Book Review – ‘Becoming Nicole : The Transformation of an American Family’ by Amy Ellis Nutt

If you love Dreamer/ Nia Nal played by Nicole Maines from ‘Supergirl’ – this is where it all began!

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Non Fiction, GLBT

No. of pages: 279

From Goodreads:

The inspiring true story of a transgender girl, her identical twin brother, and an ordinary American family’s extraordinary journey to understand, nurture, and celebrate the uniqueness in us all, from the Pulitzer Prize–winning science reporter for The Washington Post

When Wayne and Kelly Maines adopted identical twin boys, they thought their lives were complete. But it wasn’t long before they noticed a marked difference between Jonas and his brother, Wyatt. Jonas preferred sports and trucks and many of the things little boys were “supposed” to like; but Wyatt liked princess dolls and dress-up and playing Little Mermaid. By the time the twins were toddlers, confusion over Wyatt’s insistence that he was female began to tear the family apart. In the years that followed, the Maineses came to question their long-held views on gender and identity, to accept and embrace Wyatt’s transition to Nicole, and to undergo an emotionally wrenching transformation of their own that would change all their lives forever.

Becoming Nicole chronicles a journey that could have destroyed a family but instead brought it closer together. It’s the story of a mother whose instincts told her that her child needed love and acceptance, not ostracism and disapproval; of a Republican, Air Force veteran father who overcame his deepest fears to become a vocal advocate for trans rights; of a loving brother who bravely stuck up for his twin sister; and of a town forced to confront its prejudices, a school compelled to rewrite its rules, and a courageous community of transgender activists determined to make their voices heard. Ultimately, Becoming Nicole is the story of an extraordinary girl who fought for the right to be herself.

Granted wide-ranging access to personal diaries, home videos, clinical journals, legal documents, medical records, and the Maineses themselves, Amy Ellis Nutt spent almost four years reporting this immersive account of an American family confronting an issue that is at the center of today’s cultural debate. Becoming Nicole will resonate with anyone who’s ever raised a child, felt at odds with society’s conventions and norms, or had to embrace life when it plays out unexpectedly. It’s a story of standing up for your beliefs and yourself—and it will inspire all of us to do the same.

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I first bought this book solely on the recommendation of another book reviewer, and the fact that I enjoy diverse reads – and in this case a transgender protagonist.

Going into ‘Becoming Nicole’ without any prior knowledge, I was expecting something akin to ‘If I was Your Girl,’ but instead found I was reading a non-fiction account of a real person, compiled by journalist Amy Ellis Nutt.

To be honest the writing style and narrative was fairly stale, and resonated with hindsight and an older cis-gendered author’s perspective. Even though this is a story about triumph for transgender awareness and education, it missed the nuances had this been an ‘own voices’ book. I found the first half slightly frustrating and offensive. But as the novel encompasses a large time span, you can see the narrative change as the author herself gets more education and awareness of LGBT issues, and ultimately grows in her language, political correctness, and entrenched behaviour.

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I think the best thing about ‘Becoming Nicole’ is that it is a marvellous account of history regarding transgender rights. And as a resource. It has scattered facts of a trangendered experience from the age of 2 to adulthood. From both first person and third person viewpoints. It shows how this issue is dealt with by the individual, the family, and the community at large. The legal struggles faced by a transgender person. Slap in the middle of the national transgender bathroom debate, it brought to light a lot of things I would have never of thought of. It shows how backward people, legislation, and government can be; but also how forward thinking in the same regard.

While I am not a fan of the writing, I will say that this is an important book in regards to the fight for equal rights and acceptance that transgendered youth face. It showed just how much of a sheltered life I have lived and had me questioning: would I have the courage to put myself out there publicly like Nicole and her family to fight against discrimination and bullying. I’d like to say I would in principle. But after reading the difficulty and sacrifices the Maineses made, that thought scares the crap out of me. But the end result seemed to justify the hardship. But real life doesn’t always have a happy ending.

