Book Review – ‘A Very, Very Bad Thing’ by Jeffery Self

A lie by omission brings about a very, very good thing too…

A Very, Very Bad Thing Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

Marley doesn’t just want to be labeled The Gay Kid, but he doesn’t have much else going on. He doesn’t have any hobbies. Or interests. He’s the only kid he knows without a passion . . . until Christopher comes to town. He’s smart, cute, gay, and . . . the son of the country’s most famous, most bigoted television evangelist.

Marley and Christopher immediately spark — and become inseparable. For a month, it’s heaven. Then Christopher’s parents send him to a Pray Away the Gay program, which leads to even worse things. Hurt and outraged, Marley tells a very big lie — and then has to navigate its repercussions.  

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A Very, Very Bad Thing’ is a quaint novel with a heart-wrenching message. There is a big plot twist, something that I was not expecting, and turned my opinion of this book around.

A Very, Very Bad Thing’ started off slow and uninteresting. The writing wasn’t particularly engaging, and the storyline was something I’d read a zillion times before. All in all, I was starting to sum this book up as meh! But get to the plot twist just after the half way point and it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Suddenly it was interesting, emotional, and full of tension and conflict.

A Very, Very Bad Thing Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe wording our protagonist Marley says in public – especially in a speech giving scenario always felt very scripted and P.C. Given, it’s an emotionally distressed teenager, but I found it a little unbelievable for him to be so polished in those instances. Considering he was so goofy and sarcastic at the beginning.

Marley’s relationship with Christopher is very sweet, but I guess because it was so easy, I wasn’t sold on it so much. Then during the conclusion with the summing up of the events – insert moral lesson here – it also comes off a bit contrite. I found myself wanting it to get ugly – or ugly cry. Some events weren’t given enough time to marinate in the narrative.

I wanted the start to be shorter, the words and experiences to have more impact, so that the second act of this novel can explore the themes more effectively and not rely on poignant monologues to make its point. Symbolism can be so much more resonating.

This is all me nit-picking. I guess because overall, even though I shed a tear or two, it felt a little bland than what I was expecting. Like the characters were all on a healthy dose of lithium. I want angst, drama, and at least one person to get slapped.

A Very, Very Bad Thing’ does have a unique story. I have to praise Jeffrey Self for the original take on this love story. Lies by omission, misunderstandings, and doing bad for the voice of good were handled with an unexpected flair. It brings out an important lesson learned that many young lgbtqia+ face today. I love some social commentary in my fiction.

Christopher as a love interest is adorkable. Like a bouncing puppy despite the religious oppression of his parents. But I felt like he could have gotten a bigger chance to shine. I wanted something to stand out so he wasn’t so much the stereotypical boy next door.

Audrey, Marley’s best friend adds some comic relief, but I also felt she too was a bit typecast. Insert quirky BFF here. For as close as these two are, she seemed mostly absent for the second half of the novel… and best friends tend to assert their presence in times of need.

This book is a little battler, it has lots of heart but needs a bit of polish to really shine – but not a novel you can dismiss easily. Luckily it’s short in length so I persevered after finding the beginning a little uninteresting. Definitely worth reading to the end. I went in without knowing anything of the plot and was totally taken on a whirlwind. I’m on the fence in recommending this one – it’s interesting, but I feel the writing style and pacing needs some maturation… Maybe for a tween demographic and lovers of lgbtqia+ genre specific novels.

Overall feeling: You got me there girl

A Very, Very Bad Thing Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

A Very, Very Bad Thing Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

Book Review – ’Boundless’ (#3 Unearthly) by Cynthia Hand

The wrap-up to a trilogy that truly surprised me.

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

No. of pages: 448

From Goodreads:

The past few years have held more surprises than part-angel Clara Gardner could ever have anticipated. Yet from the dizzying highs of first love, to the agonizing low of losing someone close to her, the one thing she can no longer deny is that she was never meant to live a normal life.

Since discovering the special role she plays among the other angel-bloods, Clara has been determined to protect Tucker Avery from the evil that follows her . . . even if it means breaking both their hearts. Leaving town seems like the best option, so she’s headed back to California – and so is Christian Prescott, the irresistible boy from the vision that started her on this journey in the first place.

