Book Review – ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ by Maurene Goo

Food truck fighting.

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

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An adorable little contemporary. This book made me hungry with all its talk about food. At first I thought the characters were going to be annoying, but I ended up loving them with their individual charisma.

Yes, there are tropes and stereotypes in ‘The Way You Make Me Feel,’ but in a good way (well, for me.) The rebel, the nerd, the prissy one; but Maurene Goo does not shy away from quickly dismantling these stereotypes. This novel fell into my favourite wheelhouse of a light contemporary. Perfect for a lazy afternoon’s reading..

The humour was great in Goo’s writing style and had me laughing out loud, I even put the book down because I was laughing so hard, my eyes blurred up with tears. I can’t remember the last time a contemporary did that for me.

Great landscape and world building. I got a real feel for the LA climate and the food truck culture. Not to mention spattering of references to both Asian and Latino culture and language.

We get some great character arcs, and not your usual self-acceptance thing typical to this genre. We see a real transformation in our protagonist.

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleOur protagonist Clara is the big prankster – such a great hook – not the usual type of protagonist you get in this genre. I found her endearing from the get-go and loved reading her journey.

The frenemy/antagonist, Rose is the character I liked her the most. I know girls like this, heck, I was a girl like this. Striving to be perfect, scared of doing anything wrong or being perceived as colouring outside the lines. Stress, anxiety, all rolled up tightly and hidden away from all eyes as you prepare, study, and perform. It’s isolating and all-consuming. Leaving you constantly all-too-serious, uptight, and with a short fuse. A great place to start from and a fantastic character to counter Clara.

Hamlet, Clara’s love interest is a little straight-laced, and the most stereotypical of all the characters, but I had boy envy and was wishing for a Hamlet of my very own.

Have to say, I love the role of a present and involved parent. Adrain, Clara’a father is a tattooed hot D.I.L.F… ‘nuf said. But it was endearing how he cared for Clara, and juggled a small business with being an outstanding parent.

It is predictable, I pretty much guessed every plot point in advance – and even thought of one that never happened. But that is pretty much how it goes in most contemporaries I read. Its why I read them. The happy ending, the promise.

Definitely see what all the hype was all about and keen to check out a few more of Goo’s titles. A solid recommendation from me.

Overall feeling: Tickled my funny bone!

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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.

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#BQ Famous by Casey Carlisle

A fun poke at the notion of instant fame the internet can give a person (willing or not) inspired by the real life situation of ‘Alex from Target.’

The characters grab their 15 minutes of fame and attempt to carve out a career of some sort… would you have the kahoonies to grab an opportunity like that, or does the thought of being thrust into the spotlight terrify you?

Book Review – ‘#famous’ by Jilly Gagnon

Just one post away from fame.

#famous Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Rachel Ettinger has flown under the radar for most of high school, exactly as planned. She’d rather focus on getting to New York City, where being the arty playwright is a bonus, not a drawback. Her googly-eyed crush on Kyle Bonham is embarrassing but unimportant. After all, there’s no way she’d ever end up with the King of Apple Prairie High, anyway.

Kyle does make a grease-splattered Burger Barn uniform look dreamy. But aside from flipping patties – and riding the tide of steady drama from his on-again, off-again girlfriend – everything about his life is fairly predictable.

So when Rachel’s jokey picture of Kyle winds up going viral, they’re both taken by surprise. Suddenly Kyle is insta-famous and everyone on the planet knows about Rachel’s silly crush… including Kyle.

Just as they think their lives couldn’t get any more complicated, their fifteen minutes of fame spirals out of control. And what starts out with an innocent photo becomes a whirlwind adventure full of fangirls, haters, and French-fry bouquets that forces them both to question whether fame – and love – is worth the price.

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This was just the cute contemporary I thought it was going to be – but had much more substance than I anticipated. ‘#famous’ deals with themes around social media, instant fame, bullying, and that awkward coming of age moment in life when your morals are tested, and embarrassment can come from just about anything. Parents, socio-economic status, fashion, your body, ooof the list goes on…

I felt this was an intelligent contemporary shedding light on issues that youth today face in the advent of social media and how strong a roll trolls, peers, and media fame impact on individuals, families, and the opportunities they can present to the right promotion-savvy person.