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe biggest win for ‘Becoming Nicole’ was the overwhelming show of support for transgender rights and issues, how society and culture are evolving… and for the undying determination and positive fighting spirit of the Maines family. I’m extremely jealous of their relationship. I wish I had parents still by my side who had the insight and intelligence to see the real me. Nicole had an amazing, safe and secure homelife to give her a place of strength to draw from.

There are accounts of scientific research, social definitions, and legal terms littered throughout this tome which help the reader form a language to discuss the topic that I’ve found invaluable. There are times I’ve heard friends say something offhand that is politically incorrect or offensive but have remained quiet because I did not know what to say back with information to support why it’s not kosher. ‘Becoming Nicole’ has given me tools to just that.

This is a great book for people struggling to understand transgender issues, especially parents, but because of the writing style, a younger demographic may be put off. I think if I had known this was a journalism piece before purchasing I would not have added it to my cart, but after reading it I’m glad for the education, perspective, and proud to add it to my library.

On a side note, Nicole as a child was determined to become an actress. To see her playing Nia Nal on ‘Supergirl’ today is such a strong and resounding affirmation for the trans community and a poke in the eye to the antagonists of her story.

Overall feeling – An eye-opening account of discrimination against a minority (and identity)

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 05 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.

Book Review – ‘Sovereign’ (#2 Nemesis) by April Daniels

Daniels writing is improving at lighting speed.

Sovereign (#2 Nemesis) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 315

From Goodreads:

Only nine months after her debut as the superhero Dreadnought, Danny Tozer is already a scarred veteran. Protecting a city the size of New Port is a team-sized job and she’s doing it alone. Between her newfound celebrity and her demanding cape duties, Dreadnought is stretched thin, and it’s only going to get worse. 

When she crosses a newly discovered billionaire supervillain, Dreadnought comes under attack from all quarters. From her troubled family life to her disintegrating friendship with Calamity, there’s no lever too cruel for this villain to use against her. 

She might be hard to kill, but there’s more than one way to destroy a hero. Before the war is over, Dreadnought will be forced to confront parts of herself she never wanted to acknowledge. 

And behind it all, an old enemy waits in the wings, ready to unleash a plot that will scar the world forever. 

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I enjoyed ‘Sovereign’ much more than ‘Dreadnought.’ There wasn’t any of the identity issues that didn’t sit well with me from the debut. Here we see protagonist Danny solidly in her role of superhero, and no longer needing to justify her affirmed and presented gender and role. Characters and forces working against her are aplenty, both in terms of accepting her transformation, and super powers. The story felt grounded.

This was full of action. I was transfixed from the start to the finish. I would’ve completed it in one sitting if my eyes weren’t growing heavy as it got late in the night.

Danny’s friendship with Calamity was strained and weird for the first half of the novel – and I didn’t feel like it was totally justified. But is was beautiful to see their relationship grow and change. Android and hero support, Doc, was my favourite, and she managed to ingratiate herself further into my heart through ‘Sovereign.’

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We see many characters return, and some new ones get introduced as threats remaining over from ‘Dreadnought’ and new ones raise their heads to challenge Danny in some awesome fights. I will say towards the end, I was on the edge of my seat, though the climactic fight lacked some emotion and anticipation. I’m loving the way April Daniels crafts battle scenes, but terms and sentence structure became a bit repetitive to zing some of the energy out of those encounters – but that is me being really, really picky.

There is a lot of politics in this one. It’s kind of an undercurrent of the whole series – I feel like it’s mirroring an observation of the current climate of the real world in dealing with discrimination and laws for LGBT rights.

The tone of ‘Sovereign’ was less about gender and more about a person. Less about having superpowers and more about fighting for what is right.

Really looking forward to the next novel in this series – with the jump in improvement between ‘Dreadnought’ and ‘Sovereign,’ the third novel could be outstanding!

