the compulsion from the core of his being that he MUST do drag. His narrative was flat. I wanted passion, or wit, or at least an obsession with all things shiny and make-up.

The boyfriend, Seth in an incredible human being, and felt too good to be true. It was nice to see the cool, handsome jock smitten over a drag queen – because that hardly ever happens in real life, but I found myself looking for a fault, something to ground him and make him believable instead of a fantasy. Seth came off as stereotypical in nearly every aspect, and subsequently, a bit of a non-event for me.

The rest of the cast, while interesting, felt somewhat two dimensional.

At the heart of it all – the pay-off I was expecting – the draginess of it all, throwing shade, reading someone, artistic talent in concept and clothing design, and amazing make-up… all the stuff that epitomises drag was either barely there or completely omitted. Some big opportunities were missed to make this an outstanding novel. It is nearly making me want to knock a mark off the rating I’m giving. Though I liked the (small amount of) character development (even though some of it was simplistic.) ‘Drag Teen’ has a positive message, an entertaining plot, and kept me guessing what the conclusion might be right up to the very end with expert tension. So it has all the makings of a good story, but lacked in content and culture.

Additionally, the plot had a little too much happenstance for my liking. Things falling into your lap and coincidence feel like a cop-out. We want characters to overcome adversity, show some grit and passion for their goal. Can you imagine a drag queen in those circumstances – writing gold. But ‘Drag Teen’ missed her spotlight on that one.

I’d still recommend it solely based on the fact that there is such a small amount of literature out there on this subject matter, and feel it needs to be explored more – for the fun, the laughs, and diversity!

Overall feeling: kitch heavy

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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.