Book Review – ‘Love, Creekwood’ (#3.5 Simonverse) by Becky Albertalli

A glimpse into the future of Simon and his pals…

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 128

It’s been more than a year since Simon and Blue turned their anonymous online flirtation into an IRL relationship, and just a few months since Abby and Leah’s unforgettable night at senior prom.

Now the Creekwood High crew are first years at different colleges, navigating friendship and romance the way their story began—on email.

I was expecting a novel (because I didn’t read the blurb – I just saw another release in the Simonverse and added to cart,) so when a novella arrived I wasn’t too disappointed. But then to find it’s not entirely a novella, but a collection of emails between the ‘Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda’ cast, it kinda knocked a lot of the joy out of my sails.

Granted we get more Simon goodness and more Leah sarcasm… and get to glimpse into the first year after graduating high school. It’s all adorably cute and fluffy and full of love and dad jokes. But it doesn’t really tell a story. Just a lot of I miss you’s and I love you’s. ‘Love, Creekwood’ is definitely solely for the fans who have read the books (so you know who all the players are.) It does fill in a bit of missing pieces from the novels, the movie and the ‘Love, Victor’ television series.

There’s not a big storyline, and not a heck of a lot of character development. It’s not like you have to read between the lines of the emails, it’s all spelled out for you. I didn’t get any surprises, not laugh out loud moments. And it concluded just as I thought it would.

Yes, I love the saccrine overload that is Bram and Simon; and Abby and Leah. It was great to indulge in those characters again if somewhat briefly. But I think ‘Love, Creekwood’ is just fan service. It would have been so much better if we got more about Simons family, more about the characters plans for the future, discuss some the life lessons they have learned and changed from… kind of where are we now compared to where we came from.

So, this was lovely and interesting, but nothing ground-breaking and essential to the Simonverse.

I’d recommend only for hard-core stans of the Simonverse.

Overall feeling: fun but slightly disappointing.

© 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 – ‘Mayday!’ (#2 Dirk Pitt) a.k.a The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler

An action adventure of epic proportions (and epic failure).

Genre: Action, Adventure

No. of pages: 362

Major Dirk Pitt picked up the frantic distress call as he cruised his lumbering amphibious plane over the islands of the Aegean. Brady Air Force base was under fire, its entire force of jets destroyed on the ground . . . by just one First World War bi-plane!

A psychotic ex-Nazi, a bloodthirsty Greek strongman and a beautiful double agent set Pitt on the trail of the warped mastermind behind a devastating sabotage plot. And on that trail, danger and death are never far behind . . .

I am a huge fan of the Dirk Pitt series, and started reading them in the early ‘90’s and was hooked straight away. Lately I’ve started to read more of the back catalog of this series, as I came into this about mid-way. It’s also allowed me to uncover a bit of history in what started off the Dirk Pitt legacy. ‘Mayday!’ (written first, but a second release in this franchise) did not live up to my childhood images, carrying an undertone of arrogance, white male privilege, and microagressions.

Dirk Pitt is a sexist pig. The characters are very two dimensional and it is apparent that the characters in this novel only exist to service Pitt’s self importance. This is the worst book from the series that I have read. If I had started reading this collection from this debut, I would have tossed the first few books into the fire and dismissed Cussler as a writer completely.

Dirk Pitt slaps a woman across the face because she is grieving for her dearly departed father and doesn’t want to deal with her emotions, reduces her to her looks and sexualises her. Like if she can’t look pretty for him, what use is she. The tone of ‘Mayday!’ is terribly sexist and left me with the worst taste in my mouth. And that about sums up the novels attitude towards women, and the number of women present in the plot.

Pitt is coming off as a bit of a pompous asshole.  The physical descriptions in this novel don’t entirely match those I’ve read in the many subsequent novels. I think this franchise went through a major re-vamp at some point (thank goodness.)

I found this offensive on so many levels.

The language structure of American cast – the syntax reads like London English… if indeed Cussler was trying to write a Bond type novel as cited, he must of had that in his head, then but failed to craft dialogue for his characters properly. It read with insincerity and clumsiness.

Plus we have spies and agents blurting out their operations, exposing their agents and identities all over the place. So not plausible. This book is ridiculous. The blurting of facts and identities from government officials about clandestine operations and agents in the last few chapters is mind-boggling. It was so unrealistic and harkens back to the days of simple plots and stereotypes… lest be said there was actually a moustache twirling character in this story. It was so bad I was actually having a ball poking holes in the plot and the terribly written characters. Lucky I didn’t turn it into a drinking game – I would have ended up with liver disease.

The only redeeming quality to this was the imagination to come up with the plot, the mixing in of maritime culture and a dash of marine biology.

