Book Review – ‘Bookish and the Beast’ (#3 Once Upon a Con) by Ashley Poston

Another hilarious addition to the CONtemprary twists of fairy tales.

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 320

Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.

On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.

When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.

But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.

This was an adorably cute, saccharine sweet tale inspired by ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for the Once Upon a Con series. If you love to indulge in the fantasy, then this title will tickle you pink. Being based on a tale as old as time expect to read a lot of tropes, but tropes done in a fun campy sort of way. The narrative definitely lends to a quick read with chapters alternating in perspective between love interests/protagonists Rosie and Vance. I took a little longer to read ‘Bookish and the Beast’ to have a short break every now and then because of the cuteness overload. Especially if you’re not in that mindset…

Rosie is a small town geeky type dealing with grief after the loss of her mother. She and her mother shared a love of the Starfield extended universe – the films, the television show, and the novels released under the franchise, and finds comfort amongst the collection her mother had amassed… but then they hit financial hardship and had to sell off all the collectibles to keep their head above water. So Rosie is clambering, feeling the loss, trying to shape an uncertain future after she graduates high school. I love how Rose is unapologetically a book nerd, and sci-fi geek, and have friends and family equally invested in these things. I really feel a modern twist on the wallflower trope. I loved her growth in learning how to feel deserving of things, and go out and grab them.

Vance in our bad boy. Aggressive attitude, rude, media fodder, and exiled to a small town mansion to decompress and let the string of bad press cool so he doesn’t destroy his acting career. He’s been burned by so-called friends many times when they cash in on his fame; he’s like a punching bag for social media. He’s sarcastic, sullen, and is always putting up a front. I seriously had a lot of eye-rolling in his chapters, but hey, it fit with the character and wasn’t without its comedic moments. In fact I laughed a surprising amount throughout ‘Bookish and the Beast.’ Vance has a great character arc in learning to let people in, be confident in himself instead of a persona he fronts in the public eye… and to stop punishing himself for his mistakes.

I love dogs, so the German Shepard Sansa was a great inclusion in the narrative and had me clucking at the pages every time he appeared.

I also like the topic of consent and how boys sometimes don’t really listen to girls, instead doing what they think girls want, and how this was approached through the character of Garrett.

We get a lot of pop culture references in ‘Bookish and the Beast’ that readers and Con enthusiasts alike will identify with. Though, this book does not indulge in the Con events like its predecessors.

As we are following a very over-represented tale in the media, it was so very easy to predict the story, but it was an entertaining modern twist. I loved Ashely Poston’s writing style, some of the phrases she uses are delightful and really stood out to me. My enjoyment for this series has definitely increased with reading ‘Bookish and the Beast.’ Though I would have liked a bit more complexity in this book to really push it over the edge.

Again we see some great representation of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum in a positive light that is a part of the characters – not their defining trait.

A pleasant ride through an old classic for anyone who loves retellings, cutesy contemporaries, and anything to do with nerd culture around conventions and reading. I’d recommend this, but make sure you read the two sequels as each book deals with other characters from the same universe and you may lose some context.

Overall feeling: hilarious contemporary tale!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Moment of Truth’ (#3 Love, Life, and the List) by Kasie West

Quaint and lovely.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 320

At sixteen, Hadley Moore knows exactly who she is—a swimmer who will earn a scholarship to college. Totally worth all the hard work, even if her aching shoulders don’t agree. So when a guy dressed as Hollywood’s latest action hero, Heath Hall, crashes her swim meet, she isn’t amused. Instead, she’s determined to make sure he doesn’t bother her again. Only she’s not sure exactly who he is.

The swim meet isn’t the first event the imposter has interrupted, but a little digging turns up a surprising number of people who could be Heath Hall, including Hadley’s ex-boyfriend and her best friend’s crush. She soon finds herself getting caught up in the mysterious world of the fake Heath Hall.

As Hadley gets closer to uncovering the masked boy’s identity she also discovers some uncomfortable truths about herself—like she might resent the long shadow her late brother has cast over her family, that she isn’t as happy as she pretends to be with her life choices… and that she is falling for the last guy she ever thought she would like.

