#bookporn #coverlove

Top 10 Standalones – Top 10 series

I thought I’d take a look back to recommend my top 10 standalones that I read in 2020, it’s a mixed bag but maybe you’ll find that new-to-you read!

I’ll Give You The Sun – yes this was released ages ago, and has been sitting on my shelf since, but in the past year I’ve been making a concerted effort to shrink my TBR and stop getting detracted by too many new shiny covers. This contemporary lived up to the hype I remember it getting when it first came out. Interesting characters and fantastic reveals that brought all the feels.

The Luminous Dead – On of the latest purchases, a sci-fi psychological thriller set in caves on a distant planet, the protagonist faces treacherous terrain, a controlling guide, alien nasties, and a few dead bodies. With a F/F romance to boot this was everything I needed and didn’t know it.

Famous Last Words – a contemporary mystery set in the Hollywood Hills. A young girl moves into a spanish estate that might be haunted, oh, and there might be a killer lurking about.

Highway Bodies – a zombie apocalypse that a diverse group of youngsters have to survive. Set in Australia, and a gem of a novel.

The Sky is Everywhere – Another contemporary romance from Jandy Nelson I let sit on my shelf for too long. Quirky characters painted with artistic flare.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue* – A historical rom-com as brother, sister and their best friend take a road trip across Europe and all sorts of hijinks ensue. This was a laugh riot. *Not a standalone, there are two more novels and a novella in this series, but I’m including it here because I’ve only read the debut.

Life Expectancy – Dean Koontz has been a favorite of mine since I was in junior high. This tale is a crazy twist of futures that keep getting intertwined: one is a family man, the other is a killer clown.

Pet Semetary – A re-read of an old classic that never fails to entertain and send a shiver down your spine. Bringing back the dead, indian burial grounds and a spooky wendigo… it never gets old (but parts of the story haven’t aged well – it fun to see how writing has evolved in the last 30-40 years)

Reckoning – the only non-fiction title in this list. Magda Szubanski, Australia’s first lady of comedy takes a serious tone exploring her family history: a father who was an assassin, her dreams of becoming a tennis star and falling into acting… and discovering her own identity in a time when being in the spotlight was a dangerous thing.

Cold Fire – A re-read that I didn’t know was one. I owned this book in high school and has lost it in my travels across the continent. I bought another copy thinking it was a title I didn’t have in Dean Koontz’s back catalog…. and the whole time I was reading it though ‘this sounds familiar.’ Still it was a great story of possible aliens haunting a man’s past who has the uncanny ability to foretell certain peoples deaths and goes out of his was to prevent them.

The top 10 series I completed (or nearly completed) in 2020 are:

This Mortal Coil – a science fiction future where the world is ravaged by genetically modified viruses, body modifications, and advanced technology. Warring factions for control and freedom, super soldiers… this really shows where a STEM education could take us. My no.1 pick for the year.

Warm Bodies – I finally completed this epic series, though it slowly left it’s satirical roots and turned philosophical. But is was fun to get answers to how the zombie apocalypse came about, and what the future holds for R and the gang.

The Rook* – There are still more installments to come in this series*, but this is all that is published for now. A spy thriller with supernatural powers set in England with a sense of humor! This collection has a special place in my heart (the television adaptation did not do it justice.)

Midnight Sun* – I got around to what I thought was finishing off the series I started back in 2007, but since have heard there is the possibility of another two books to come!? Nontheless this was a fun return to the beginnings of the Twilight franchise and the story of Edward and Bella (if a little long-winded) but I managed to read it in two days.

Impossible Times trilogy – a collection of novellas that is very timey-wimey. Set in England this has an echo of Doctor Who and mixes in a heavy dose of time travel. Well-written and a blast to read.

Death Works trilogy – Aussie author Trent Jamieson pens a great collection of novels about a Pomp (think grim reaper) guiding souls to the afterlife and fighting all sorts of supernatural nasties… but it’s all handled like a well-oiled corporate office. Best in my backyard : Brisbane, a story very close to my heart.

Proxy – another sci-fi dystopia with a gay main character where the wealthy can get a proxy to stand in for their punishments. A fantastic tale of class structure, technology and rebellion.

