Book Review – ‘The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love’ by Sarvenaz Tash

Fanboys, fretting and fabulousness.

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Archie and Veronica. Althena and Noth.…Graham and Roxy?
Graham met his best friend, Roxy, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.

But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.

When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be…even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones. 

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Maybe because it was all about geek culture. Or that it’s been a while since I’ve read a contemporary. Maybe it was about falling in love with your best friend. Or maybe because it was all about some fun, complex characters… ‘The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love’ is everything I want in a contemporary in fell in instant lust with this story.

I must admit, I bought this on the recommendation of another book blogger. It sounded cute and interesting – and while it proved to be just that, I wasn’t compelled to start reading it as soon as it arrived in the mail. I picked it up after completing a previous disappointing title and was hinkering for a quick, happy contemporary.

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love’ really surprised me. It was instalove in real life. And I mean that in a good way… It was like a re-telling of something that happened to me going through those awkward years in high school.

The cast of characters are anything but adorable. I wanted them all to be my best of friends. Our protagonist, Graham and his bestie, Roxanna worked together tirelessly creating their own comic book, swooned over fan fic and lived in Znation.com chatrooms (a fansite for their favourite comic series.) That aside, they had a collection of great friends and performed well at school. There was no bullying culture, no heavy load of pressure, and even the teen angst was at a tolerable level (even if I like some teen angst.) All of this let the characters personalities shine and gave the narrative written from Graham’s point of view a breezy quality. It really lets you inside his head and the discover the world of NYCC (New York Comic Con) through his experiences. Talk about geeking out.

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The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love’ also had a subtle way of deconstructing its characters and preconceived ideas, as it does about the world the cast experiences NYCC. This is probably one of the stealthier aspects to the novel, where other symbolism may stand up front and centre, and blatantly pondered over by Graham.

I would have liked to have gotten some more wit or humour. It is discussed at several points in the story how funny Graham and Roxy are in their joint comic creation. And there are amusing points in the novel too, but I was hoping for more of their humour to spill in the narrative, and not some elusive skill we never got to experience. That, and I also wanted to have the emotional dilemmas turned up a notch. The framework was there, but Graham’s reaction felt a little tranquilized. (Maybe it’s a guy thing?) But these small points are what drew me back from awarding a perfect rating.

Female representation here is wonderful. They all have soft edges, but also dominant and fearless, where others are innocent or even uncertain. There was so much to be thankful for where stereotypes had been avoided. I think that’s is why I’ve rated this book so highly.

Aggressively recommend this book – it’s fun and not all too long, has an uplifting story and chock-full of nerdy goodness.

Overall feeling: This was simply wonderful.

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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.

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Book Review – ‘When’ by Victoria Laurie

A fantastic find!

when-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Mystery

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.


Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client’s young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.

Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie’s whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it’s too late?

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I read this completely off the recommendation from friend and book blogger; it’s not something that would have jumped out at me normally, but was glad I got a chance to experience the writing styles of Veronica Laurie.

When’ is a paranormal mystery where our protagonist, Maddie, has the ability to see the dates of when people will die. That in itself was enough for me to pick it up. Such an intriguing premise with great possibility. At first I thought it might be a superhero origin story of sorts, or even a quest-like tale, but it went in a direction I did not expect.

Maddie is quiet, I like my main characters with a bit of sass, or attitude. Even her family possess wilting personality traits that paint a deteriorating picture for her life, let alone the added pressures from hiding her supernatural gift. Thankfully the pacing is superb throughout and we don’t get to dwell too long in her despair before things get interesting.

Maddie’s character does grow and develop, but you don’t realise it until the final chapters, her strength and confidence are brought about through necessity in an understated manner. I found that I really enjoyed this writing style, it was elegant.

The story line – being accused of murder, the discrimination, dealing with the law and policing organisations – had moments where it felt far-fetched, or serendipity, that had me screwing up my top lip. But on the whole ‘When’ was extremely engaging. I was right there along with Maddie in her hatred and frustration over the process of the legal system, and the attitudes of the agents investigating her case. It felt all too realistic. So too, was I fed up with the actions of her mother suffering from alcoholism… I just wanted her to pack her bags and leave all that shiz behind. It did a great service to building tension and setting up a wild ride climax.

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Her best friend, Stubby is who really shined for me – even though he was goody-two-shoes and the best friend from childhood, Laurie was not afraid to let him fall. It added such a twist of realism to the story I was totally engrossed and invested in both Maddie and Stubby’s future.