We’re still needing to address the Nexus (and Professor Gothics role), closure with Danny’s parents, the fate in the direction of the Legion, and I’m wanting to see what happens between Danny and Red Steel: it feels almost flirtatious.

I’m on the fence with recommending ‘Dreadnought,’ due to the issues with how it handles Danny’s transformation and adaptation to her new gender, but I’d be happy to recommend ‘Sovereign.’ So once you get over that initial hump this series really starts to take off.

Overall feeling: Mindgasm

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Sovereign (#2 Nemesis) 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 – ‘Dreadnought’ (#1 Nemesis) by April Daniels

Comic book heroes, conspiracies and a social conscience.

Dreadnought (#1 Nemesis) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 276

From Goodreads:

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero.

Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl. 

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.

She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction. 

I loved this book because – hello superheroes – but also because of the diversity in its characters and unique perspective on the superhero genre. April Daniels brings together child-like fantasy and social commentary on identity, gender, and trans issues with ‘Dreadnought.’

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One point of contention, and even though this is an ‘own voices’ book, something about the start of Danny’s story and transformation did not sit well with me. She was oversexualised at times, and many of the cis-gendered characters reactions were so stereotypically gendered that I felt it was almost reverse discrimination… but then I realised that while the author was giving an authentic representation of the facets some transgendered youth experience, I think it was that the reactions were crammed into a short space of time, and that Danny’s physical transition was pretty much instant. Where in reality much of this is spread out over years and there is a much more diverse selection of attitudes from supportive and non-supportive people throughout the life of a trans person. So I think my issue comes from the science fiction side of things, rather than the underlying social commentary around someone’s transgendered experience.

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The introduction of Calamity/Sarah was a great tool for viewing the whole superhero industry and the role of villains with an outside eye. She also acted as a voice of reason and a level head that grounded Danny. Not to mention it felt like the only genuine friendship in the whole novel. Which is something ‘Dreadnought’ needed as Danny was essentially isolated from her transition.

Doc was in interesting character that merits a mention. The tech guru, patch-em-up, and gadget geek all rolled into one. While Doc was a great support (team) for Dreadnought, there were some obvious secrets being kept that had me wanting to keep an eye on Doc’s motives, despite being a trusted member of the gang.

But I loved all the issues that this narrative brought to light – and that it wasn’t all about being trans. It was about government conspiracies, complex characters, good versus evil; and all the shades of grey in-between, passing high school, making friends, confidence, and discovering how to take control of your life.

There were elements of body shaming and comments of hormonal emotional states that were a little off-putting for me. Danny kept saying she was the same person, but all of a sudden having a different outside did change her behaviour…it was a little contradictory.

The superheros deal: I loved how there was not a cut-and-dry side of who was good and bad. Each had their own motivations and none of them were all completely righteous. Just like people, we are all fallible, superpowers or not.

Daniels can craft some great fight scenes – I was glued to the page through it all, almost bobbing and weaving in my lounge chair. If that doesn’t give you a hint about how well paced this novel is… I completed it in a day! ‘Dreadnought’ definitely kept surprising me. There was so much going on. I really can’t say I predicted the ending at all. Instead I was just so swept up and engaged in Danny’s story that when I reached the end I was blinking in a stupor.

Great ending too, it resolved enough of the story to give me satisfaction, but teased enough for me to want to rush out and purchase the sequel. Which I did – I added ‘Sovereign’ to my shopping cart immediately. So stay tuned for a review on the follow up soon.

Overall feeling: Blown away – this is how I felt while reading…

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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 – ‘The Decisions We Make’ by RJ Scott

A bit of a bipolar read for me… great writing but poor story development.

The Decisions We Make Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 137

From Goodreads:

Daniel Keyes is an orphan, fostered by the Walkers. The product of a lonely childhood, he is thrown into the chaos of the Walker family and into the life of his new foster brother Jamie. 