Zeroes*- A group of supernatural teens – crooks come heroes that have to navigate their powers, face the consequences of their actions and face-off similarly powered foes. It has a fun twist on the superpower genre, I just have to read the concluding novel to complete the series.*

One Man Guy – a contemporary romance duology featuring a M/M couple as they come out, and navigate romantic rivals, clashes of culture and class structures.

Nil* – a science fiction portal trilogy about a supernatural island that pits teens against the elements and predatory animals, but they have a year to untangle the mystery and catch a portal home before they die. Just have to read the concluding novel for this series*, but so far it has been one heck of an adventure.

#bookquotes

#BQ You're Never Weird on the Internet by Casey Carlisle

Who else is over self-sabotage? I can’t list the number of things I have given up on because of that inner voice convincing me otherwise… finding my courage again and trying to feel free to be myself. Thanks Felicia!

Book Review – ‘Becoming Nicole : The Transformation of an American Family’ by Amy Ellis Nutt

If you love Dreamer/ Nia Nal played by Nicole Maines from ‘Supergirl’ – this is where it all began!

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Non Fiction, GLBT

No. of pages: 279

From Goodreads:

The inspiring true story of a transgender girl, her identical twin brother, and an ordinary American family’s extraordinary journey to understand, nurture, and celebrate the uniqueness in us all, from the Pulitzer Prize–winning science reporter for The Washington Post

When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, they thought their lives were complete. But it wasn’t long before they noticed a marked difference between Jonas and his brother, Wyatt. Jonas preferred sports and trucks and many of the things little boys were “supposed” to like; but Wyatt liked princess dolls and dress-up and playing Little Mermaid. By the time the twins were toddlers, confusion over Wyatt’s insistence that he was female began to tear the family apart. In the years that followed, the Maineses came to question their long-held views on gender and identity, to accept and embrace Wyatt’s transition to Nicole, and to undergo an emotionally wrenching transformation of their own that would change all their lives forever.

Becoming Nicole chronicles a journey that could have destroyed a family but instead brought it closer together. It’s the story of a mother whose instincts told her that her child needed love and acceptance, not ostracism and disapproval; of a Republican, Air Force veteran father who overcame his deepest fears to become a vocal advocate for trans rights; of a loving brother who bravely stuck up for his twin sister; and of a town forced to confront its prejudices, a school compelled to rewrite its rules, and a courageous community of transgender activists determined to make their voices heard. Ultimately, Becoming Nicole is the story of an extraordinary girl who fought for the right to be herself.

Granted wide-ranging access to personal diaries, home videos, clinical journals, legal documents, medical records, and the Maineses themselves, Amy Ellis Nutt spent almost four years reporting this immersive account of an American family confronting an issue that is at the center of today’s cultural debate. Becoming Nicole will resonate with anyone who’s ever raised a child, felt at odds with society’s conventions and norms, or had to embrace life when it plays out unexpectedly. It’s a story of standing up for your beliefs and yourself—and it will inspire all of us to do the same.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

I first bought this book solely on the recommendation of another book reviewer, and the fact that I enjoy diverse reads – and in this case a transgender protagonist.

Going into ‘Becoming Nicole’ without any prior knowledge, I was expecting something akin to ‘If I was Your Girl,’ but instead found I was reading a non-fiction account of a real person, compiled by journalist Amy Ellis Nutt.

To be honest the writing style and narrative was fairly stale, and resonated with hindsight and an older cis-gendered author’s perspective. Even though this is a story about triumph for transgender awareness and education, it missed the nuances had this been an ‘own voices’ book. I found the first half slightly frustrating and offensive. But as the novel encompasses a large time span, you can see the narrative change as the author herself gets more education and awareness of LGBT issues, and ultimately grows in her language, political correctness, and entrenched behaviour.