As Clara makes her way in a world that is frighteningly new, she discovers that the fallen angel who attacked her is watching her every move. And he’s not the only one. . . . With the battle against the Black Wings looming, Clara knows she must finally fulfill her destiny. But it won’t come without sacrifices and betrayal.

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A great way to wrap up the trilogy, if somewhat spoony – but that comes with the territory for paranormal romances.

I’d like to say it was predictable – and in some ways it is obviously so – however there were so many smaller reveals, and the plot structured in a way with many red herrings that I seriously doubted my first assumptions. Which is a tremendously good thing. I was taken off into a fantasy world of angels and angel bloods and put the book down only once to go to sleep.

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleClara becomes a quiet determined hero. Yes she gets some kick-butt fighting skills, but bucks the trend when it comes to YA heroines. It’s not all about the fist and sword. It’s also about family and friends. About love. About your own convictions and the decisions you make. There was an undercurrent that hints at a grand design, working in tandem with free will. That you still shape your own destiny… but that destiny is already out there waiting to be realised. A lovely tone to shine through.

Christian, although a character I found impossible, arrogant, and annoying, redeems himself in my eyes. A bit of selflessness shines through that didn’t marry up to his own desires. It was great to see him finally put to the test.

You don’t get a lot of Tucker, but he’s there still the beautiful righteous cowboy as much as ever.

I was not a big fan of the love triangle thing in this novel. It felt tired and dragged out unnecessarily. But thankfully there is a lot more going on in ‘Boundless’ to entertain. Dark Wings, Hell, University, unexpected surprises, and discovering even more angelic powers. Hand has done a great job of building on the mythology and keeping the tension growing from start to finish.

I was of two minds about the strain that went through Angela and Clara’s friendship; some of it seemed forced for the plot, as did the relationship with Jeffrey, Clara’s brother. I remember wondering why somethings were ignored or forgotten at convenient times, so it lost a touch of realism for me there.

Hand has a fun light touch for her writing style. ‘Boundless’ didn’t have the wit and humor from the first two as much, but we were dealing with some serious stuff and wrapping up the trilogy. I still stand by how engrossed I was with this series, I’m not in to angels or religion with my reading, but the Unearthly trilogy surprised me on all fronts and is a collection I’d happily recommend to lovers of YA.

Overall feeling: Go angels!

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Boundless (#3 Unearthly) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

Film vs Novel – ‘Firestarter’

Firestarter Film vs Novel by Casey Carlisle

Firestarter Film vs Novel Pic 07 by Casey CarlisleYou certainly get a feel for the 80’s. So many references. The novel was a nostalgic read. The film is comparatively in the style of horror movies being produced in the early 80’s as well, though it has some great special effects for its time.

As much as I loved this book – the protagonist Charlie, the paranormal ability of pyrokenesis, the antagonists in The Shop – ‘Firestarter’ felt like a long read. Normally I fly through books like this, but it took me over a week to reach the end. I was continually needing a rest as King went off in tangents and titbits of backstory for secondary characters. It brought the pacing down somewhat. But I appreciated all of that extra information – it really fleshed out the world and characters… so it was a tug-of-war for me between liking Kings writing style and getting bored with it. In the end the amazing writing and subject matter won out: you can always skim the uninteresting bits. As far as the film goes by comparison, there is no let down in the pacing, no chance to tear your eyes off the screen. The action is kept going from start to finish, with a few flashback scenes (as in the novel) for context and backstory, though with parts of the original story cut for time constraints, some things don’t make the best sense.

Some scenes were more gruesome than I expected, but upon completing the novel version of ‘Firestarter’ I kind of wanted more. More horror. More action. But I guess it would have been unrealistic with a child as the protagonist – that kind of action would have twisted her into something monstrous and broken or dead inside. The movie obviously omitted some on-screen deaths and gore to keep it in a marketable ‘M’ rating.