Told in alternating perspectives in each chapter between popular, gorgeous, star jock, Kyle; and artistic, fringe-dweller, Rachel. Jilly Gagnon gives some great character portraits for both the leads, they are both confident and insecure in varying degrees that was both endearing and believable.

#famous Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe main plot is predictable, but the storytelling is anything but. I loved Gagnon’s writing style, the comedic timing, the charismatic cast, and underlying themes. ‘#famous’ is definitely the first contemporary to surprise me in this manner in quite a while. The pacing is pretty good, mainly due to the shorter chapters and switching perspectives… and they don’t just tell the opposite side of the story on the same scene – they have their own separate arcs that twist and bump into each other. Their tones are completely different.

We get some great supporting characters and the family of both of our leads have a strong presence in the story. Though the story is simple, it has charm and interest and I would happily recommend this to anyone who loves a light contemporary.

Overall feeling: Sweet. Adorable

#famous Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

#famous Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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.

Book Review – ‘Been Here All Along’ by Sandy Hall

A contemporary love story that transverses gender… but lacks a little substance.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, LGBT

No. of pages: 214

From Goodreads:

Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee and having his choice of colleges. They do not include falling head over heels for his best friend and next-door neighbour, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do . . .

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong . . .

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This is an adorable cute contemporary. I enjoyed it immensely. A quick diverse read you can complete in a day.

Some points that count against this novel for me are around it’s lack of substance. We get representation of two male leads, one identifying as gay, the other bisexual, but they don’t really delve into how that changes them. The story is solely about their coming together after they realise how they feel about each other. It’s all very fairy-floss and lollipop land. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I indulge in a positive, happily ever after ending every now and then. Plus the tone and demographic of this novel I can see why Sandy Hall has written the novel this way… but skipping over so many aspects poignant to the characters development takes ‘Been Here All Along’ from brilliant and memorable, to sweet and totally forgettable.

We see this same treatment of introducing a storytelling element and then not going anywhere with it. Cyber bullying, Dyslexia, Poverty, Graduation, and College. They are all introduced, but nothing is done with them. All excellent obstacles to overcome and our main characters to grow through the experiences… but it’s left on the side of the road in favour of a cutesy sunset ending. I mean maybe if we got a little bit more of each of these affecting the cast strongly in some way the story would have been much more compelling. But these points are me being very critical and wanting more from the story.

It really is a deliciously innocent lgbtqia contemporary, more suitable for the younger end of the YA demographic.

I loved the fact that coming out, sexual preference, and a gay relationship was handled respectfully and without fear or hate. How friends and family were supportive. We don’t have enough of these types of stories.

We get a mix of perspectives: our protagonists Kyle and Gideon, best friends who develop a crush each other. Ruby, Kyle’s girlfriend. And Ezra, Gideon’s older brother back from living in L.A. and surfing for the past few years. There is a strong sense of family with all the characters. Plus, given the ‘vanilla’ Disney style to the story telling, expect it to be tropey and sugary as apple pie.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe two male leads, Gideon and Kyle don’t have much of an arc or development other than getting together. Ezra is really a complimentary character to help drive the plot forward. It’s Ruby who really shines when you take character development and growth into account.

And as happens in most contemporaries, just as the protagonist makes some resolution on the main goal or journey, it ends. With all the other good bits just coming to a head…. How does Kyle deal with his dyslexia? How do the couple deal with the cyberbullying incident? Will the girl responsible be held accountable? Will Ruby be punished? Will she get to college? Will Gideon win the class elections… so many unanswered questions that were set up in the narrative. So grimacingly frustrating.

So while this was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon reading, I was really hoping for more gravitas to the story. This would be best recommended to those who love quick cute romances and younger YA readers. Connoisseurs of lgbtqia contemporaries may find this a little bland. ‘Been Here All Along’ was a great novel to introduce me to the writings of Sandy Hall, but I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to pick up another one of her titles.

Overall feeling: Cute. That’s all. Just cute.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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.

Book Review – ‘Someday’ (#3 Every Day) by David Levithan

A peep into the mythology of A, a change in direction, but there’s still more story to tell.

Someday (#3 Every Day) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, GLBT

No. of pages: 393

From Goodreads:

Every day a new body. Every day a new life. Every day a new choice.