Moment of Truth’ is a lovely fast read rom-com that let me escape for a weekend from Kasie West. I was really sucked into the narrative and related to the underappreciated and overlooked protagonist Hadley Moore.

Still I miss the quirky characters and hijinks from the earlier novels she wrote in this genre, but nonetheless ‘Moment of Truth’ is addictive in its saccrine goodness. The mystery of who is the Heath Hall impersonator is a good one, but I sleuthed out the mystery very early on, so the reveal was lost on me… which left the climax somewhat deflated.

I’m starting to view Kasie West’s titles as pallet cleansers now, something to read in-between heavy, more interesting books; which is not what I want to happen. Her titles have been up and down in my ratings, but averaging a decline. I hope she taps into something new and ups the complexity in her writings otherwise I can see myself becoming bored with her future releases. I’m crossing my fingers. I have a feeling she was suffering a bit of a writing hump and has finally come out the other end.

I think I liked Hadley as a protagonist so much because she represents a lot of what I was like in high school. Focused, single-minded, and somewhat cut-off from the rest of the social scene in sacrifice for achieving her goals. Given this intense focus and limited interaction with her peers, Hadley could have been a boring, flat character, but we get to see her passion, her internal turmoil, and confusion when her goals are challenged. It was a great read.

The Heath Hall mystery was fun, but a little trite, and I liked Hadley’s need to expose the perpetrator as a revenge tactic other than just curiosity.

I wasn’t too sold on the romance, it felt supplementary to Hadely’s challenge of standing up to her parents and breaking the cycle of being overlooked and the compulsive behaviour from the loss of her older brother.

Kasie West’s writing style is effortless to read. You can zoom across the page and get enveloped the world she creates, and the pacing – thanks to the Heath Hall mystery drives the narrative efficiently.

I’d recommend this for those who love light contemporary romances, though definitely more for the younger end of the YA demographic.

Overall feeling: Expected cute reading

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ by Jennifer L. Armentrout

A cautionary tale for teen love.

If There's No Tomorrow Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 384

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Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

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I didn’t mind this contemporary, it’s a slow burn romance with a heavy dose of survivor’s guilt. Compared to many other reads from JLA, where there is a lot of action, angst, or paranormal, ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ is more realistic fiction, and with a teen protagonist facing some heavy issues, it did not feel as gripping as I’m used to. But this is a great story. A precautionary tale that I feel is important for the demographic of this novel.

I did go in to this with no prior knowledge, I skipped reading the blurb, because Jennifer L. Armentrout is one of my auto-buy authors and I love her angsty, escapist tomes. So I was expecting just that – some drama filled teen romance of some description. And ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ is that… and more. Protagonist Lena is navigating decisions for graduating high school, telling her crush about her feelings, keeping together her girl squad, and then, bam! Underage drinking, driving while intoxicated, death. I was not expecting any of the latter. But I have to hand it to JLA, she really landed an experience of loss, grief, and survivor’s guilt. Even the situation of a father’s role in taking responsibility for their child. I related to this a lot. It was quite a sobering read. Though, in hindsight, I did not get the gut-wrenching feels, the man-cry sobs, or the tummy butterflies of yearning I wanted. This was somewhat vanilla. And I can understand why; there are some very heavy topics discussed here, but in effect ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ is a love story. Bogging down the narrative with the more realism-laden issues would take the narrative in a completely different and depressing direction and move well away from JLA’s typical fare. This is meant to be a love story – I get it.

If There's No Tomorrow Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Lena was a fun protagonist, she loves volleyball, parties, hanging with her girls, and reading. So there was a lot to connect to. Thank goodness she wasn’t some snarky waif that we get a lot in YA, though she was a little of that plain jane stereotype.

The love interest, a jock, boy next door type, again felt a little stereotyped and typical for this genre, but I enjoyed how he is depicted as a man and not some idiot teen boy with impulse control issues.

I predicted the ending when it came to the love story – come on its expected and obvious, that’s why I picked up the book. But the other stuff around the accident and the aftermath was a complete surprise. Though if I had read the blurb, it’s all right there. So I’m not spoiling the book. I probably wouldn’t have picked this up if I had read the Goodreads description to be honest, but it was a great read nonetheless. But I probably would have rated it lower because it gives the entire story away.

