Book Review – ‘Bloom’ (#1 Bloom) by Kevin Panetta

Mood inducing art in this delightfully innocent queer tale

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, Graphic Novel, GLBTQIA+

No. of pages: 368

Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band—if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

A lovely story. Atmospheric, but very simple and didn’t give much attention to the periphery characters. The aquamarine colouring marries with protagonist Ari’s depression and the seaside location, and the artwork is beautiful.

Ari’s feelings aren’t thoroughly explored – why he’s so unhappy. I would have liked some more examination into his isolation and sadness, maybe uncover the contributing factors to give the reader a full character arc.

The relationship with Hector jumpstarts with a kiss, there felt like there was little build up or angst. They were friends, and suddenly seeming boyfriends… nothing is addressed before the story ends. I feel cheated as a reader that there was no build-up and pay-off for their relationship. I craved more emotion and higher stakes.

The story, because it is simple in plot and structure is very predictable, but don’t let that discourage you from a beautifully innocent tale. I felt like I needed to see a lot more to happen. More intense feeling explored. As cute as ‘Bloom‘ is, it felt a little flat. With ‘Bloom II‘ schedules for release in 2023 we might see some more complexity, and the secondary characters fleshed out more… I’m looking forward to this sequel.

Overall feeling: she cute

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Wires and Nerve : Gone Rogue’ (#2 Wires and Nerve) by Marissa Meyer, Douglas Holgate, and Stephen Gilpin

… the one where Iko stands on her own, kicking butt and swooning the boys.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 324

Iko – an audacious android and best friend to the Lunar Queen Cinder – has been tasked with hunting down Alpha Lysander Steele, the leader of a rogue band of bioengineered wolf-soldiers who threaten to undo the tenuous peace agreement between Earth and Luna. Unless Cinder can reverse the mutations that were forced on them years before, Steele and his soldiers plan to satisfy their monstrous appetites with a massacre of the innocent people of Earth.

And to show he’s serious, Steele is taking hostages.

Cinder and Kai, Scarlet and Wolf, Cress and Thorne, and Winter and Jacin all feature in this epic new battle. But it is Iko who must face her deepest fears when she uncovers the truth about her own unusual programming.

This follow-up graphic novel series following Iko from the Lunar Chronicles gives a glimpse into all the characters in that series after the events of the novels have unfolded. There is a particular child-like joy and humour in the story (and illustrations.)

Wires and Nerve : Gone Rogue‘ is entertaining. I loved the expressions of the character drawings- can really set a mood/tone – as did the cool tones of the colour panels. It was lovely to see the characters from the Lunar Chronicles expressed to see if my imagination had done them justice from reading the series.

This is a simple story, but has grit and does not shy away from surprises. There was a little more tugging at the heart strings than I anticipated with the discussion of what it is to be human as Iko comes to terms with her identity and relationships. 

The narrative is that same juvenile tone as Iko, same silliness, which can be enchanting. I will admit, for all the charm this story has, I wasn’t as engaged as I was in the novels. The tone and simplistic nature of this graphic novel loses some sophistication and intricate plot of a novel – but it is the nature of some graphic novels.

Not much else to add other than this is a lovely addition to the Lunar Chronicles universe, and if there are any more sequels of this nature, I would happily snap them up.

Overall feeling: Full of Iko cuteness!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Heartstopper : Volume Four’ (#4 Heartstopper) by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper practically stopped my heart with endearing cuteness.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA+, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 353

 Nick’s journal:

I think I’m in love with Charlie. This summer with him and our friend has been amazing, and I want to say ‘I love you’, but… I guess I’ve had other things to worry about lately…

This series just keeps getting better and better. Another installment with cuteness overload. I love how expressive the characters faces are in the artwork. We are getting more and more story with the secondary cast, really rounding out the story.

We see Charlie begin to assert himself a bit more – standing up against over-bearing parents that are pressuring him about school (and exaserbating his eating disorder) and confessing his love for Nick.

We also see Nick loving and supporting Charlie, and broaching the topic about taking serious steps to deal with his eating disorder.