For as long as A can remember, life has meant waking up in a different person’s body every day, forced to live as that person until the day ended. A always thought there wasn’t anyone else who had a life like this.

But A was wrong. There are others.

A has already been wrestling with powerful feelings of love and loneliness. Now comes an understanding of the extremes that love and loneliness can lead to—and what it’s like to discover that you are not alone in the world.

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I loved the themes and philosophy ‘Someday’ forces you to think about.

There are a lot of perspectives in this novel, but it stays mostly focused on A, Rhiannon, X, and Nathan. I’m not sure if that’s the reason if felt slow with pacing (especially in the first half of the novel), or the amount of information needed to explore the themes of the novel, and while I enjoyed the head-jumping, I’m feeling like it wasn’t really all that necessary to the story. It left ‘Someday’ feeling bulky.

We get glimpses into other body jumpers – but I have to ask from a reader’s point of view, getting invested in these characters, what was the point? Yes, it goes to establish some evidence of others like A, and reinforce the good and bad choices we make – but I was left with the start of a story… and then nothing.

So too was the concept of A discovering others out there like them. Learning about their condition, the mythology, their origin. I also wondered about A and X’s theory that they are born normally and simply jump to another body after the first day… does the baby then die – it would be soulless right? I hurts my brain. I am still wishing for more exploration into A’s condition and for there to be a connection to some sort of community. Also, for a more solid answer to what A and Rhiannon’s relationship is going to be like into the future. It’s touched on briefly as a concept, and we get different ideas of what it could be like through the experiences of other body jumpers – but it’s not an answer.

It feels like there is at least another sequel to explore A’s existence and a happily ever after yet.

One thing that did stand out to me in ‘Someday’ that was missing – both ‘Every Day’ and ‘Another Day’ also had ties with family (Rhiannon’s) and A beginning to explore the boundaries of his existence. We have those dismissed in this third novel of the franchise and it left me with a feeling of being somewhat untethered. Was it intentional to highlight the loneliness A was experiencing? It left Rhiannon not as complex as she was in the previous two novels.

Loved the development of Nathan. His perspective felt like it represented one of acceptance. Of societies acceptance. Of how many of the LGBTQIA+ community shape their own family. But again in the previous novels we see him struggling with questions around faith and they seemed to have been abandoned in ‘Someday.’

X/Xenon/Poole, although clearly making some harmful choices, does raise the issue as to when are you able to look after yourself, chase your own needs and wants: and is that even possible for beings like X and A? It was something I would have loved to seen explored (or even discussed further. It felt like we suddenly humanise X, get a brief discussion and then it was all over.

I’m really hoping we get another instalment to tackle issues like family (biological or community made), faith, self-care, and ambition; along with the mythology around A and his kind. See him finding a place where he fits.

Discussing the themes of this series with a few friends, we thought it was a nice analogy to those with disassociation disorders. A friend who has undergone gender confirmation surgery, but was born intersex, said having lived through the experience of people perceiving you as one gender and then another – almost like different people in different bodies was very similar to A’s experience. You perceive things differently, there are different physical sensations and others relate to you differently. I think it’s marvellous that we can have discussions like this, brought up from popular YA novels; it’s not something that I would have been exposed to in my youth. We are getting a language and awareness of the human condition through novels like ‘Someday.’

I definitely did not predict what was going to happen in ‘Someday’ at all. As I eluded to I previously, I was expecting quite a different story. The themes were different to those tackled in the prequels, and I still got no resolution to what I wanted after reading ‘Every Day’ and ‘Another Day.’ I really enjoyed the tension and direction of the plot, but felt it could have been 100 pages shorter and told the same story.

I think this is more a book for lovers of Levithan’s writing, those who loved ‘Every Day’ and are keen to continue with A and Rhiannon’s story, and those who enjoy queer literature, I’m on the fence if I’d recommend this to anyone outside those circles.

Overall feeling: Swinging between enlightened and unfulfilled.

Someday (#3 Every Day) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Someday (#3 Every Day) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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.

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Another novel that has been hiding on my TBR shelves for ages – starting to find enjoyment from contemporary titles again. I’m also looking forward to exploring less popular titles… let’s see what ‘When You Were Here’ can offer, slotting it into my bedside table stack to get to it sooner.