This story is the journey of Daniel and Jamie finding their place in the world. Through Jamie being a victim of hate crime to coming out to family and friends, there are many decisions the boys have to make before they become men.

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The Decisions We Make’ was a mixed bag for me. Many elements were so well done, and then others fell way short of the mark leaving the book looking a little amateur. I can’t remember how I came to purchase this book, whether it was on a recommendation from a friend or not, because based on the blurb it doesn’t have much appeal to me. Though, I can see a great amount of potential for the author.

RJ Scott’s narrative styling is a bit dry, but the story is touching and cute.

Our two main characters, Jamie and Daniel were okay, but this novel was so short I didn’t have the time to get me to connect with them. I felt this book was built around a few key scenes without setting the scene and developing the characters enough. We jumped straight into the good stuff and the remainder felt rushed.

The tone of ‘The Decisions We Make’ is blunt. Sexy. Garish. With moments of intense emotion and angst, bringing on all the feels. I lurve these elements in a story, and they are depicted so well, but without to softness of building a rapport with the reader it left me feeling somewhat juxtaposed.

Our cast face some scary moments – both physically and mentally – and I love how RJ can tap into that. I was really engaged in those scenes.

I felt there was some insensitivity when different family or friends kept asking Daniel or Jamie if they could’ve chosen an easier path – like it’s a choice, like it is wrong and dangerous… a very “straight” mentality. It totally rubbed me the wrong way. I’m guessing that’s the link to the title? But other than that, I’m really not sure how the book title is linked to the story. The cover art also threw me – it doesn’t really reflect the characters and, I hate to say it, not altogether polished.

There was a habit in the writing style of friends and family stating that they already knew about Jamie or Daniel’s sexual orientation, or were easily accepting (in a flash of a moment.) And that came across as being falsely and staunchly politically correct and not realistic. Only because everything was so summarised and rushed, it lost the importance and impact of such a declaration.

Some contextual facts that really destroyed the story for me revolved around Daniel being in foster care, and the admission he makes, would make him and his parents liable for persecution from Social Services – where was his Care Worker in this story? Relationships and boundaries as set up early and monitored by Care Workers closely to avoid this potentially psychological scarring event. The whole situation was so glossed over it was painful. I understand it is a simple storytelling device, but it didn’t work for me in this context.

There is a tone of the comical around ‘The Decisions We Make’ as well, there is funny dialogue and situations that had me snorting. Another point I applaud RJ Scott for is some of the educational aspects. It approached both Daniel and Jamie’s exploration and self-discovery in a practical and responsible manner.

Overall an okay read, with all the elements I love in a book, but fell short in the delivery. Sad to say I don’t think I’d recommend it, maybe when the author has had some more practice developing a story…

Overall reaction: Dude!

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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 – ‘So Hard to Say’ by Alex Sanchez

A superb contemporary glimmering with diversity.

so-hard-to-say-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 230

From Goodreads:

When Frederick shows up at school, Xio is thrilled. The new boy is shy, cute, and definitely good boyfriend material. Before long, she pulls him into her lively circle of friends. 


Frederick knows he should be flattered by Xio’s attention. After all, she’s popular, pretty, and a lot of fun. So why can’t he stop thinking about Victor, the captain of the soccer team, instead?

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I felt ‘So Hard to Say’ was more aimed at a middle grade demographic, and in that sense, didn’t have the emotional punch I was looking for. Nor was the storyline complex. However, this novel was innocently concise and poignant. And definitely worth the read.

The narrative married perfectly with the inner voices of our protagonists Xio and Frederick. The Mexican culture that Xio brought, and the confusion and coming of age from Frederick’s story were nothing other than brilliant.

It completely captured those moments of questioning about first love, or attraction, and sexual orientation in the judgemental arena of high school. Even if you removed the aspect of Fredericks questioning his sexuality, the way he approached different friends directly translated to many friendships I had growing up – some you were friends with outside of school, some within… I liked that it showed multiple ways relationships develop throughout your childhood to teen years.