It’s great to see such character development, to be honest, I don’t expect much in graphic novels, but Alice Oseman manages to pack so much story into her novels with such a flair of innocence and endearment that I am in awe of her talents.

There is not a lot to predict – mainly because it is just a volume in an ongoing story – but what there is is obviously predictable, but that is the reason I am picking up this book – to see Charlie and Nick get together and navigate their lives as a couple.

Still highly recommend this series and am excited to see where the following sequesl take us. Not to mention that the television adaptation is not far away from hitting the air: and I’m all here for that!

Overall feeling: Just a little bit adorable… okay a lot adorable!

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Wires and Nerve’ (#1 Wires and Nerve) by Marissa Meyer, Douglas Holgate, and Stephen Gilpin

A hero’s journey from my favourite android of the Lunar Chronicles.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 238

When rogue packs of wolf-hybrid soldiers threaten the tenuous peace alliance between Earth and Luna, Iko takes it upon herself to hunt down the soldiers’ leader. She is soon working with a handsome royal guard who forces her to question everything she knows about love, loyalty, and her own humanity.

This was the graphic novel I didn’t know I needed. Iko is by far my favourite character from the Lunar Chronicles. She’s sassy, funny, and has a juvenile charm that I find endearing. A straight talker who is a girlie-girl and is always looking out for people to be happy and enjoy life. Not to mention how she angsts over cute boys. The fourteen year old girl in me is screaming.

The story takes place after the Lunar Chronicles, when Cinder has overthrown Levana and taken the crown. With the genetically altered Lunar soldiers wreaking havoc on Earth, Iko volunteers to form a one-android military unit to capture the wolf-pack insurgents and return them to Lunar and face consequences and undergo rehabilitation.

As much as I love the concept and following Iko as she stealthily traverses Earth, tracking down the rogue soldiers, the story is not complete – this is volume 1 of a two volume story. But I did get a small amount of resolution to the story, there is a plot twist and this volume ends on a cliff hanger.

Even though Iko is painted in the ‘born yesterday’ trope; highlighting her childish innocence, she is undertaking a very serious and highly stressful task and we start to see her character develop in the challenges she faces. Plus you will get to see all the main characters from the Lunar Chronicles, so this is a must for fans of the series.

Given the graphic novel format, there is not a lot of story packed into the pages and it is a very quick read. The artwork is beautiful, and ‘Wires and Nerve’ was a pleasant reprieve to reading novels, and a great addition to the Lunar Chronicles universe.

I’ve already ordered Volume 2 ‘Gone Rogue’ to complete the story, so look out for a review to complete this duology in the near future.

Overall feeling: Lovely.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Heartstopper : Volume Three’ (#3 Heartstopper) by Alice Oseman

Love is in the air with a field trip to Paris.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA+, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 384

 The Heartstopper gang go on a school trip to Paris! Not only are Nick and Charlie navigating a new city, but also telling more people about their relationship AND learning more about the challenges each other are facing in private…

Meanwhile Tao and Elle will face their feelings for each other, Tara and Darcy share more about their relationship origin story, and the teachers supervising the trip seem… rather close…?

This volume of ‘Heartstopper’ just upped the adorable factor! We start to get developed side characters and their own arcs, there’s more complexity in the plot, and Charlie and Nick are facing greater challenges. Again this is not a self-encapsulated story, rather just an episode in the growing closeness of Charlie and Nick.

The representation is handled with kitten gloves, but does not water down the fears minority groups face. ‘Heartstopper’ still manages to encapsulate that innocent charm from the previous volumes.

’Heartstopper : Volume Three’ deals with more issues around Nick’s coming out to a wider circle of people, and the pair heading off on a school trip to Paris. There they also start to address intimacy, and how far they are willing to go… and getting close to using the ‘L’ word. It’s nice to read a story that builds the relationship at a more realistic pace and have frank honest discussions about becoming intimate, and comfort levels. It feels like such an intelligent approach and is a great example for today’s youth. I’m sick of the trope when teens get into relationships and weeks later (sometimes much sooner) they sleep together and it’s a magical experience and like a love they could never imagined. That is so unrealistic and robs the characters of being able to grow the foundations of real (loving and intimate) relationships.