Firestarter Film vs Novel Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleThe depiction of Charlie in the novel felt intelligent beyond her years, but still had the innocence of youth in her view of the world. It was phenomenal to read about the psychic powers growing within her, (and those of other characters.) You get a small character arc with Charlie, but because the narrative takes on many points of view and encompasses many characters, there is more going on around her. I think that was another thing slowing the pace down for me – following some of the other characters just wasn’t as interesting. The film version of Charlie, played by Drew Barrymore comes off as more of an obstinate child at times.

With all the training Charlie is meant to have up until the scene where the movie opens, this alludes that Charlie can pretty much control her powers, but the Airport scene depicts her as not being able to control her ability or not wanting to use it. Not matching the narrative of the novel at all. This scene from the film also tips The Shop off about her ability, yet in the novel it is kept in question up until well over halfway, where she uses this fact as a bargaining tool with the scientists trying to test her.

Firestarter Film vs Novel Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleCharlie’s powers are meant to be effortless to use (depicted in the novel,) but the heavy breathing, sweating, use of a wind machine to dramatize Drew Barrymore’s depiction of the pyrokenesis – and how she repeats “Back off” to switch it off, make the use of her ability a little clunky and awkward for the film. Charlie never vocalised her ‘cool-down’ in the novel, and her ability was used easily – hence the training.

When Charlie was in with The Shop, they drugged her to inhibit her use of her ability, yet in the film, even though they knew of her ability, they did not use this method of control. Instead may of the scientists walked around in hilarious looking thermal suits.

Additionally, in the film with Charlie befriending Rainbird, she confides just about everything and never draws her own conclusions to his deception. Where in the novel she is much more intelligent and mistrusting. She also gets a note from her father informing her of Rainbirds true intentions, leading to her forming a plan of escape. I wish we had seen the more aware and strategic version of Charlie on the big screen. Even after the first demonstration of Charlie’s power in the film, while everyone is distracted she walks back into her room… where in the novel she takes the opportunity to find her father. Dumbing down her character was detrimental to this film. Even with all these issues in context and story Barrymore’s portrayal of Charlie is epic. A true testament to her acting chops at such a young age.

Andy (Charlie’s Dad) was the dedicated loving father, nurturing and supporting Charlie, instilling right and wrong, ‘Firestarter’ is as much his story as hers. I feel that we don’t get as much character development as we could because this is essentially a cat-and-mouse chase story, tumbling from one escape to the next.

Firestarter Film vs Novel Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleThe biggest difference to the written version to the one played by David Keith in the film, was how his ability was portrayed. It was meant to be mental dominance, yet somehow he manages to affect phone booths to extract coins, and change television channels without the use of a remote. Was he meant to have different abilities in the film? The dramatization of Andy using his ability felt overacted. Grabbing his head, a bloody nose. Even though thie is typical treatment for the time of its release, I wasn’t sold. In the novel he got headaches, disorientated, and exhausted. Using his ability is said to give him mirco-aneurisms, a blood nose was overkill. Leaving Charlie to take the lead in taking care of him and ensure their safety.

Another aspect explained in the novel was the ricocheting of Andy’s ability, it’s set up in the narrative, and shows a history and line of progression – in the film however we get a scene around one character seeing snakes with no context.

Rainbird is the quintessential antagonist from King. He manages to paint interesting and layered bad guys that still give off an aura of pure evil. It’s easy to see why so many of his novels get the film treatment. With the native American Indian background, it felt like a foreshadowing of diverse writing that we see today – even if there are colours of stereotyping and discrimination (as too in dealing with transvestism.) Villainising minority groups in the time ‘Firestarter’ was published was commonplace.

Firestarter Film vs Novel Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

As for the depiction of Rainbird in the film: George C Scott is not Native American, I think I was offended by this more than any other change for the movie adaptation (thank heavens he wasn’t in blackface.) Additionally, there was no setup, no backstory to build this iconic antagonist. The film left Rainbird feeling two dimensional. The same thing happened to The Shop’s spies near Charlie’s Grandfathers cabin – no set up or backstory – there was no context to validate why they were even there. In the novel they lived at the place for months, in the film, days.