Even though it felt very innocent and stylized, it captures the issues facing our protagonists with an understated grace. This is not an angsty over dramatized account of Xio and Frederick’s life, but a great peek through their eyes with enough insight to set the scene and let you draw from your own emotions and experiences.

Xio’s inner monologue is mixed with culture and a lack of confidence that all teen girls seem to stumble through – what’s wrong with me? Why won’t he love me? I actually loved that realism about her, and her joy at embracing family and heritage.

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Frederick’s life in comparison felt sparse – but you soon realise it’s on purpose. He’s distanced many parts of his life because he’s not sure about things. It was a joy to grow with him through the novel and see him fill those empty spaces, on his way to becoming the person he is meant to be.

Xio’s closing chapter was the most touching and prophetic. I’ve had sexual and gender-diverse friends all my life and can’t imagine ever not sharing our journey together. Friendship is forever – especially when the bond is more like family than someone you happened to go to school with.

I personally learnt a lot from Xio; about Mexican culture and home life. It’s not something we get a lot of exposure to here in Australia. And the fact that the language was scattered into the dialogue was fun. Even in the end pages you get a glossary of terms that I found cool.

This is my first novel from Alex Sanchez and has definitely left me wanting to pick up more of his titles. They are short enough with a light writing style that lends to being able to complete in a day. A great book to give to a younger teen. It was educational, insightful and a cute contemporary. I’d recommend this to lovers of contemporary, diversity and simple love/friendships that can resound with you long after reading. It was certainly a pleasant surprise for me.

Overall reaction: How adorable (kinda like this panda – he’s black, he’s white, and he’s Asian.)

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.

Wrap up – Flat-Out Trilogy by Jessica Park

From tear-jerking angst to cute romance.

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This series was spread over two and a half years, mainly because the first novel dragged out all the feels and left me with a book hangover; the second did little to add to the story and left me with disappointment; and the third, though a great read, did not live up to the heights of the debut.

I jumped into ‘Flat-Out Love’ when it had just been released and there was plenty of hype. At that time I had not read a novel dealing with grief and loss or mental disorders. The romance was unique for me as well. My reading habits were steeped in Adventure, Science Fiction and Horror; so this contemporary felt like something amazing and new, opening up a world in a new genre. As you can imagine I gave it a rave review, grabbed by the witty facebook status updates and Julie’s angst over Finn and Matt.

I immediately jumped online and ordered a copy of ‘Flat-Out Matt’ hoping for more Park goodness… it was in the era where ‘Midnight Sun’ from ‘Twilight’ Author Stephanie Meyer got leaked, and many authors were starting to release books of the same plotline, but from a different character’s perspective. After such a great high, I got a big dip. There wasn’t a lot of new content, no new insights, it was basically a recap of ‘Flat-Out Love.’

It took me another two years before I picked up the last title in this series from Park, the middle book had scared me off. But ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ managed to redeem the author somewhat in my eyes, although it was missing the wit and irony I had loved so much in the debut – and it took a little while to start liking the main character. There was also a watering down of angst and issues dealt with in ‘Flat-Out Love.’ It was in a word: charming. The great thing about it is that you get a jump six years into the future and get a snapshot of how things turned out from the first book.

Overall Park’s writing is great. It has a lyrical sophistication that will engross you. It suffers somewhat with long inner monologues, and sometimes, repetition of particular phrases. But all are engaging and she can really set a great pace, building to a climax that is emotionally messy and satisfying at the same time. ‘Flat-Out Love’ is clearly the best by a mile, and I would only recommend the other books in the series to hardcore fans. They all have elements of Christmas, the loss of a loved one, and learning to live with mental blocks/disorders.

