Book Review – ‘Tell Me Three Things’ by Julie Buxbaum

A totally unexpected ride…

Tell Me Three Things Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 328

From Goodreads:

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

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I really got a kick out of ‘Tell Me Three Things,’ it weaves poetry, pop culture, and social media neatly into the narrative. Though I did feel like the pacing was somewhat slow. The truth is not a lot happens in this book, however I wasn’t bored by any means. It has that type of quirkiness that I’ve come to like from titles by David Levithan. Imperfect characters, big city sarcasm, and witty dialogue.

The whole SN (Somebody Nobody) thing was a little trite. I liked it having an anonymous person to chat to as a story telling device – a Cinderella story in reverse of sorts, but in a world of social media awareness and predators, something was screaming in the back of my head that our protagonist Jessie was being gullible.

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I related to Jessie and got all the feels. I’ve lost a large number of family members in the last three years, and the grief is still raw, so there were times I had to put this book down because I couldn’t breathe. Many of her words rang so true. It’s not something anyone can understand unless it’s happened to them. I related to her quiet bookishness, her nerdiness, but I felt like she should’ve had more of a backbone. Especially when dealing with her Father. I know I would have totally lost it much earlier, and had a major meltdown at his feet and blame him for everything. That’s what grief can do to you. It also makes you numb. Maybe it’s my own experience colouring my views on Jessie and how she handled everything. I wanted her to be a little more prickly, fragile, volatile… maybe to validate how I handled my own grief and loss.

I felt the ‘all the boys fall for the new girl’ thing was a little over done. Whether intended or not. Whether stated or not. It just felt that way; and it annoyed me to no end. But the relationships, be they potential romances or not, were all very cute and adorable. I actually had a lot of fun reading ‘Tell Me Three Things.’

Caleb, Ethan, and Liam felt interchangeable. Like there wasn’t a lot of difference between them. SN had more depth than any of these men. And Jessie objectified them most of the time. Their floppy hair, their piercing eyes… I was waiting for her to discover more.

I also liked how I was kept guessing about the identity of SN. I kept trying to sleuth it out myself – like who would have access to her private contact details (this fact alone which threw me in the wrong direction – and to which I’m still wondering about how SN got them in the first place). Buxbaum does a very good job at swaying opinion from one person to another through Jessie’s narrative. I finished the whole book in a day, even with many rests to pull my emotions back together, it’s a touching contemporary about finding yourself through the loss of a loved one and re-defining what it is when you are You, who is You, who is You.

And I totally mis-guessed who SN was.

Doh!

The ending was cute.

I guess this book on a whole, although adorkable, had a tone of the uncomfortable. The grief and loss thing, the internet predator issue that was ignored, the feeling lost and out of place… it was hard for me to get engrossed in the romance when these issues were like the elephant in the room. It could have been so much more intense and angsty, but I appreciated the light nature of the narrative – it let me live in the fantasy.

Like I mentioned earlier, I found the pacing a little slow, but the writing style is easy to read and littered with pop culture acronyms (some of which I had to look up) and random references (which I Googled too): all of which I love. It sounds lame, but I always get a kick about learning something new from a book, no matter how obscure the reference. A big two thumbs up from me.

Overall feeling: cute and sad at the same time.

Tell Me Three Things Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Tell Me Three Things Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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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Reading and purchasing that bargain

Reading and Purchasing that bargain Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

No review copies here – just an honest bibliophile!

I post a lot of reviews, but all of the books I read, I’ve purchased myself with hard earned cash. I get no kick-backs from my reviews. So I value my dollar, buy books only that I am genuinely interested in reading. And hunt around for great prices.

There are some authors that are an automatic buy, and titles that I am excited about and will pre-order online. Most of the time there will be a better price after their release, but with my over-enthusiasm, I generally don’t care so much about the increased price point because I want it as soon as possible.

I find cheap books from local book stores having sales – I can get lost for hours perusing their sale racks in search of a book on my wishlist… and I never come away empty handed. Plus, I get the books cheaper than I would have been able to source online… great things mobile phones these days, check to see if there is a cheaper price elsewhere before you head to the register.. You can even go to the sales staff and show them the cheaper price, and most of the time they will match it.