The final battle scene at the Barn has some major differences. We get all the Hollywood treatment of Charlie puffing and shooting fireballs, evaporating bullets for the film. When the horses are set free, none get shot or catch on fire like in the novel. The special effects of some of the bad guys catching on fire is a bit hilarious as they just stand still screaming. Umm, I’d be running and failing, rolling on the ground. But I did like how one guy gets blown in to a tree fully ablaze from Charlie’s psychic blast.

Firestarter Film vs Novel Pic 06 by Casey Carlisle

The novel shows Charlie taking out the entire compound (and people), where the film has her exhibiting much more restraint in carnage. The book suggests Charlie’s abilities extend much further than pyrokenesis, but the movie keeps her psychic power within the confines of a Firestarter.

The novel ends on Charlie contacting the ‘New York Times’ – a reputable newspaper; but the novel has her going into the offices of the ‘Rolling Stone’ because it was the only publication independent of the reach of The Shop to have her (and her Father’s) story published.

The writing of the novel is somewhat dated. The references are solidly entrenched in the 70-80’s. Technology, attitudes… it was nostalgic in a way, and also had me thanking god we’ve evolved from that place. Stephen King has a resounding writing style – descriptive and distinctly dry and masculine. Though he has a tendency to repeat things a number of times. And a perchance to long drawn-out exposition. This had me skimming a page or two. It also slowed down the pace and I was frequently putting the book down for a rest. While I enjoyed the film, it does not stand the test of time and fails to compare to the book.

I won’t comment on predictability – I’d read the book and seen the film before, plus it’s such a well-known story the plot was all but spoiled long ago. Looking forward to the film remake currently in development to see how they modernise ‘Firestarter’ and tie it into the Stephen King universe at large. It’s rumoured for a late 2019 to a 2020 release. I hope we will get to see Drew Barrymore return and possibly play the role of Victoria McGee, Charlie’s mom. Fingers crossed.

Firestarter Film vs Novel Pic 08 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

#bookquotes

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The new series by Rachel Hawkins is definitely funny and cute… though not the best of her’s I’ve ever read. Should be interesting to see where she takes this series. I’ve seen that the covers have been redesigned *sigh* now my hard cover is not going to match the rest of the trilogy. I hate it when that happens…

Book Review – ‘Queens of Geek’ by Jen Wilde

Reading, Vlogging, and Book Conventions…

Queens of Geek Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 262

From Goodreads:

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

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I really enjoyed this book, it’s full of geek culture, diversity, and is totally kitsch. ‘Queens of Geek’ kicks off in great style and I could see great potential in the direction of the plot, but for me its conclusion travelled on the side of self-declarative cuteness rather than difficulty and drama. For some reason I wanted more, but that by no means alludes to a poor reading experience: instead I immensely loved the tone of identity, and the treatment of mental illness and sexual orientation.

I rounded ‘Queens of Geek’ up as a bit too contrite. The lovey-doviness between the couples too saccharine sweet, I either wanted some passion, some erotic tension, or some angst – none of that was translating.

Charlie was a fun character. Identifying as bisexual and dealing with her ex and a new love interest at the Con brought tension and some interesting altercations. Especially while trying to juggle her public persona at the same time.

Queens of Geek Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Taylor was a bit boring for me. I loved how she struggles with anxiety, and way she tries to overcome her mental illness and finding support from new and old friends… but I wanted something else of interest about her other than this. I thought it was going to be her blogging – like we’d get some wit, humour, and great content that way; but it only resulted in a few journal-esque entries. As much as I thought Taylor was cute – and faced a lot of challenges, I wanted something other than her mental illness to stand out to me.

Jamie, the third friend in the trio and Taylor’s love interest – insert geeky, Labrador, floppy-haired BFF with secret crush here – I mean could he be any more stereotypical and non-descript? I was egging for some fights, some tension, some misunderstandings. He felt like a prop rather than another person in the plot. The only thing he did on his own was buy merchandise.