I want to say the characters are kind of quirky – but not in a cute way – in a damaged way. Jessica Park has lost her shine for me as nothing has lived up to the first novel, which I highly recommend (you can skip the rest). I might be tempted to try some of her newer releases ‘Clear’ and the ‘Left Drowning’ series, but they aren’t anything I’m rushing out to purchase. With a great writing style, complex characters Park has a lot going for her writing, so maybe I’ll cave and read some more next year. Watch this space.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Flat-Out Love’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/book-review-flat-out-love/

Flat-Out Matt’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/book-review-flat-out-matt/

Flat-Out Celeste’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/book-review-flat-out-celeste-by-jessica-park/

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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 – ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ by Jessica Park

Sometimes it takes trying to be someone else to find yourself.

Flat Out Celeste Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation.

But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe.

Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him.

Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love.  

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I read the previous novels in this series, ‘Flat-Out Love’ and ‘Flat-Out Matt’ around two years ago, and ultimately lost my momentum with this collection from Jessica Park. The debut was draining – in a good way – all the feels from Julie’s story left me in a book coma for a few days. Then ‘Flat-Out Matt’ re-visited that dark place, as well as adding a touch of bland with a repetitive storyline we got in ‘Flat-Out Love’ this time told in Matt’s perspective. So I needed a break away from Julie and Matt’s world… and the narrative seemed to think so too, because ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ picks up years later. Celeste has grown up and is about to enter college. Don’t expect to get a lot of Julie and Matt in this novel, though we do get some more of their story. As the title suggests, we find out how Celeste has grown since Julie impacted on the Watkins family’s lives, and the challenges she now faces when more of her safety zone has to be left behind as she embarks on a tertiary education away from family and home.

flat-out-celeste-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleInitially some grammatical errors that should have been fixed within the first chapter immediately tarnished my excitement. And Celeste was cute when she was younger with her literal way of speaking. But now older, her speech pattern felt fake and a bit annoying. Especially with her naivety – she’s supposed to be intelligent, and being ignorant of a few things felt unrealistic and included as a hook or comedic device. I did not find it amusing.

After a few chapters in, the magic started coming back again. I began to like Celeste and got invested in her experiment to become a different, more likeable person. It has some light comical moments that did not rely on her lexicon. She transformed into an endearing character, if not a little insecure and lost.

We meet Justin, a goofy and adorable love interest with run-on sentences that reminds me of a few of my past boyfriends; so it wasn’t hard to instantly adore him. Around the middle of the book Justin starts calling Celeste the Snow Goddess, and I just about threw up in my mouth. His trying to be cheesy-romantic came off as tacky. But that was the only stand out moment that I experienced, the rest of the time he was nerd-girl-porn for me. Justin embodies patience, maturity, and clearly doesn’t like labels. He’s comfortable with who he is, and I just wish I could have a Justin all of my own in real life. *sigh*

Some parts of the book got a little waffly with rambling dialogue (which are character traits of both the leads, but after a while became slightly tiresome.) I felt we got a bit of a spoony ending – but it suited the characters and tone of the novel, so no complaints. Though, after the gut-wrenching climax of the predecessors in this franchise, I was expecting more. Overall ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ was enjoyable, more so than I expected. A great follow-up to end the trilogy that encapsulated some of the original charm with a softer tone. Recommended if you like a light contemporary with quirky characters.

Overall feeling: Sweet.

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.

Making a difference in the world

After going into remission from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma a number of years back, and deciding not to return to teaching, I was staring at my Bucket List – and the item I’d scrawled out at some stage: Make a difference in the world.

What exactly did I mean when I wrote that in a chemo addled daze? Nonetheless, I want to complete everything on my list. It keeps me accountable. Keeps me on my toes and questioning if I am getting the most out of life – finding happiness and not falling into routine and contentment.