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

I think the best thing about ‘Becoming Nicole’ is that it is a marvellous account of history regarding transgender rights. And as a resource. It has scattered facts of a trangendered experience from the age of 2 to adulthood. From both first person and third person viewpoints. It shows how this issue is dealt with by the individual, the family, and the community at large. The legal struggles faced by a transgender person. Slap in the middle of the national transgender bathroom debate, it brought to light a lot of things I would have never of thought of. It shows how backward people, legislation, and government can be; but also how forward thinking in the same regard.

While I am not a fan of the writing, I will say that this is an important book in regards to the fight for equal rights and acceptance that transgendered youth face. It showed just how much of a sheltered life I have lived and had me questioning: would I have the courage to put myself out there publicly like Nicole and her family to fight against discrimination and bullying. I’d like to say I would in principle. But after reading the difficulty and sacrifices the Maineses made, that thought scares the crap out of me. But the end result seemed to justify the hardship. But real life doesn’t always have a happy ending.

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe biggest win for ‘Becoming Nicole’ was the overwhelming show of support for transgender rights and issues, how society and culture are evolving… and for the undying determination and positive fighting spirit of the Maines family. I’m extremely jealous of their relationship. I wish I had parents still by my side who had the insight and intelligence to see the real me. Nicole had an amazing, safe and secure homelife to give her a place of strength to draw from.

There are accounts of scientific research, social definitions, and legal terms littered throughout this tome which help the reader form a language to discuss the topic that I’ve found invaluable. There are times I’ve heard friends say something offhand that is politically incorrect or offensive but have remained quiet because I did not know what to say back with information to support why it’s not kosher. ‘Becoming Nicole’ has given me tools to just that.

This is a great book for people struggling to understand transgender issues, especially parents, but because of the writing style, a younger demographic may be put off. I think if I had known this was a journalism piece before purchasing I would not have added it to my cart, but after reading it I’m glad for the education, perspective, and proud to add it to my library.

On a side note, Nicole as a child was determined to become an actress. To see her playing Nia Nal on ‘Supergirl’ today is such a strong and resounding affirmation for the trans community and a poke in the eye to the antagonists of her story.

Overall feeling – An eye-opening account of discrimination against a minority (and identity)

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just a little bit sassy, but very real. Loved reading about Naya’s behind the scenes life, how she is carving out a career and family life for herself. Plus some ‘Glee’ perspective had me devouring this in a day. Starting to love my celebrity memoirs.

Book Review – ‘Bonkers – My Life in Laughs’ by Jennifer Saunders

A woman who is a quiet pioneer, and simply loves to laugh and see the best in any situation…

Bonkers Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Non Fiction, Autobiography

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

‘As the steady march of time takes its toll on my memory and the vultures circle, I thought I should have a stab at recollecting how it all happened. . .’

Jennifer Saunders’ brilliant comic creations have brought joy to millions for three decades. From Comic Strip to Comic Relief, from Bolly-swilling Edina in Absolutely Fabulous to Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia, her characters are household names.

But it’s Jennifer herself who has a place in all our hearts. This is her funny, touching and disarmingly honest memoir, filled with stories of friends, laughter and occasional heartache – but never misery.

From her childhood on RAF bases, where her father was a pilot, to her life-changing encounter with a young Dawn French, on to success and family, the book charts her extraordinary story, including the slip ups and battles along the way.

Prepare to chuckle, cry, and whoop with delight.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

It’s very amusing, a light tone oozing through the narrative. Life is always painted in positivity and promise. It was very, dare I say, English.

The best parts, I found, had to deal with the behind the scenes stuff about becoming a comedian, getting the gigs, and inventing new material for her career. Anecdotes with Dawn French, Ruby Wax, Joanna Lumley and Goldie Hawn are brilliant, and are like your sitting there having a natter over a glass of champagne. Jennifer Saunders work ethic, being an artist at heart, is blunt and honest and has cemented Sandwich as a girl after my own heart. Endearing.

Dealing with elements of communication from the past – before technology butted in and removed much of the need for the written word are instilled with Jennifer’s particular brand of silliness. It reminds me of the notes I used to pass between my girlfriends in high school classes.

BQ Bonkers by Casey Carlisle

The narrative tends to wander a bit. Following Saunders train of thought before being dragged back to finish the story in earnest. Sometimes it was with a delicious side story, sometimes with some backstory, and sometimes with something nonsensical, mildly interesting, bordering on dull.