There are so many coloured emotions that popped up for me. Donny, the responsible uncle, the rock in her familial world. Mrs Duncan, the elderly next door neighbour was the heart, and the guy you love to hate, but don’t quite, Agent Farraday. It’s been a very long time since I loved all the cast in a book of this genre, Usually the tropes and stereotypes inch their way in somewhere. Admittedly, there is a bit of that in ‘When,’ but it’s not a dominant aspect to the story.

The main things that detracted from the reading experience for me was around some of the roadblocks our protagonist faced – it was a little too contrite. And I was waiting for some mythology or even some global impact in the light of someone with her ability. Just a paragraph would have satisfied me. But alas, it was completely ignored in favour of the mystery storyline.

I completed the novel in one and a half days – so it’s pretty easy to get sucked into and you’re always left wanting to find out more at the end of each chapter. I won’t say it’s predictable, but I did guess the ending well in advance, though there is plenty of convincing doubt cast in the murder mystery that had me second-guessing for a moment. It’s an interesting little standalone for me, and something I’d recommend because it all ties up nicely and you don’t have to buy into a series.

I was intrigued by the author and her story, and looked at some of her other titles, but will probably leave it at this one. As interesting as her background is, and how well she can craft a story, it looks as though that niggling answer around mythology and repercussions of the gifts and elements she writes about are not addressed in her stories – and that’s something I feel is important to a narrative. A great mystery with a twist – give it a go!

Overall feeling: A diamond in the rough

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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.

Fit for Writing

Ever since I took the plunge and started taking my writing seriously, long hours at the keyboard have resulted in an expanding waistline. Now, the imaginative prose I churn out have thickened into a spare tyre around my mid-section.

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So I started exercising, not only to keep my body fit, but my mind fresh and pumped full of endorphins – only it didn’t work. The pounds kept creeping on. I was starting to feel like I had been cursed. *shakes fist at the sky*

I eat healthy, exercise regularly and felt I was doing everything to keep that trim body, but it just wasn’t happening. The same thing I used to do in my 20’s and 30’s has stopped working. After speaking to a doctor and then a fitness trainer, I discovered women of a certain age (I hate that phrase) go through a major hormonal shift, and weight gain happens to be a consequence.

Great. But what if I don’t feel comfortable with the extra weight, what if I’m concerned about an increased risk of diabetes or other health issues? I can learn to love jiggly bits, as long as it is not at the cost of my health and lifestyle.

All is not lost. With this shift in metabolism and body chemistry, I’ve been told I need to change tactics – cardio will no longer help shed the pounds alone. I need to be doing some weight training. It works, but be warned – it’s much harder to achieve.

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So I’ve begun the new regimen… it’s still too early to see results, but I can tell you, those aching muscles during the two days after a workout are a killer. I mean it. I hobble around like an old woman in pain moaning and groaning. Having to sit down and get up is particularly challenging…and don’t get me started on climbing the stairs. I went to the toilet and felt like I was going to have to call for a crane to lift me up and down. I’m really starting to hate exercise. How long will this pain go on? I think I’d rather keep my added padding and forgo the torture. That is, until I get dressed and my clothes are hugging a bit too tightly.

I swing from depressed, to feeling ugly, to determined and motivated at the flip of a coin lately. It’s hard to write when your belly hits the table, constantly reminding you that it’s time to trade in your wardrobe for the next size up. Or your friends are worried you’ve fallen pregnant ‘at your age.’

Sheesh. When did I get so worried about the way I looked? Where is my female empowerment?

fit-for-writing-pic-03-by-casey-carlisleIt’s really got nothing to do with other people finding me attractive, or fitting into a certain dress size, or hitting a particular number on the scale. It’s about being able to bend over and tie my shoe, being able to step easily into my nickers, and not have them ride up uncomfortably to unmentionable places, wedged in by slabs of cellulite. It’s about feeling vital and young, about that headspace that is clear of doubt and a nasty voice calling you fat and ugly. It’s about me.

That’s half the challenge –getting over your own crap. Finding the motivation to keep going. Even though it’s getting harder, bit by bit you can get there. Soon the clothes will fit, you’ll feel better and productivity will rise because you are happier. But you could be happy as you are without losing the weight, if you can change your attitude. Though it is hard when society’s beauty standards are thrown in our face every second in a modicum of ways.

There is so much wrapped in my head in trying to shed these pounds.