Making a Difference in the World Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.gifI may have meant my entry as some big gesture. Altruistic. Like passing on some profound knowledge, or some big public spectacle for the greater good. I may have daydreamed of possessing a super power or unlimited funds in my bank account ‘You get a car, you get a car, and you get a car

But now, I prefer to think it means to help change the world and attitudes around me for the better through a number of small ways:

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Entertaining people. Making them laugh, smile, or whisking them away to some make-believe place for a while to enrich their imagination. Being the class clown growing up, I was always cracking jokes, falling down, narrating Mum and Dad’s actions with fart noises; sometimes going as far as dressing the dogs up in my clothes and walking them down the street. I wanted to share the love, the fun… and get a little be of attention. Now that I’m an adult and many of those activities would have me locked up in a Sanatorium, that exorbitant, over-active mind for the fantastic is used for writing prose. Which I pray at least one person will find mildly amusing and somewhat entertaining. We all need a little escapism sometimes.

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Meeting new people, sharing my story hoping to inspire and in some way – help them on their own journey. It could be through getting involved in their lives, or it could be something as simple as a smile to brighten their day. I get told a lot that I should write a book about my life. I’ve conquered some big events, accomplished many things and tried different careers and places to live. But that’s just my itchy feet always wanting to try something new, strive for excellence. I don’t really think my life is that amazing or different. Maybe I’m more vocal about it. The thought of writing an autobiography sounds boring (and it’s far from over yet)…

Dear Journal, today I overcame the fear that I have a fat bum, squeezed into a pair of jeans and ventured out into the world to do some shopping and decided that people weren’t looking at me because I am weird, but that I am beautiful… and that isn’t toilet paper stuck to the heel of my shoe.

I know I’ve been thrown a fair number of curve balls in my life, but you just get on with things. So if hearing my story helps someone get through theirs, I’m all for it. Plus, a giggle along the way always makes a situation less scary and dire.

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I like to pass on whatever knowledge I’ve garnered in this life. Knowledge should be free. It’s the teacher in me. Whether it be through my blog, conversation, or tutoring. Sharing knowledge gives independence… and it’s something I’m passionate about. I’m a student of life and love new adventures, experiences, and discovering things in books.

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It shouldn’t matter the colour of your skin, how much money you have, who you love, everyone should be valued for who they are. And so I like to show them acceptance, tolerance, love and mutual respect.

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Yeah it’s all a bit idealistic, but embodies the idea I had when I thought I may be leaving this world. It showed me what was important – and the things I valued the most when I thought it was the end…

I’m not perfect, sometimes I falter, but then I can always look at my list. Remember when I was in a hospital bed and wished I could do something… and so I am. And hey, these ways are so simple anyone can do them!

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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 – ‘The Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson

A quirky tale with an important message. Some fun, but don’t forget your tissues!

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long , and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means. 

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It has been quite a while since I’ve read a novel in the GLBT genre – so I thought it was about time to mix it up with ‘The Art of Being Normal.’ What it brought to the table was a level of realism that transgendered youth face depicted really well. Identity and coming out, along with a plethora of other aspects were handled gracefully within the narrative. It was such an enjoyable read for me.

Told with alternating P.O.V’s, it begins with David, the bullied outsider. I like how this character dealt with gender identity intelligently. Research. Though this is only the beginning of David’s journey. It should have been noted somewhere that not all trans know they were born in the wrong body at an early age – sometimes it’s an evolution from something not feeling quite right before arriving at the at conclusion of being transgendered (and involved diagnosis from a professional). I felt like it glazed over some important mechanics in the transgendered experience for the sake of story. Though David was a little frustrating for me at times, I was able to relate and enjoyed a different view of the world at large.

Our second narrator, Leo is an all-around good guy. I enjoyed his strength and found his stand-offishness true to character. However, I guessed the plot twist involving his story from the beginning. Kind of deflated my enjoyment a little. Loved Leo. His story, his mannerisms. And it was great to see a separation in narrative styles with the switching POV’s – Lis Williamson did a fantastic job with each of their voices.