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The majority of the time, I have my wishlist – a number of books that I want to purchase, and I’ll jump on my computer and pull up some of the major websites to do a price comparison. Amazon, Book Depository, Fishpond, Booktopia, and the major book retailers like Dymocks etc. It’s important to convert the prices to your native currency – as in Australia book buying is expensive! Check the shipping costs too. 8 out of 10 times I find the Book Depository the best value for money. Occasionally Amazon gives it a run for its money. Sometimes a book will only be available on a certain site, and not on the others. Australian authors are generally cheaper from Booktopia (an Australian-based site) but still check. I’ve gotten a bargain from other distributors occasionally.

Then sites will run a special – free shipping, half-price, or discounted books. So be vigilant, look around and you can always pick up a bargain.

Books online

I say this because I like to have fresh, new copies of novels that I like adorning my shelves. My sister likes to collect second-hand copies and rarely spends more than a dollar for a book. She is also a massive e-book reader. Admittedly I only read e-books if I can’t find it in a physical format, if I am travelling, or if the book is more than 500 pages. Only because my reader likes to reorient the screen on me when I move, or runs out of battery at the worst possible time… for me, nothing beats good old paper!

For authors and books that I’m not sure about, I’ll often buy in e-book first, generally because the titles are less than half the price of their printed counterparts. So mix it up, check what’s available in your area.

I’d join a library and borrow books from there, except I live in a rural area and the closest decent library is over an hour and a half drive away, so I’d waste a day just for a visit.

Another way I get to read great books on the cheap is book-swapping with my friends and family. I’m lucky enough to have a large group of readers, and we like to pass around our favourites. It has let me discover new genres and titles that I would have overlooked before.

Buying and reading literature has never been more accessible, and I’m just a kid in a candy store with eyes bigger than her belly!

Reading and Purchasing that bargain Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Tales From Foster High’ by John Goode

Another teen coming out story – but I lurved it J.

Tales From Foster High Book 1 Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 219

From Goodreads:

Kyle Stilleno is the invisible student, toiling through high school in the middle of Nowhere, Texas. Brad Greymark is the baseball star of Foster High. When they bond over their mutual damage during a night of history tutoring, Kyle thinks maybe his life has changed for good. But the promise of fairy-tale love is a lie when you’re gay and falling for the most popular boy in school. A coming of age story in the same vein of John Hughes, Tales from Foster High shows an unflinching vision of the ups and downs of teenage love and what it is like to grow up gay.

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This brought some unexpected feels from me. A couple of little story arcs to tug at my heartstrings. Other than that, ‘Tales from Foster High’ was an excellent tale of angst, coming out, and discovering the stuff that you are made of. Told in dual perspectives this bind-up edition of three novellas feels seamless as one big story.

Kyle is a brilliant portrayal of the invisible kid, just trying to make it through high school and get out of his home town. I also like how, even though he was portrayed as a nerd, he wasn’t stereotyped as covered with pimples, wearing glasses, skinny, and unattractive. It was great to see him through Brad’s eyes and know that beauty is subjective to the beholder.

Brad, although embodying the ‘all American jock’ trope, quickly started deconstructing those expectations with is actions in the first chapter. I admired his teetering between courage and fear.

Both of these characters go through a lot and come out the other side different people.

The parents were a little annoying. It felt a bit stereotyped, and even though they went through their own storylines as well, I felt their behaviour at the end nothing short of miraculous. And unrealistic. Though it added a great deal of impact and added to the romantic climax.

There are some sex scenes – which while a little titillating, served the tone of the novel from the male perspective. Their encounters were meaningful and not over written.

The bullying gets a little violent and had me questioning where the teachers and parents were through all of this. I know events like this are still a reality in some schools, and thankfully starting to decrease in numbers as acceptance grows, but the neglect of the school was downright criminal and thought they got off far too easily. Plus the rest of the students seemed to be a mass of people that just went with the flow instead of a realistic hot-pot of personalities and beliefs. In the real world someone would have made noise in some respect, either by getting parents, teachers or authorities involved.

So, a fun story, a little unrealistic, but highlighted a lovely romance and some hot-button struggles gay youth face in school – highlighting an education system that can become corrupt.

