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.

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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.

Book Review – ‘My Plain Jane’ (#2 The Lady Janies) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Another supernatural twist on a classic tale…

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Historical

No. of pages: 464

From Goodreads:

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

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Another hilarious ride through a re-imagined classic from authors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows.

I did find the characters interesting and compelling, and the plot equally twisty and turny. Expect surprises, with ‘My Plain Jane’ but also mirroring the same tone to the original text this novel is inspired by.

While the authors are great at world building, the stand out aspect of ‘My Plain Jane’ is the complexity of the characters and their development. Historical mannerisms and social etiquette also add a comedic touch. I especially remember when Charlotte Bronte disguised herself as a footman and marvels how comfortable being dressed as a man is, and wonders why they aren’t sleeping all the time.

The story is told from three perspectives, that of Jane, Charlotte and Alexander. Jane can see ghosts and has a passion for writing. Everyone describes her as average, forgettable. Except for ghosts. The otherworldly spectres see Jane as beautiful and compelling. Charlotte is a fastidious beauty. The kind of always on the go perfectionist and Janes best friend. We do see a bit of jealousy, or sibling rivalry pop up between these two. And Alexander, an agent of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits of which he tries to recruit Jane for her ability to communicate (and see) ghosts.

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Helen, the sassy 14 year old ghost and best friend of Jane Eyre has to be my favourite character from the book. I’d love her running the narration or giving opinion of what is going on.

The ghosts and their mythology were a great addition to this tome and I wish there was a sequel following these characters. (Maybe in the Marys trilogy.)

We get a few nods to the original text, as well as a mention of the main characters from ‘My Lady Jane’ which I found delightful.

The pacing felt slower in ‘My Plain Jane,’ I put this book down a number of times for rests. So too was the humour spread out much more. In comparison to ‘My Lady Jane’ where we got frequent asides to the reader, plenty of slapstick. I was always laughing… this felt sparse in ‘My Plain Jane.’

I think one thing that slowed the pace down for me is the continual head-jumping as multiple points of view are followed in ‘My Plain Jane.’ Changing with each chapter, their voices weren’t that distinct, and the authors had to establish a little about the character and the scene before moving the story forward – and many of the chapters are short – so I think this was the main culprit for the pace feeling slow. Especially in the first half of the novel. I think if the authors tackled several plot points in a chapter before switching point of view it would have driven the story further a lot quicker and given the reader enough time to connect to the narrator before hearing from another of the main cast.

The overall plot was very enjoyable. I’d re-read this for a lazy Sunday afternoon sipping hot tea on the porch to wind down from a busy week.

There is a great amount of predictability, given ‘My Plain Jane’ is a re-imagining of ‘Jane Eyre,’ but I felt this novel stood on its own, and the fuzzy memory I had of the original story still did not impede the surprises and twist of the storyline. I kinda liked the way it ended.

Another solid recommendation. A fun by-the-side for lovers of the classic novel.

Looking forward to the final book in this trilogy ‘My Calamity Jane,’ due for release sometime in 2020 and I also noted that there will be another trilogy for the Marys (the first set in the same universe as ‘My Lady Jane’) and am ecstatic to see these three authors collaborate on further novels in this tone. So much fun to read!

Overall feeling: fun and funny, but a bit flat

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

My Plain Jane (#2 The Lady Janies) 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.

Film vs Novel – Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why Film vs Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

I have a lot of emotions about this novel. One is that I think is it an important topic, that it was valuable to experience life through the eyes of a teen pushed to a point of seriously considering suicide as an option. The other is the total despair and sadness, the loss of life of someone who had their whole life in front of them. That so much value was placed on silly teenage pranks and behaviour. That she couldn’t see that life does get better, that there is help. But the main theme of the novel is not about suicide, but what we can do for each other to stop it. To put an end to apathy. That everything we do impacts on someone else, and even the smallest gesture can turn someone’s life around.

Thirteen Reasons Why’ has been on my radar for a very long time, but I never picked it up. Suicide is such a sensitive, heavy topic, I didn’t want to put myself through the emotional ringer. I don’t like to think about the consequences for such actions. It’s dark and depressing. I did not want to put myself in that headspace. But this novel does not drag you into shadowed corners and lament at how hopeless life is. This is more of a factual account of circumstances that leads Hannah to her decision. Our protagonist Clay his hope. A shining beacon that lets the reader know that all is not lost. This tone is also reflected in the television series throughout the first season that follows the plot of the novel.

Though it is never stated outright, there are hints in the text of how Hannah is suffering depression, which it has been happening for a while. A condition that goes undiagnosed and it compounded by a series of unfortunate events… all narrated by herself on the set of cassettes she addressed to the main people who affected her life and turned her to a path of loneliness.