Begrudgingly I admit it lacked a personal engagement from me, something intangible about the characters of David and Leo held me back from truly believing in them. I also had an issue with how they were obliged to get along – it felt forced and artificial.

Effie and Alex – David’s best friends. Love the support and unadulterated no-holes barred relationship they shared. So rare. At times their silliness destroyed the authenticity for me. But loved their sense of humour – had me laughing quite a lot. My favourite scene is when David points Effie and Alex out to Leo, and they pull faces – priceless!

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This story brings to light much of the pain and turmoil transgendered teens face in coming to terms with their condition/identity, some of it had tears falling from my eyes. (the feels! The feels!) The relationships in ‘The Art of Being Normal’ are beautiful.

I did want to read something other than issues regarding their gender identity. This book was all about that, and didn’t have much otherwise. I’m starting to find books are using GLBTQIA issues as a plot point or the big reveal annoying: when these are issues that are dealt with for a lifetime… along with everything else. So, more everything else please.

It’s all a very “nice’ depiction of a transgendered experience – and I use that term hesitantly – because some youth experience so much more darkness and hardship. But that is too serious for what is meant to be a supportive, uplifting, and positive story about trying to live your truth.

Great pacing, I completed this novel in two sittings and never found places where my attention was wandering. Great subject matter, but I found it very predictable, though, I would highly recommend this to all my friends.

Proud to have ‘The Art of Being Normal’ in my library, it has been the most grounded story that has dealt with sexual identity in such a point-blank style to date. Refreshing.

Overall feeling – Simple, impressive even if it was predictable

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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 – ‘Blueberry Boys’ by Vanessa North

Blueberry boys – a little too fruity for me, but has a sweetness to it.

Blueberry Boys Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 186

From Goodreads:

Connor Graham is a city boy—a celebrated fashion photographer in New York. When his uncle’s death drags him back to the family blueberry farm, all he wants to do is sell it as quickly as he can. Until he meets his uncle’s tenant farmer.

Jed Jones, shy and stammering, devout and dedicated, has always yearned for land of his own and a man to share it with. Kept in the closet by his church, family, and disastrous first love, he longs to be accepted for who he is. But now, with his farm and his future in Connor’s careless hands, he stands to lose even the little he has.

Neither man expects the connection between them. Jed sees Connor—appreciates his art and passion like no one else in this godforsaken town ever has. Connor hears Jed—looks past his stutter to listen to the man inside. The time they share is idyllic, but with the farm sale pending, even their sanctuary is a source of tension. As work, family, and their town’s old-fashioned attitudes pull them apart, they must find a way to reconcile commitments to their careers and to each other. 

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I’ve really enjoyed a number of titles in GLBT contemporary, and after reading the blurb and loving the cover I bought ‘Blueberry Boys’ expecting a heart-warming tale to while an afternoon away on the couch.

There is a coming out story (as there generally is in GLBT Literature – no surprises there) but the way it was dealt with felt a little juvenile for the age of the characters Jed and Connor, and a farm setting.

The characters at the beginning were likeable, but I started to lose interest in their pairing as it was too rushed and focused on lustful encounters a lot of the time. There was also a heavy element of instalove between Connor and Jeb.

The narrative is beautiful – until the characters get intimate, then it turns into erotica. Which I didn’t expect. And there’s quite a bit of it. It ruined my reading experience somewhat as it was confronting and the language course – drained all the romance out of it for me.

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The dialogue and narrative is also a bit superlative heavy – there are a lot of curse words. I don’t mind them in a novel to enunciate a point, or fit in to with local colloquialism; but when it’s on every page I find it distracting and pulls me from enjoying the book.

I found myself craving more story – it just felt like one sexual encounter after another without any build or character development.

If you enjoy a light m/m love story with titillation this one is for you, but I was left craving more substance.

Overall feeling – *tttthhhh*

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

 

© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.