Jennifer L. Armentrout’s writing style is effortless, and lends to a quick read, though I would have liked some more atmosphere built and less inner lamenting to build a stronger emotional connection. Symbolism always works better than someone having a whine.

I’d only recommend this for tried and true fans of JLA, or for young teens (as a precautionary tale). I think romance lovers and contemporaryphiles not familiar with Jennifer’s catalogue may find it a little bland. In fact as I check other reviews I can see this reflected in reader’s reactions. I appreciated ‘If There’s No Tomorrow’ for what it is and am glad to add it to my collection.

Overall feeling: not what I was expecting…

If There's No Tomorrow Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

If There's No Tomorrow Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss’ by Kasie West

Acting, school and boys – typical teen stuff. But sabotage – yikes!

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 384

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Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

It looks like Kasie West is back on her winning formula. Another enjoyable escapist romance with ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss.’

Set in the same universe as ‘Love, Life, and the List’ we follow protagonist Lacey, and aspiring teen actor in her first big movie role as a zombie. Only she has a helicopter/hover father and schoolwork to contend with as well as her acting job. Enter the cute tutor Lacey’s father hires to ensure she at least gets a passing grade, because, you know this whole acting thing may just be a whim no matter how serious, and how long Lacey has taken on being an actor. Tutor Donavan is straight-laced and all business. The business of learning. Only adding to Lacey’s daily pressures. Then little things start to go wrong on set… nothing like piling on the stress.

Again this is a cute contemporary, a quick read, as West has established as her brand. It didn’t quite have the quirky field of characters as her earlier works, but ‘Fame, Fate and then First Kiss’ still managed to captivate my attention and keep me engaged until the end. Lacey is cute and sassy but with a mostly level head. I almost wanted her to be a bit more headstrong to create some more tension. Or at least something so she wasn’t so… vanilla. So to with her love interest Donavan. He was very much a perfect wish-fulfilment type of guy. I’m used to a bit more character from West’s leading men.

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Contrasting that we have some of Lacey’s co-stars who are very sure of themselves (or very full of themselves) which added some colour to the mix.

I did love the small mystery plot line as well; it helped keep the pace and tension right to the end, rather than this being an angst-fest. So a slightly different tone to West’s usual fare, but a welcome change. Though, please bring back those interesting characters…

There is not necessarily a lot of character development, rather more of a burgeoning understanding and better lines of communication being established. So while the plot is mostly predictable (small mystery aside) and because of the ‘vanilla’ characters and less angsty storyline, the pay-off wasn’t as great as I was hoping. Though still entertaining and definitely a step in the right direction after a lull in late 2018 to early 2019.

I liked the connection to Abby  and Cooper and am looking forward to the final book set in this universe ‘Moment of Truth’ to be released in March 2020.

A solid entry into my guilty pleasure collection, though I wanted a bit more complexity of plot and a dash more interest in the cast. Recommend to lovers of teen YA romances, it was a pleasant way to wile an afternoon on the lounge with a hot cup of tea.

Overall feeling: *sips tea*

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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

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Just a little bit sassy, but very real. Loved reading about Naya’s behind the scenes life, how she is carving out a career and family life for herself. Plus some ‘Glee’ perspective had me devouring this in a day. Starting to love my celebrity memoirs.

Book Review – ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ by Naya Rivera

Frank anecdotes from your favorite ‘Glee’ mean girl.

Sorry Not Sorry Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Non Fiction, Autobiography

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

Navigating through youth and young adulthood isn’t easy, and in Sorry Not Sorry, Naya Rivera shows us that we’re not alone in the highs, lows, and in-betweens. Whether it’s with love and dating, career and ambition, friends, or gossip, Naya inspires us to follow our own destiny and step over–or plod through–all the crap along the way. After her rise and fall from early childhood stardom, barely eking her way through high school, a brief stint as a Hooters waitress, going through thick and thin with her mom/manager, and resurrecting her acting career as Santana Lopez on Glee, Naya emerged from these experiences with some key life lessons:

Sorry:
–  All those times I scrawled “I HATE MY MOM” in my journal. So many moms and teenage daughters don’t get along–we just have to realize it’s nothing personal on either side.