Queer relationships from others characters in Charlie and Nick’s immediate circle are also getting air time in the narrative, again giving examples of the many different hues of the rainbow. Tao and Elle. Tara and Darcy. Mr. Ajayi and Mr. Farouk.

We also get a touch on the bullying that Nick suffers from his older brother, and I’m interested to see how the family is going to handle this issue. There is a little more about Charlie and his eating disorder. And the friendship dynamics the pair face in their separate friend circles. There is a lot to unpack from these graphic novels – Such a master of subtext and frank observations on the issues raised.

I’m loving the complexity and scope of this series now, and am eagerly ready to jump into Volume 4. Also with all the updates coming in about the screen adaptation by Netflix with casting and shots from filming on set, I’m incredibly eager to see what they churn out. Looks like we are getting eight 30 minute episodes, but no release date as yet.

Again, ‘Heartstopper : Volume Three’ was another quick paced tome I finished in about an hour. So sweet. I’ve become a major stan.

Overall feeling: Gushing over this!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Heartstopper : Volume 2’ by Alice Oseman

A gentle tale of discovering feelings.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 320

Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t.

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself.

I liked volume 2 more than the debut. There is still that overwhelming cuteness in the narrative that simply captures your heart. Nick and Charlie are adorable innocence personified.

In this sequel, we see Nick and Charlie grow closer and come out, forming friendships with other LBGTQIA+ youth. Where Vol. 1 deals more with Charlie’s anxiety over his feelings for Nick and worries about getting his heart broken; this edition deals with Nick coming to terms with his feelings and coming out to those close to him. It’s all about Nick sorting things out in his head.

Again another quick read, and it’s getting me to like the graphic novel medium. I recently heard that there is a screen adaptation underway, and I am really excited to see that comes to fruition.

The plot isn’t all that complicated, we get some resolution to an issue, but this is really an episode in a much bigger tale. So don’t expect any theatrics or magical reveals, ‘Heartstopper’ remains true to its core about LGBTQIA+ representation and the story of Charlie and Nick navigating the world and their relationship. We do get new introduced elements which will no doubt get explored in following editions of this series. And it all got me hooked!

The presentation of this story in graphic novel form lends to a fast paced storyline. It took me just over an hour to complete the novel in full. And ‘Heartstopper’ has got me wanting to venture into Alice Oseman’s back catalogue.

Again, the story is easy to predict, but we do get a few little bumps in the road that I did not foresee that were a joy to read.

There’s not a lot to say without spoiling or repeating what’s in Volume 2, it’s a sweet progression of Nick and Charlies love for each other that I found endearing. Love the rainbow representation and I’ll recommending this to all my friends. It’s also accessible to younger audiences, not only because of its medium, but because it tackles issues of identity and community in a gentle way.

Overall feeling: Beautiful.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Heartstopper : Volume 1’ by Alice Oseman

Heart-warming innocence.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT, Graphic Novel

No. of pages: 278

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

I was encouraged to pick this up from many, many of my friends recommending this. I’m not one to read a lot of illustrated novels, but ‘Heartstopper’ is charming in its innocence. We meet Charlie, an out gay year 10 student who gets paired with a year 11 student, Nick in peer group for school. They become friends and need to learn to navigate their new feelings and what they mean. Charlie is determined not to fall for a straight boy, and Nick is surprised by his attraction to Charlie.

‘Heartstopper’ is cute! The story is paired back and sticks to the main storyline without too much dramatics. I’ve read manga in the past, where it’s melodramatic and packs a lot into the narrative – ‘Heartstopper’ keeps the main couple in its crosshairs from start to finish. In this fashion, I found the novel to be a little, well, plain. I wanted stronger emotion and some more plot. But I guess that is the charm of ‘Heartstopper,’ it’s a light romance of two boys finding each other in high school.