For the most part I found ‘Bonkers – My Life in Laughs‘ entertaining and educational. But in some parts, and more frequently towards the end, a little waffly.

I especially loved the chapters over Jennifer dealing with cancer. How she got through it, what happened, and how it affected her life a short time after. It was personal for me. I could relate to so much of it having experienced my own journey. It is also a tale to promote for all women to get regular mammograms. Many stories I’ve read about cancer suffrage deal with being sick and feeling shite. But Saunders kept her positive outlook powering right on through. As I did. My strongest memory is still pissing myself laughing at episodes of ‘Glee‘ on my laptop in attempts to keep up the positive energy and distract from what I was told of an unavoidable 6 month expiration date.

Overall feeling: Positively funny

 Bonkers Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Bonkers Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

critique-casey-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 – ‘Girl Walks Into a Bar’ by Rachel Dratch

Funny, poignant story about a positive and persevering girl continually one step behind.

Girl Walks Into A Bar Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Memoir, Comedy

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

In this side-splitting memoir, the former Saturday Night Livestar recounts the hilarious adventures and unexpected joy of dating and becoming a mother when she least expected it-at the age of forty-four. Anyone who saw an episode of Saturday Night Live between 1999 and 2006 knows Rachel Dratch. She was hilarious! So what happened to her? After a misbegotten part as Jenna on the pilot of 30 Rock, Dratch was only getting offered roles as “Lesbians. Secretaries. Sometimes secretaries who are lesbians.”

Her career at a low point, Dratch suddenly had time for yoga, dog- sitting, learning Spanish-and dating. After all, what did a forty- something single woman living in New York have to lose? Resigned to childlessness but still hoping for romance, Dratch was out for drinks with a friend when she met John.

Handsome and funny, after only six months of dating long-distance, he became the inadvertent father of her wholly unplanned, undreamed-of child, and moved to New York to be a dad. With riotous humor, Dratch recounts breaking the news to her bewildered parents, the awe of her single friends, and the awkwardness of a baby-care class where the instructor kept tossing out the f-word.

Filled with great behind-the-scenes anecdotes from Dratch’s time on SNL, Girl Walks into a Bar… is a refreshing version of the “happily ever after” story that proves female comics-like bestsellers Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler-are truly having their moment.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I’m starting to enjoy memoirs a lot more lately. Relating my life to theirs, learning about life’s difficulties by walking in someone else’s shoes and all that. And it definitely helps if they’re funny – I’m a positive person. So autobiographies from comedians always get to the top of my TBR when I’m in the mood.

Even though Rachel Dratch is another great favourite comedian/actor of mine, and for some reason I wasn’t expecting this memoir to be gut-busting hilarious the entire way. Maybe I’ve been educated from my past reads in this genre, or maybe it was the style of narrative in the first few pages that lead me to realise this was going to have much more of a story and a moral about it than a collection of funny stories.

I really enjoyed it. Yes, I had a number of laugh-so-hard-I-cried moments, and there is a lightness and positivity lurking underneath Dratch’s tales of misadventure. I related to her story. A lot. It’s my age, my gender, my experiences with many knock-backs, but an inevitable will to go for what I want. A mix of optimism, pig-headedness, cowardice and mysticism.

Girl Walks Into A Bar Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gifWe get a peek behind the curtain at SNL and some of her acting jobs which was interesting – more so about how she dealt with the environment rather than juicy back stage gossip. But it is her journey through life, and events/opportunities continually coming much later than typically expected (another thing I related to), that were touching and heart-felt. It was not meant to be a poor-me sob story or pity party. It was a plain statement of how society puts pressure and labels on women of a certain age in the various stages of their life. Sometimes it just makes you want to scream ‘Assface’ at everyone, like one of the crazy New Yorkers she talks about. It is unfair and discriminatory (and somewhat bitchy) but Dratch navigates around it all silently, forever searching for her own happily ever after. But – she’ ain’t dead yet, so don’t expect to read it by the end of the book – though the spirit still lives strong in her heart.