Eye opening and heart-warming. Something about coming out stories draws me in, and with ‘Tales From Foster High’ having a social conscious and dealing with important issues sheds light on aspects of growing up gay I may have otherwise never known about. But at the core of it, this novel has a beautiful growing relationship between two unsuspecting teens. This experience has me keen to purchase the rest of the books written in this collection – even though they are mostly only available in e-book format.

Overall feeling: Naw, aint that sweet.

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Tales From Foster High Book 1 Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.

Film vs Novel – Fallen

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Where some angles fear to read.

I read the book over three years ago, and wasn’t overly impressed, but was interested to see if the movie could improve on my opinion.

On the surface, ‘Fallen’ is a thrilling story about forbidden love. And I enjoyed all the supernatural elements in the novel, though its execution was burdened with over-used tropes glutting the YA market. The movie did little to fix this, the characters still felt two dimensional, and it even managed to create a worse insta-love scenario between Luce and Daniel.

The whole age-old mythology of angels vs demons and reincarnation lost its edge.

The story itself is interesting, although nothing new or surprising, and if it hadn’t been such a lumbering read I would have rated it higher. You could predict the plot easily and I was a little disappointed how the climax (battle) of the book took place off screen. There were some unique devices within the novel, like the use of shadows to glimpse a window into the past, I really liked how this was done. But amnesia and flashbacks are two of my pet hates in a novel – they are cliché and overused.  The film watered down the story line so much – dropping out the roles of certain characters that teach and interact with Luce to the point that I just about wanted to puke. The reason/role the school of the Sword and Cross was also omitted. By the end of the film, I felt like I’d only gotten half of the story. The film failed to do a lot of the set up established in the novel, and did a gross disservice to ‘Fallen’ in my opinion.

The SPFX, especially that of angel wings, was pretty impressive though – it was my favourite aspect of the movie. ‘Fallen’ is aesthetically beautiful and melancholy. The visual tone is executed really well. But that old saying about polishing a turd…. with such a problematic story to begin with, there wasn’t a great deal you could do with it and remain true to the original novel. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded if it had a much darker, biblical tone, given the characters some depth and attitude that wasn’t steeped in an ancient battle of good and evil.

Fallen Film vs Novel Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Having said that, there were some scenes that felt like an ‘80’s music video : lighting effects, camera pulling in and out of focus, hair blowing in the wind… cue the ‘Heart’ soundtrack.

Luce, the main character, was too insipid for me in the novel. She reacted to the circumstances around her, and lacked strength. I can understand what Lauren Kate was trying to convey with this story, but neglected to give her main cast any sort of edge. Similarly Daniel and Cam, fighting for Luce’s affection, were equally two-dimensional. Both had strong chauvinistic attributes and I failed to connect with any of the characters or their love story. The film managed to give Luce an edge I was hoping for – I actually liked Addison Timlin’s portrayal of her. Daniel was played well by Jeremy Irvine (*swoons*), but I still found his character too aloof and brooding to care about. Cam felt much more dynamic on the screen (played by Harrison Gilbertson.) I had mixed feelings in the novel with him being painted as the tempting villain, but in the film, a layer of genuine concern of Luce’s well-bring shone through.

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Lauren’s writing is easy to read, and I enjoyed her style – she just kept losing me. I feel if you cut the book down to half its size to ensure the pace pulled you through the story, Luce would have been seen as a survivor rather than someone who simply endures. By the end of the novel I was more interested in the periphery characters: they had powers and attitude that stirred my curiosity. In the film I sat there blinking at the screen when the end credits rolled – I did not know what was going on with the periphery characters at all. And Penn – what happened there? Blink and you miss it, and none of the cast seemed concerned or affected by what went down.

Many of the reveals in the novel are slowly released, where in the film, much of it is dumped on the viewer in the first fifteen minutes and I was left wondering where the story had to go. If it weren’t for the digital effects I would have gotten really angry.

I do know the studio bought the film rights for all the books – and some sequels could help redeem this series, because this movie debut did feel like the first instalment of a series or a tv pilot… so there may be more to come.

Given the movie managed to interest and entice me much more than the books, it definitely surpasses the written version; though I felt it missed out on some important elements of interest from the books – and the pacing was a little off.

But if you love epic love stories, and angels, and don’t mind a passive protagonist then you will love this book or film. I had rated the book two stars on Goodreads, and in comparison, I’d rate the movie 2.5… an improvement, but still, no cigar!

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.