–  At-home highlights and DIY hair extensions. Some things are best left to the experts, and hair dye is one of them.

–  Falling in love with the idea of a person, instead of the actual person.

Not Sorry:

–  That I don’t always get along with everyone. Having people not like you is a risk you have to take to be real, and I’ll take that over being fake any day.

–  Laughing at the gossip instead of getting upset by it.

–  Getting my financial disasters out of the way early–before I was married or had a family–so that the only credit score that I wrecked was my own.

Even with a successful career and a family that she loves more than anything else, Naya says, “There’s still a thirteen-year-old girl inside of me making detailed lists of how I can improve, who’s never sure of my own self-worth.” Sorry Not Sorry is for that thirteen-year-old in all of us.

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I loved the frank and to the point narrative style of Naya. It sounded like she was curled up on the couch next to you with a cuppa having a girly heart to heart.

Sorry Not Sorry Book Review Pic 02a by Casey CarlisleIt’s not the most well-written memoir I’ve read, but that’s because of her goal to be honest with her audience, not wow people with flowery phrase and symbolism, or shock and awe with some tabloid tell-all. And I have to applaud her with this raw and revealing autobiography.

I did get a certain tone coming across – an ‘I’m good and I know it.’ But as she states in this memoir it’s a product of the entertainment industry she’s been a part of since she was 5 years old. You have to be ballsy and confident, put yourself out there to win roles. Toot your own horn. So I don’t fault her for this attitude because it’s gotten her to where she is today and will see her through a successful career in the future.

There were some topics touched on with that same realism, like identity, eating disorders, family, as well as events around her ‘Glee’ co-stars like Cory Monteith, Mark Salling, and Lea Michele. Which to be frank the latter is the biggest reason many pick up this book. She handled everything with aplomb and I loved her attitude in dealing with conflict, friendships, and the public eye.

The theme of reflection is inevitable in a memoir, and with Naya tackling sex, past relationships, and her marriage, she comes at slut shaming head-on. I just about cheered at her take on letting women explore their own sexuality. We’re allowed to have slutty years, make bad decisions, party a little. It’s how we learn life lessons and grow wiser. It should be embraced and celebrated, not shamed.

Her discussion on abortion, race, and religion would have to be of the most controversial topics she raises. All from her own personal experiences. A warts and all approach. It was refreshing to read a realistic portrayal, her regrets, mistakes, and what she did to pick herself up afterwards and keep on going. It showed true strength of character and determination, and had me even more envious of her resolve.

Sorry Not Sorry Book Review Pic 02b by Casey CarlisleMy first introduction to Naya was through ‘Glee,’ and I loved her acting, her singing, and comic timing. I wish I got to see more of her on the big screen as think she is truly talented. This autobiography also showed me how much more there is to her professionally. And living vicariously through her words, I know I am an even bigger fan. She seems to have come full circle.

A fun quick light read with a surprisingly quaint philosophical point. But I’d probably only recommend it for fans of her work. The writing style is very contemporary, frank, and while delivering an important message, references a lot of social media and tabloid goings-on. So if you’re not connected to that world, you won’t really get into Naya’s life battles. But she is definitely one woman I’m expecting an amazing future from.

Overall feeling: You go girl.

Sorry Not Sorry Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Sorry Not Sorry 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 – ‘Just a Geek’ by Wil Wheaton

A look into the fandom behind Star Trek, redefining identity and growing up.

