Book Review – ‘Honestly Ben’ (#2 Openly Straight) by Bill Konigsberg

A great perspective and an adorable romance.

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 330

From Goodreads:

Ben Carver is back to normal. He’s getting all As in his classes at the Natick School. He was just elected captain of the baseball team. He’s even won a big scholarship for college, if he can keep up his grades. All that foolishness with Rafe Goldberg last semester is over now, and he just needs to be a Carver, work hard, and stay focused.


There’s Hannah, a gorgeous girl who attracts him and distracts him. There’s his mother, whose quiet unhappiness he’s noticing for the first time. School is harder, the pressure higher, the scholarship almost slipping away. And there’s Rafe, funny, kind, dating someone else…and maybe the real normal that Ben needs.


What a fantastic follow-up to ‘Openly Straight.’ I laughed out loud many times – I love the cookie humour in this series. It was great to break the tension and release the angst and anxiety of the novel.

Where ‘Openly Straight’ challenged the notions of labels, in ‘Honestly Ben’ I felt we got to live in a number of them and discover that they are merely descriptors that make other people comfortable (or uncomfortable) – and what it truly means to carve your own path.

Identity, sexuality, gender are all in different hues, and never too stagnant. People are different and grow and change over time, so it stands to reason that those concepts would evolve too. It was great to get a wider scope of what these terms are, and mean. It was an eye-opener on diversity for me. I got a bit of an education. And I like that I learnt something, but hand in hand with this kind of thing – and that I see in many other novels tackling these same topics – it always saturates the narrative in the world of socio-politics and correctness, and suddenly you find yourself submerged in a world that is less real, and consequently loses its relatable edge. But that is unavoidable – as you need to saturate yourself in something to truly understand it. I commend this novel for the aspects in this area.

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe romance was still angsty and steamy. Though at the same time a little stand-offish. I guess because in the first novel we’re dealing with Rafe’s identity, and here, with Ben’s. So the focus is on them finding their place in the world and not so much on a romance. You get a strong sense of Ben exploring who he is. I actually found it compelling and refreshing.

I revelled in the fact that life is allowed to be a big confusing mess, that somethings you just can’t put a label on.

As with ‘Openly Straight,’ I found Koinsberg’s writing style compelling and hard to put down. I completed this book in one sitting and was craving more when finished. There is always a sense of hope and desperation it the tone of the characters that has them practically leaping off the page.

There were issues I had with a bit of machismo in ‘Openly Straight’ which get addressed here – and in such a way it was delightfully surprising. Ben has such a knack for controlling a situation in a positive way and I felt involuntarily drawn to him. If he were a real life person, I’d be pathetically devoted to this young couple, simply because of how they treated the world. Truly inspiring.

Though all the characters are fallible, it was in an endearing way, making them feel like people I knew. Even with their growth through the course of the novel there is a strong note that their journey is far from over at its conclusion.

The general crux of the novel is very predictable, but the way the story is told distracts you from the inevitable, and leaves you with a sense of wonder. I totally felt like I’d been given a great big warm hug – and I wanted to live in that moment for as long as I could.

I enjoyed how Rafe and his mother were challenged on how they labelled people – seriously or not, almost like reverse discrimination I want to say – just because you know something, doesn’t mean you know.

I can only hope we get to visit the world of Rafe and Ben again sometime in the future – I’m completely down for that. So I’m sending out vibes into the universe for Konisberg to get inspired and continue writing for this collection.

Overall feeling: Totally amazeballs.

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle


© 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 – ‘Ashes to Ashes’ (#3 Burn for Burn) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

First Wives Club meets Mean Girls meets The Craft.

Ashes to Ashes (#3 Burn for Burn) Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Paranormal

No. of pages: 387

From Goodreads:

New Year’s Eve ended with a bang and Mary, Kat and Lillia may not be prepared for what is to come.

After Rennie’s death, Kat and Lillia try to put the pieces together of what happened to her. They both blame themselves. If Lillia hadn’t left with Reeve… If Kat had only stayed with Rennie… Things could have been different. Now they will never be the same.