Thirteen Reasons Why Film vs Novel Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The first half of the novel is a little slow, introducing characters slowly as each is discussed until about halfway when we start to get more shocking revelations. After that, I was glued to the page. A sort of morbid fascination. What drove Hannah to do what she did? What is going to be Clay’s reaction? So much more happened than I was expecting. The television show follows suit with flashbacks, but is has the luxury of multiple perspectives, where in the novel it is solely Clay, and Hannah through the tapes. Katherine Langford plays Hannah in the show and exudes that lost child putting up a happy front to disguise all the turmoil underneath. The novel focuses on Clay piecing together a timeline through each tape, where the screen interpretation focuses on events and hypes up the bullying more. We see many of the reveals in the novel much earlier in the screen version to keep an episodic pace.

Clay is a great protagonist. He reacts to the circumstances appropriately – a guide to how you should react to what is happening, as testament to so many characters in the story who lack that compassionate behaviour. He is the litmus test for all of the other characters in the story. The narration treated the events respectfully and lets the reader make pragmatic decisions with compassion. I too loved the depiction of actor Dylan Minnette’s of Clay; he captures the quiet nature and determination that is so strong in this character.

Thank goodness for the screen adaptation, otherwise I may never have read this book. It’s what spurned me to bite the bullet and read the novel before indulging in the series. Because, again, suicide = scary and depressing. I like to read fun, happy, escapist books much of the time.

Definitely thought provoking and I can see it as a great conversation starter for teens (or anyone) who feels they are in the same situation as Hannah. The novel even highlights that there were people who cared, who wanted to help, but she just didn’t give them the chance. So I never got that complete isolation and spiralling pit of despair that this topic generally deals with. We get a balanced view of all parties involved.

The novel ends on a great note too. Hope. Looking forward to see where the tv shows takes these themes beyond the scope of the book… dealing with real issues and hopefully not turning it into another overwritten teen drama.

Highly recommended. It’s not as depressing as it may seem. I didn’t fall into a sopping mess, rather just felt sadness and pity. At this point I have to say both the book and screen adaptation are a solid tie.

Thirteen Reasons Why Film vs Novel Pic 03 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.

#bookquotes

#BQ The Yellow Wallpaper by Casey Carlisle

The next of the top 5 quotes from the most memorable novels read has to include the short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper‘ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. A narration on mental illness, post-partum depression, and being trapped in a archaic marriage, unable to play the role of a dutiful housewife. It was the first time I’d read anything so heavily steeped in symbolism. It was required reading for my first year of university and seemed to open my eyes in regards to feminism, equality, and gender roles.

Are there any books that opened your eyes to views on society?

Book Review – ‘Hunted’ by Meagan Spooner

A Beauty and the Beast re-telling with a modern attitude.

Hunted Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast? 

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Meagan Spooner tackles a Beauty and the Beast re-telling with ‘Hunted,’ delivering another fantastic incarnation, breathing life into one of my all-time favourite fairy tales.

Hunted Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleWe follow protagonist Yeva, affectionately called Beauty, while she tries to find her place in the world. She wants more than getting married off in her small village. We see Yeva longing for the forest and hunting with her father. Once tragedy strikes, she begins to embrace the role she’s always wanted… but is it more of an escape than survival?

I loved how we don’t get another bookish beauty with this re-imagining. Yeva stands her own in a male-only occupation. Combined with her mental strength and desire for something more leads her down a darkened path.

Enter the beast.

Spooners reinvented beast is much darker than some other versions I’ve read. He has a duality to him that is distinct and warring for dominance. The mythology in this version feels older than what we get in the Disney version. There is no pretty flower or need to have Beauty fall in love with him to break the spell. This was so much more fun to read. I highly recommend you give this title a go.

The pacing is pretty good – slow in some parts – but only because it is keeping with the cadence of the popular tale. But I did complete ‘Hunted’ in two sittings and was not bored or disinterested in the slower parts enough to put it down and take a break.

We get some prominent themes in ‘Hunted’ which I found delightful. It’s not about romance, more around facing our animalistic nature and thirst for more.

Forget about a Gaston-type character in ‘Hunted’ in the traditional sense. There is no stereotypical fame obsessed machismo set to make Yeva his own. Which was another aspect to this novel that really appealed to me.

Spooners writing style and world building create a picturesque landscape that doesn’t drag too much with details, but keeps the story klipping along at a decent pace.

I’m a little of two minds over the ending. I felt like I wanted something bigger. Only because there were a few parts that I wanted resolved better – but that’s just because I love the big dramatic endings. Especially in the fairy tale genre. But on the whole I’m not mad at reading ‘Hunted.’ I went in dubious, because, you know – yet another Beauty and the Beast re-telling *yawn* But Spooner really got me excited for old becoming new again.

Totally recommend.

Overall feeling: Sucked into the adventure

Hunted Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Hunted 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.