I love the angle for diversity and all the nerdiness of a Con rolled into a novel. A blogger, and vlogger, and an actress on the rise, characters dealing with mental illness; there is a lot to love about ‘Queens of Geek’ and I applaud Jen Wilde for writing such a cool novel – I just wanted her to take it further. I put this down a lot not only because I’m not a big fan of alternating P.O.V’s but also the pacing was a little slow.

The cover art is a great concept and what really attracted me to picking up this after a few glowing reviews from fellow bloggers.

Overall a masterful little gem that is a definite recommend for the YA reader- especially if you are one to geek-out over conventions.

Overall feeling: Cutesy-wootsey.

Queens of Geek Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Queens of Geek Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

5 star reviews from the past 5 years

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Books that I award 5 stars to usually affect me in some way: strike an emotional cord, surprise me with the plot or writing, or allow me to completely escape into a fantasy world (or all of the above)… and I don’t award that perfect score lightly. So I thought I’d take a look at how many novels fall into this category; both read and published within the last 5 years.

I was surprised that it only consisted of seven books. Out of the over 400 novels I’ve read in the past 5 years, the list below were the only ones to shine. Maybe I need to start reading more new releases? Let’s take a look:

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe Martian by Andy Weir

I’m a huge sci-fi geek. It’s what got me into reading in my youth. But I think what resonated with me from ‘The Martian’ was how plausible it felt. Much of the novel is grounded in applicable science. Plus, I love working through problems. It was a real case of every obstacle being thrown at protagonist Mark Watney, and he systematically finding a solution to keep surviving. MacGuyver on Mars!

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleIlluminae, Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This series is action from start to finish. It has sassy, sarcastic, and diverse protagonists, a countdown, and more than one antagonist working against our heroes. With a narrative of collected documents, the pace kept going, and grabbed snippets of different perspectives in this action packed soap opera. The middle book ‘Gemina’ didn’t quite match the calibre of its companions, but this is a trilogy I’d recommend to anyone who wants a sci-fi read.

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleCress by Marissa Meyer

I really have to get on with finishing up the rest of this collection! With a fairytale re-telling twist, this science fiction saga brings loveable characters that feel both new and familiar. I was struck at how the storyline kept to the tone of the original fairytales, but still managed to tell a completely new story. This series is the one that opened the door to re-imaginings of old fables. I’m interested to see where it all goes. ‘Winter’ is calling me…

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 05 by Casey CarlisleSimon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Such a cute, quirky contemporary. I both laughed and cried out loud. It was so in touch with teen awkwardness and working out who you are that I could not put it down. So glad the film followed not long after, which I enjoyed thoroughly as well. None of the Creekwook books have lived up to Simon yet, but it is nice to stay in the universe for a while longer.

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 06 by Casey CarlisleThe Five Stages of Andrey Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson

This was a dark horse of a book. I remember being tentative about this read at first, but it has become a favourite. It does deal with protagonist Andrew and his identity and orientation, but mainly it’s about dealing with grief. With an edgy contemporary style, and having to personally deal with losing a family member a year of two earlier, this resonated with me. Grief hits you in unexpected ways and can hang around for quite some time. It can ruin you, change your life. Sometimes it’s about crying, saying goodbye, and getting on with things; and sometimes it’s not. Shaun David Hutchinson’s writing style really stood out to me. A brilliant stand alone.

5 Star Reviews From the Past 5 Years Pic 07 by Casey CarlisleA Court of Thorns and Roses Sarah J. Maas

I’m not big on fantasy, but having found a new love for re-tellings, and the hype around Sarah J. Maas, I gave this trilogy a chance. I have to admit I was surprised by how compelling protagonist Feyre’s story is. How Maas interpreted the tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ We get a ballsy heroine, a trickster of a beast, and such an imaginative fae world… and the ending was not what I expected. So this one gets full marks for great escapism, strong female characters, and surprises.

And that’s it. All of my other 5 star reads were published much earlier and did not fit into this discussion. Four science fiction, two contemporary, and one fantasy. Considering my favourite genres are YA, Science Fiction and Horror/Thriller, I expected quite a different list. But that’s how the cookie crumbles.

Do you have any 5 star recommendations? Let me know in the comments, I need to start populating this list with more books!

In the meantime, happy reading. Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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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.