Only Mary knows the truth about that night. About what she is. She also knows the truth about Lillia and Reeve falling in love, about Reeve being happy when all he deserves is misery, just like the misery he caused her. Now their childish attempts at revenge are a thing of the past and Mary is out for blood. Will she leave anything in her wake or will all that remain be ashes?


Sibohan and Han combine to give such a breezy writing style – it’s so easy to fly through the pages. The snarky banter is amusing and the jokes tickled me pink. I enjoyed this book, despite having a vehement dislike for the majority of the cast. The setting was such a beautiful backdrop. The pacing of the story is fantastic, if a little slow at the start. And the concept – that was the biggest drawcard in finishing this trilogy.

As for our three protagonists…

Ashes to Ashes (#3 Burn for Burn) Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleLillia maintained her more annoying personality traits. She was clingy and somewhat self-absorbed, not to mention times of indecisiveness and being completely clueless. I don’t even think she grew all that much as a person from the events – yes there was a note of wisdom there, but nothing ground breaking or poignant.

I actually got a little scared/nervous at some point due to Mary’s vengeance and paranormal-ness, which was a delightful surprise, it’s not something I expected in this genre! However, Mary was disappointing. It was ramping up to an epic climax and then I don’t know what happened. I get that she was able to get some resolution, but the way it was delivered felt flaccid.

Kat was probably the one who changed the most. She got to try on a number of personalities before the ending. I like to think she chose herself and never looked back.

Don’t get me started on the boys – they felt as vapid as Lillia.

I did not enjoy the amount of alcohol consumption – I felt like checking into re-hab just from reading the book. Additionally, there was no resolution to the rape storyline… and I understand many of these types of cases are never reported, but it was practically brushed under the carpet. Lillia had a few episodes of despair and was over it.

I got the feeling from the tone of the novel as though it was targeted to the younger end of the YA market with its protagonists acting like ‘look at me I’m a grown up’ when they really have no clue and are just stumbling about in the darkness of their lives. I guess in that respect it nails what it was to be a teen – though I was hoping for a more intelligent interpretation. This whole trilogy has been a bit of a ride, the debut felt like a contemporary, and then follow-up blurred the lines between contemporary and paranormal, and the finale – witchy central. There is a lot to love with the concept of this trilogy, but I wish the characters were a little more likeable, relatable. That the topics were handled with a little bit more social responsibility. Even though an entertaining read, it is not my favourite from either of these authors.

I feel like there was a part of the last chapter missing, or an epilogue got cut in the editing process because it culminated on such an abrupt tone. I’m a little thrown after finishing the book, it wasn’t completely satisfying. Lukewarm.

The cover art is very Miss Teen Magazine spread, with a bleached treatment to signify a paranormal, ghosty element I’m guessing. Attractive and representative of the connection of the three main protagonists, it definitely stands out from many others in this genre. It certainly had me flipping through the pages.

Fans of both authors will most likely love this trilogy, and I’d recommend it for readers who love YA and don’t mind the tone of the characters dominating the story. I appreciated it’s uniqueness.

Overall reaction: well… that just happened

Ashes to Ashes (#3 Burn for Burn) Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Ashes to Ashes (#3 Burn for Burn) Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg


© 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 – ‘Inhuman’ (#1 Fetch) by Kat Falls

A great addition to the dystopian genre.

Inhuman Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Adventure

No. of pages: 378

From Goodreads:

In a world ravaged by mutation, a teenage girl must travel into the forbidden Savage Zone to recover lost artifacts or her father’s life is forfeit.

America has been ravaged by a war that has left the eastern half of the country riddled with mutation. Many of the people there exhibit varying degrees of animal traits. Even the plantlife has gone feral.

Crossing from west to east is supposed to be forbidden, but sometimes it’s necessary. Some enter the Savage Zone to provide humanitarian relief. Sixteen-year-old Lane’s father goes there to retrieve lost artifacts—he is a Fetch. It’s a dangerous life, but rewarding—until he’s caught.