The other part is time. If I am a writer, I should be spending the bulk of my day writing. But daily chores, marketing, blogging, socialising, and of course, now exercising, keep demanding attention. It adds further frustration and impacts on my frame of mind when I stare at a blank page. Who needs this typhoon of detritus spinning in their mind when they are trying to focus on their manuscript? Not me. No sir. It’s enough to turn me to drink. Another champagne thank you!

I’ve written a few articles on health and fitness, and a few about time management – all focused around my headspace, wellbeing, and time for following my passion. And let’s face it, I’ll probably still drop an article here and there on the same topic, because the problem will still be here. It’s a part of life, and we can’t write it away. Though writing about it does help release some negativity, remind me what is important, and keep the issue in perspective. I choose to never give up, keep striving for that balance. For that fulfillment. Sometimes it’s hard work, but I’d rather keep my eyes on the horizon than stare at the ground around my feet and go nowhere.

So, to all of my fellow writers out there who stumble across roadblocks, stay strong!

Stay Calm and Keep Writing!

UPPERCASE lowercase banner 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 – ‘Not Your Sidekick’ by C.B. Lee

Comic book heroes that leap from the page.

Not Your Sidekick Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, GLBT

No. of pages: 262

From Goodreads:

Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether. 

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There is a lot of fun to be had reading this book. ‘Not Your Sidekick’ is choc-full of superheroes, has a diverse cast, and some plot twists that come out of nowhere. Learning about a dystopian earth in the future suffering affects from a solar flare, and humans presenting powers (called meta-humans) run by the government as superheroes. That’s a pretty cool premise.

The first half of the book is a little slow, but still compelling. Mixed with a lot of humour and comic book styled tales, it didn’t bore me at any point. Lee’s writing style is witty and fresh, tapping into the psyche of a sullen confused teen expertly.

If the mention of super heroes hasn’t tipped you off – I’ll tell it to you straight. Expect campy goodness. Cheese and moments that are way over the top. It comes part and parcel with this genre.

not-your-sidekick-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleOur protagonist, Jessica Tran, an Asian bisexual high school student, with just the right mix of confusion, vulnerability and sarcasm to keep me glued to the page. I did find however, due to a few things in the storyline, she can come across as a little dumb at moments – which doesn’t work well with the fact she performs well at school and her new job. I think the author needs to revise that plot point so Jessica doesn’t appear so stupid. Her anxiety over approaching her crush was spot on – I felt all the angst right along there with her. The addition to a great relationship with her parents (also meta-humans) and two best friends, was refreshing. There was no “poor me I’ve suffered so much“ going on with Jessica. She was just a regular insecure teen trying to find her place in the world.

I wanted a bit more of Jessica’s friends, Emma and Bells in the first half. For such a great relationship and how they clicked together (and their humour) I found myself wishing for more of the trio. We hardly get to know a lot about them. Here’s hoping more is uncovered in the sequel/s.

Abby was an interesting character – the supposed ‘golden girl’ in Jessica’s eyes, but at the same time being completely mysterious and aloof. That is a difficult combination to pull off. I guess I would’ve like to see a bit more conflict, have this perception Jess has of her to be challenged more. I like a transformation story arc. As this relationship was the pin that the plot revolved around, it was nice and easy… which is fine, but me likes tension in my main characters. 😉

Lee also manages to deconstruct some tropes in this novel – and rightly so, she is tackling some newish ground with her bisexual main character. It’s not widely prominent in YA and adds a freshness to the storytelling. Her perspective and switching up of stereotypical characters adds that zing that I couldn’t get enough of. It was so pleasant not to be fed those same old types of characters that dominate the YA market.

There are so many undertones in this book which are truly marvellous – but I feel it would do a disservice to discuss them in full in a review, because the book is meant to be a light-hearted, fun read. So I’ll let you garner from the book your own versions of social awareness and hidden messages.

While some aspects of the story line are so predicable it’s painful (one in particular was dragged out so long it became annoying,) others took me completely by surprise. And in a good way. It adds a lot of complexity by the end of the novel and leaves you hanging out for the next instalment. At this stage the second book ‘Not You Villain’ has a release date of 2017; let’s hope it’s in the first half of the year otherwise I may develop an ulcer… or a stalking habit… yet Miss Lee I might hunt you down and annoy the crap out of you until ‘Not Your Villain’ hits the shelves (in the nicest way possible, of course.)

Not your Sidekick’ is engaging, light hearted and has hidden depths. Definitely recommend for the aspect of diversity and the fun ride that goes a long with them.

Overall feeling: Wee!

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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.