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 – ‘I Wish You All The Best’ by Mason Deaver

Beautifully understated and gorgeously representing minorities.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 329

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

A beautiful queer romance that brings representation from a close-to-invisible group on the rainbow spectrum, told in an understated but cherished tone that touched my heart.

Loved the representation of a non-binary protagonist and the unique challenges they face. With a quiet-toned storyline and how it matches the tone of the narrative told from protagonist Ben’s perspective. The story did feel slow in pace and took a while to get places. I feel like I wanted more complexity, but in saying that, I don’t think it would have worked with ‘I Wish You All the Best.’

This had a bit of a feeling of educating the reader and not making things too difficult for Ben – even though what they go through is pretty rough… a more realistic approach would’ve been messier and lost the tone ‘I Wish You All the Best’ has. It’s cute, quiet, but resounding. 

Because of this quiet tone – be it from Ben being an introvert, having to protect themselves from hurt and rejection, as well as dealing with mental illness; it made it difficult to relate to them. There was always a distance between Ben and other characters. And a distance with the reader. I think this element was why I wasn’t sold on the romance between Ben and Nathan. I enjoy romances which aren’t afraid to get messy and get down to the bones of character development. This in comparison felt as though it was whispered through a tin can telephone.

There was a bit of repetition that I felt an editor should have addressed which pulled me from the narrative a handful of times. While this is a beautiful story, I did not get that emotional connection I was hoping for.

Overall feeling: Not too shabby

© 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 – ‘Tweet Cute’ by Emma Lord

Roast your pizza and your tweets all in one tasty read.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 368

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

An adorable tale of modern technology and the love of pizza! The title is a pun on ‘meet cute’ and is exactly that. This was cute.

The characters are all likeable and well rounded. There is a sense of angst, anxiety, and pressure to be perfect and know your direction in life. ‘Tweet Cute’ is told in alternating perspectives each chapter from our protagonists and love interests Pepper and Jack. Pepper is a high achiever in school and runs her mother’s pizza chain’s social media account with a heavy dash of sardonic wit. Think how Wendy’s roasts its competitors on twitter. I had a bit of an issue in how Pepper’s mother laid a lot of pressure on her daughters head in basically heading the marketing department for a major fast food franchise… it felt unrealistic and irresponsible. But it was a great set up for an environment ready to launch so many tropes in contemporary romance.

Jack is a hard-working student and employee in the family pizzeria, shouldering a lot that is essential for their family’s well-being. Again, a lot of inappropriate pressure placed on the head of a teen who should be focusing on school and their future, not managing his parent’s affairs. He struck me as that always positive type, goody-two-shoes, underdog.

Though it took a while to go anywhere. The first half of the novels pacing is on the slower side, but after that the book gets a lot better. The plot is very predictable, but there were a few surprises that popped up which delighted me. The storyline unravelled very cleverly in the last quarter of the novel.

Overall feeling: The title says it all.

© 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.