Desperate to save her father, Lane agrees to complete his latest job. That means leaving behind her life of comfort and risking life and limb—and her very DNA—in the Savage Zone. But she’s not alone. In order to complete her objective, Lane strikes a deal with handsome, roguish Rafe. In exchange for his help as a guide, Lane is supposed to sneak him back west. But though Rafe doesn’t exhibit any signs of “manimal” mutation, he’s hardly civilized . . . and he may not be trustworthy. 


Another amazing adventure from Kat Falls! I enjoyed this book immensely, although dealing with Dr. Moreau type mutations, there were colours of zombies and vampires – a spreading virus, changed by a bite, causes rage and violence… I loved it!

Inhuman Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgKat’s descriptions of the bleak dystopian world, and the mutated creatures within was marvellous. I was entertained throughout and gripped from start to finish. It didn’t have as much wonder and intricate plot as her previously released Darklife duology, this was more of a quest story with less twists and turns. So I felt the book overall was slightly less surprising.

The pace is fairly constant as the characters face one problem after another. And despite Falls’ great description, the narrative felt a touch flat in places. I guess because I’m comparing it to the Darklife books, and my enthusiastic joy over all things marine, ‘Inhuman’ did not quite meet the complexity and unpredictability of that series. Sure there were a few plot twists I didn’t see coming, but not to the scale of ‘Darklife’ – but having said that, I may have to eat my words in the follow-up ‘Undaunted’ (which I’m praying will finally get released this year.)

Lane (Delaney) started off as naive and full of potential, but it was only under stress and danger that she truly began to shine. I like how she never escaped consequences from her decisions either. Though, when it came to romantic entanglements she was a bit wishy washy. But given that her focus was on her Father and staying alive, I can forgive that minor frustration – she gave it the attention it deserved.

Maybe-love-interest, Rafe is such a smartarse – for some reason he reminded me of Pacy off ‘Dawson’s Creek:’ smart-mouthed but resourceful, always hanging in there. I got a little confused, one moment he’s a brother figure, then a love interest… not sure how I felt about it all. Though despite his abrasive bravado, he remains loyal to his ‘family’ right to the end. A very attractive quality.

Potential love interest, Everson surprised me a little, plot reveals, parts of his nature. We really find out who he is and what he’s willing to sacrifice for the greater good. I was attracted to his back story, his manners, and sense of adventure. I was really shipping him and Lane.

It is definitely an easy read, gripping, but I think I wanted a few bigger curve balls thrown at Lane. The surprises we do get are great, but something had me wishing for something grander. I’d still recommend it though. A fun dystopian adventure.

The cover art clearly depicts the world that Lane has grown up in – the dystopian feel with the rotting 21st Century buildings, and a massive wall to keep out the infected. The sepia hues really attracted my eye. The font is modestly large, lending to a feeling that you are speeding through the pages. A great package for an engaging read.

Overall feeling: Run of the mill, but entertaining.

Inhuman Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Inhuman Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle


© 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.

Wrap up – Embassy Row Trilogy by Ally Carter

A contemporary with international political intrigue.

   Wrap Up - Embassy Row Trilogy Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I was really keen to jump into this trilogy – at the time only the first book had been released and I was eager to read out of the dominating genres in YA – a murder mystery with an international setting felt like the right ticket. The Embassy Row trilogy felt like a mash-up of The Scooby Gang from ‘Scooby Doo’ and the movie ‘What A Girl Wants’ starring Amanda Bynes. Plus I’d read some cracker reviews from book blogger friends…

As much as I loved the concept, there are moments when I felt the story went a bit juvenile – unrealistic, overdramatic that I found tedious or even frustrating. But given the demographic, and the fact that it’s YA, it was to be expected. It was easy to overlook these hindrances and really enjoy the world Embassy Row presents.

Grace, our protagonist, a damaged heroine, thrown in the deep end of secret societies and political drama was an interesting character to read. She had all the necessary flightiness, drama and curiosity to engage the reader, but as the series progressed, some elements were repeated to death, and others had her looking like a flake, and even bipolar. I bit more research and cohesiveness would have seen Grace as a strong protagonist.