We get some character development from both boys, it’s not a lot, but enough to have me invested in their story and I have already ordered the rest of the published volumes to find out what happens next.

The illustrations are expressive and have a stylistic grungy aspect to set it apart from the common manga fare. I kind of wanted a more finished look on the page though – but that is a personal preference on my behalf. ‘Heartstopper’ is a happy addition to my library.

Because of the graphic novel treatment I flew through this novel in about an hour, the scenes weren’t too emotional and the characterisation in the illustrations didn’t really have me starting at the page to soak up tone or additional undertones in the scenes. This is paired back, simple, fitting of quiet and understated Charlie and Nick’s slow burn relationship.

It ends on a cliff hanger, so be prepared to invest in this series as a whole.

If you like queer stories and graphic novels without all the melodrama than this one is for you. Excited to hear it is being adapted for a Netflix series and eager to see their take on Charlie and Nick’s story.

Overall feeling: First kiss angst!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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.

Most Bought Author – Spotlight on Dean Koontz

(the guy taking up the most space on my shelves)

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Pictured: Just some of the titles I own – there’s still another boxful somewhere waiting to be unpacked since the move…

I was wondering the other day who was the most popular author – the one who novels I’ve collected the most of. A die-hard true fan. I was a little surprised at the result, but given that I’ve been reading his books since junior high, Dean Koontz topped the list, currently owning over 40 titles. And how appropriate for the Halloween season!

I started reading Koontz when I was 14 years old, (grade 10) not only because of a love of horror and suspense, but it helped while away the time spent on public transport and weekends. Being an unpopular kid, Koontz provided an escape from reality, sleuthing out the paranormal, tripping in science fiction, or conquering demons. He also let you face-off with psycho killers and many of his stories had a canine companion. Being a huge dog-lover, Koontz wrote novels that I related to, and that not only thrilled and scared me, but resolved everything with a happy ending. Can I also say I loved his sense of humour? A mix of sarcasm and Dad jokes that tickled my chicken.

So not only does Koontz occupy the largest area of my bookshelves, he also can boast the oldest novels decorating the horror section of my personal library. The very first novel I bought of his was back in *cough* 1987! This author has been a part of my life longer than most friends and family members. Amazing to think how an author can touch your life and they never know you existed.

Most notable series have to be the Odd Thomas collection, the Frankenstein anthology and sleuth extraordinaire Jane Hawk and her adventures. There are a couple of duologies, and a number of novellas as companions to other releases.

I still get a thrill from reading his novels, but there is also that feeling of nostalgia. His definitive writing style also reminds me of my childhood when life was simple: big hair, scrunchies and high-top sneakers were in. When I lived in acid-wash jeans and thought rollerskating was the coolest thing ever… and half of those things I just listed I may still think are cool…

UL Most Read Author Dean Koontz Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

We’ve seen numerous film adaptations of his novels, my favourites being ‘Watchers,’ (populated a four movie anthology) ‘Odd Thomas,’ ‘Phantoms,’ ‘Intensity,’ ‘Demon Seed,’ ‘Hideaway,’ Sole Survivor,’ and ‘Whispers.’ It’s great to see how his literature has crossed boundaries and gives me inspiration to not only write, but use the possibility of a film adaptation of my own work someday in the future. It’s fuel for the imagination and an example that you can make a comfortable living from writing books.

But out of all of the Koontz novels I have read, I have to say my absolute favourite was ‘Ticktock.’ A Chinese-American protagonist stalked by a demon, aided by sassy service worker and her weirdly astute dog. It’s scary, hilarious and full of action. Reminds me of the tone of ‘Buffy’ with its dark comedy and loveable characters. This is one book I’d love to see brought to the big screen!

I can’t wait to see what Koontz releases next and how his reach extends into film and television. A man worthy of the title of ‘idol.’

UL Most Read Author Dean Koontz Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Who is your author inspiration?

Do you have a favourite Dean Koontz novel?

Which author have you collected the most number of novels from?

Comment below – I love discovering new authors and books to devour.

Happy reading everyone 🙂

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. 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.