Girl Walks Into A Bar Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgI would have liked to read more about her creative process, and experienced a little more funny stuff in her book, but feel privileged to have been able to share this snippet of her life. It helped validate my own choices and circumstances.

I read the book in a day, there were no boring bits, no drawling on with dull events. It left me with a feeling of being ready to take life by the short and curlies. I remember to smile, laugh, cry, love my family, and revel in the roller-coaster that is life.

It was an interesting experience to strongly identify with a woman I don’t know, on the other side of the world living a life so drastically different from my own – but still the same in some ways.

A thoroughly entertaining, touching story of getting on with life…

Overall feeling: Gurl – you got me!

Girl Walks Into A Bar Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Girl Walks Into A Bar Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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 – ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns)?’ by Mindy Kaling

Dissecting a modern day woman’s brain – it’s just so fluffy!.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Memoir, Comedy

No. of pages: 222

From Goodreads:

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?” 

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

A pleasant light-hearted look at a woman’s point of view about everything – not to say that it offers advice or opinions, because it’s not. It’s simply a glance inside Mindy Kaling’s head… and it seemed a lot like mine in there.

Some parts were random lists or stories about things, which had me laughing my guts out. Simply because they were random. And funny. And how I too suddenly blurt out the most obtuse and inappropriate things. Mindy Kaling is me and a brave woman suit! Heck no, Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal.

I wouldn’t go so far to say this book in hilarious. I don’t think that was her goal in writing this book. Just like as a performer or comedian we’re not meant to be performing monkeys ‘on’ all the time just for your enjoyment. It was like sitting down on the lounge floor in you pj’s and having a gasbag with your girlfriends.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gif

I love how the structure was broken up into flashbacks, lists, stories and comments on pictures… it really was like how evenings go with my girlfriends, clutching a glass of bubbly reminiscing and making each other cackle until we snort.

I did want it to be funnier though. Or more engaging. But I understand in doing so it would have either been too serious, or too silly. This that the right amount of everything to kick back and relax, and to just enjoy reading.

#bookquotes Mindy Kaling 01 by Casey Carlisle

I appreciate how Mindy simply blurts out what’s on her mind. It’s finding a voice for much of my internal dialogue; and whether she intended the book to be like this or not, after reading it, I felt that if we were to run into each other at a party would become fast friends. And that is a great tone to have of a memoir. Masterfully done.

So many hot key topics discussed without being pretentious. I recommend this to anyone who loves memoirs, or just loves being a girl.

Overall feeling: Damn girl!

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.gif

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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 – Bossypants by Tina Fey

Anecdotes that had me chortling off my chair.

Bossypants Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Memoir, Comedy

No. of pages: 272

From Goodreads:

Before Liz Lemon, before “Weekend Update,” before “Sarah Palin,” Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy. 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

This was a surprise read for me. Mainly because it was much funnier than I had expected, and its approach to the narrative gloriously feminine and unique.

Tina Fey broaches a lot of relevant topics of being female without being aggressive and feminist. It’s a human approach for a human experience. And I loved that message.

It was also fantastic to hear anecdotes about periods, childbirth, breast feeding, parenting, career vs motherhood dilemma, and the perception/expectations male colleagues in her industry have… it felt like – finally an intelligent voice was given to topics that have most people sticking their fingers in their ears and singing ‘la la la la la.’

Additionally, it was interesting to hear about the behind the scenes goings on around improv and acting, be it in clubs, theatre, television or film. The creative process, and creative people working in such a fast paced regimental industry offers a unique juxtaposition. All of Tina’s narrative is thoughtful and intelligent. As was the topic of identity and sexual orientation. But you’ll have to read it to hear how she feels about this in her own words. It led me to think of her as a visionary, and someone who is an example for everyone’s attitudes towards life.

It’s all delivered in her sarcastic and satirical tone. Deadpan and humorous.

I’ve loved some of the movies I’ve seen her in, but after reading ‘Bossypants’ I have much more respect and adoration for her as an artist, business woman, comic and human being.

She is goofy awesomeness at its best.

Overall feeling: So much funny

Bossypants Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Bossypants Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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.