All Fall Down Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleHer friends on Embassy Row, which I dubbed of the ‘Super Crack Teen Spy Squad’ came and went from the narrative with each successive installment of this trilogy. So strong in the debut, but were reduced as mere plot points to move the story along in the consecutive two sequels. That was highly disappointing for me. There was such great chemistry and such interesting characters in this group, I would have liked to see them featured more prominently.

The flip-flopping with the love interest Alexei was the most frustrating part. It really established doubt in Grace herself instead of the motives of the mysterious Russian. The middle book of the trilogy needed the most work in editing to bring it to a much more palatable novel in my opinion, As it stood, I actually got a little pissed and the treatment of the cast.

The adults in this world all seemed to be James Bond characters. Members of secret society, spying on each other, manipulating each other, secret tunnels and meetings… It lost a sense of family that this series was missing to ground it in something solid. Consequently, the adults for all their nefarious activities felt a little two dimensional.

The basics of the storylines in each novel – the mystery – is crafted excellently. I loved the mechanics and storyline of all three novels. Ally Carter can weave a mean plot. It was just the delivery and immature tones that dragged the pace for me that lowered my ratings.

We get a spectacular ending – ‘Goonies’ style, though after a promising debut with ‘All Fall Down,’ both ‘See How They Run’ and ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ flatlined. Great mystery, fantastic twists and turns, but the wiring style was a little ‘meh’ and predictable.

Marvelous hook and concept, eye-catching cover art, and a quick easy reads. A fun trilogy I happily recommend – falls more into a guilty pleasure than an outstanding recommendation.

Wrap Up - Embassy Row Trilogy Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

All Fall Down’

See How They Run’ –

Take the Key and Lock Her Upcarter’ –


© 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.

Constructing the Perfect Pitch

Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

There are some basics elements you should aim to include in your book pitch, regardless whether you’re marketing your editor, publisher, the public, or a friend.

Selling your story is a vital part of any writer – that is if you want to start making a living from your vocation. And while it may feel like your hacking out a small piece of your soul in trying to water down your book baby to a paragraph, it is an essential skill.

And just like writing – practice makes perfect.

Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 06 by Casey Carlisle Especially in your genre. Look at what is successful, what grabs your attention. Also know your target market. If you are pitching to publishers or professionals, there is usually a criteria that they are looking for.

Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 07 by Casey Carlisle

Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 08 by Casey Carlisle Most of the time there is a detailed list for criteria of submissions, when they are accepting submissions, and who to address the work to. Don’t get off on the wrong foot looking unprofessional without discovering the basics in their submission process. Some publishing houses won’t accept submissions from an author, and you’ll need to find a literary agent. Just about every professional in this field will not accept unedited work. Give yourself the best chance at success and get your work professionally edited. Have multiple versions of your submission – and get feedback on those to hone out which is the best example of your work, your brand, and your professional standards.

Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 09 by Casey Carlisle Know your niche, genre and target market. Compare your work to already successful publications. ‘My novel is a mash-up of Twilight meets Pride and Prejudice aimed at the 20-35y/o market who love paranormal romance.’ For example. Be precise. No-one wants to hear that it fills nearly every genre and everyone from the ages of 10 to 80 would love to read it : that is a marketing nightmare and impossible to sell.

Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 10 by Casey Carlisle – a story idea is the concept of your novel. The bones of the character and his/her journey. Your topic will be the subtext and the lessons your main character have learned over the duration of the story. What is the unique, curiosity-sparkling take that is going to reel your reader in?


Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 11 by Casey Carlisle Editors and Publishers are busy folk, so you want your pitch to be organised, logical, polished to perfection and highlighting all the right points in a paragraph or two. Mention exciting key aspects of your story. And above all – proofread it up the wazoo!

Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 12 by Casey Carlisle Get as much constructive criticism as you can to perfect your submission.

Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

And lastly – Creating the Perfect Pitch Pic 13 by Casey Carlisle I know it’s easier said than done. Rejection can kill the creative spirit and any confidence that you have. But things move very slowly in the publishing industry. Be patient. Be professional. Be tenacious.

And good luck 😉


© 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.