The pacing was medium… it could have been a tad faster in the middle considering this is an action adventure spy thriller.

A big, huge, massive, NO for recommending this one. I’d be happy to chuck it out the window while driving along the Great Australian Bite and watch it sail into the ocean for a great white to swallow it whole and poop it out in the depths of some dark oceanic trench.

Overall feeling: Kill it with fire!

© 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.

#bookporn #coverlove

Finally finished this quartet early last year after constantly getting distracted by shiny new books. I’ve got the latest release ‘The Darkest Legacy’ following Zu on my TBR shelf ready to conquer soon… a dystopian world where kids have X-men type powers and labelled outcasts and threats. Such a great concept; pity the film adaptation didn’t get past the first book.

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 – ‘Monsters of Men’ (#3 Chaos Walking) by Patrick Ness

Power struggles, an alien race, and a boy and a girl trying to make peace for everyone.

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 643

As a world-ending war surges to life around them, Todd and Viola face monstrous decisions. The indigenous Spackle, thinking and acting as one, have mobilized to avenge their murdered people. Ruthless human leaders prepare to defend their factions at all costs, even as a convoy of new settlers approaches. And as the ceaseless Noise lays all thoughts bare, the projected will of the few threatens to overwhelm the desperate desire of the many. The consequences of each action, each word, are unspeakably vast: To follow a tyrant or a terrorist? To save the life of the one you love most or thousands of strangers? To believe in redemption or assume it is lost? Becoming adults amid the turmoil, Todd and Viola question all they have known, racing through horror and outrage toward a shocking finale.

Monsters of Men’ sees the stakes for both Todd and Viola raise to a global scale. Told in alternating perspectives between the love-stuck teens (and that of one of the Spackle) as they try to influence opposing factions to a peaceful resolution as a colony ship comes close to land… but land to what? A controlling faction ruling with fear and lies, or the utopia humanity has always dreamed of? But how can any of that be achieved when the settlers have enslaved the native alien species and committed genocide against the race and other human settlements. It makes it hard to organise the population when all the men’s thoughts are laid bare in the Noise, even if some of the men have mastered how to hide their Noise. ‘Monsters of Men’ brings the trilogy to an epic conclusion.

There are a lot of elements in this trilogy, and all of the themes mix and become an important distinction for our two protagonists in ‘Monsters of Men.’ Political control through fear, murder, terrorism, genocide is at the forefront. It mirrors the colonisation of Earth where we saw the murder and erasure of aboriginal peoples like in America, Australia, and New Zealand. The native residents of New World, the Spackle, are either killed off or enslaved, their culture ignored by the human settlers; prompting an additional war between groups of people.

We are also faced with the duplicitous nature of thought and action – how does that add up to honesty? And if our thoughts are not on display for all to read, is that dishonesty? We see how the faction of men have split, some accepting this new state of being, and others viewing it a women having something to hide. And women, alternatively, seeing the shameful thoughts of men on display. The whole culture of shame, guilt, and fear plays out in dividing the population. Some using if for power, some for religion, some for manipulation.

There is even more character development for Todd and Viola as they are forced to make decisions for the good of the colony, or should I say the planet New World at great risk and sacrifice. I think by this point in the story, even though events throughout the series have forced them to grow up quickly, they are still in their early teens, and I struggled a bit with their level of responsibility, their reactions and courage. They are meant to be 13-14 years of age… I mean it felt a little unrealistic. That aside, I did get carried away with the story and this small fact did not impact too heavily on my enjoyment of the trilogy.

It was great to see the Spackle represented, take a forefront sharing the narrative along with Todd and Viola after being in the background of the story for so long. We learn about their culture, their community dynamics, and connection to the land. With all the conflict though, I felt a full picture wasn’t able to get painted as we only see them through the eyes of one member as they lead a rebellion.

Monsters of Men’ is better than any of the previous novels, the pacing was a lot faster, though the story still felt far too long. But there is a lot to unpack in the 643 pages, still, it could have been edited down to make it more accessible to the YA demographic. I can see why the film adaptation of the debut novel of this series did not perform well in the box office, because there are so many elements packaged into this story it can be involved and busy – it doesn’t translate well for the big screen.

There were many plot twists that I did not see coming which overjoyed me to now end. I love surprises and stories taking unexpected turns. I’d definitely recommend this to all my reader friends, but I know some may be put off because of its length and complexity – as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of themes, layers, and subtext jammed into this story. It’s like comparing people who love playing games that are point and shoot to those who spend weeks or months on campaigns. You need to invest time to get the pay-off. And boy does this pay-off! All the little plot threads are tied off and leave the reader with a sense of completion and hope.

Overall feeling: Long, but a delicately detailed tale!

© 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.