Just a Geek Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Non Fiction, Autobiography

No. of pages: 267

From Goodreads:

Wil Wheaton has never been one to take the conventional path to success. Despite early stardom through his childhood role in the motion picture “Stand By Me,” and growing up on television as Wesley Crusher on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Wil left Hollywood in pursuit of happiness, purpose, and a viable means of paying the bills. In the oddest of places, Topeka, Kansas, Wil discovered that despite his claims to fame, he was at heart “Just a Geek.” In this bestselling book, Wil shares his deeply personal and difficult journey to find himself. You’ll understand the rigors, and joys, of Wil’s rediscovering of himself, as he comes to terms with what it means to be famous, or, ironically, famous for once having been famous. Writing with honesty and disarming humanity, Wil touches on the frustrations associated with his acting career, his inability to distance himself from Ensign Crusher in the public’s eyes, the launch of his incredibly successful web site, wilwheaton.net, and the joy he’s found in writing. Through all of this, Wil shares the ups and downs he encountered along the journey, along with the support and love he discovered from his friends and family. The stories in “Just a Geek” include: Wil’s plunge from teen star to struggling actor. Discovering the joys of HTML, blogging, Linux, and web design. The struggle between Wesley Crusher, Starfleet ensign, and Wil Wheaton, author and blogger. Gut-wrenching reactions to the 9-11 disaster. Moving tales of Wil’s relationships with his wife, step-children, and extended family. The transition from a B-list actor to an A-list author.

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Being close to the same age as Wil Wheaton, and growing up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, reading ‘Just a Geek’ was a little like flipping through my own photo album. There were a lot or parallels: I too was a big nerd, loved all things computer-orientated and writing… but the similarities ended there.

Just a Geek Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleThe tone of ‘Just a Geek’ is witty and charming. It’s easy to relate to with Wil’s honesty and detailed histology of acting and the movie industry. Not to mention Conventions and the etiquette involved. You can peek under the polished, candy-coated façade that Hollywood puts on everything and see the politics, back-room negotiations, and marketing ploys the Powers That Be pull in order to churn out the next million dollars or so: and the participants (actors) are merely fodder for the machine. But that is the bleakest part – and it rightly so causes depression and anxiety for someone who is trying to make a living and provide for a family.

But on the other hand you see a community form. And said community starts to depict the terms to the industry – it felt like a nerd revolution. I really enjoyed reading all of the mechanics that make up the Trekkie-dom.

I was expecting a bit more about the Wheaton family, more anecdotes, and some more about his acting jobs. Plus, I wanted to hear more about his writing other than WWdN… but this was published over ten years ago, and likely that didn’t really exist then. But ‘Just a Geek’ is a fun juxtaposition to where Wil Wheaton has now become a much larger celebrity and acted in many other fandoms like ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Eureka.’ Plus all those picture memes with Will Wheaton heads on everything has me in stitches every time. He’s evolved from the adult that has finally embraced his Wesley-dom, a Wheaton movement.

Just a Geek Book Review Pic 06 by Casey Carlisle

While his narrative is amusing – I wouldn’t call it gut-busting. I guess you had to be there. What I’ve seen from him on screen, he is quite the hilarious character, and can guess the descriptions of his improv troupe don’t do them justice.

It was a lovely trip down memory lane, though I must admit, at times his writing felt a bit dry and repetitive – it is still very entertaining and offers great insight to not only the movie industry, but the human spirit. Honestly I’d love to read something of his that is not a memoir, the mechanics of his writing suggest there is a great talent there.

An easy autobiography to read, but if you weren’t a Star Trek fan I don’t think you would get much from this novel – because it primarily deals with Wheaton redefining his relationship to the character Wesley Crusher he played on the series, growing up, and developing a different approach to the industry while being a husband and father. But if anything ‘Just a Geek’ shows Wil Wheaton for the extraordinary human being he is. Intelligent, hilarious, compassionate and a loving family man.

Overall feeling: Oh my stars!

Just a Geek Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Just a Geek Book Review Pic 07 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Bonkers – My Life in Laughs’ by Jennifer Saunders

A woman who is a quiet pioneer, and simply loves to laugh and see the best in any situation…

Bonkers Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Non Fiction, Autobiography

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

‘As the steady march of time takes its toll on my memory and the vultures circle, I thought I should have a stab at recollecting how it all happened. . .’

Jennifer Saunders’ brilliant comic creations have brought joy to millions for three decades. From Comic Strip to Comic Relief, from Bolly-swilling Edina in Absolutely Fabulous to Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia, her characters are household names.

But it’s Jennifer herself who has a place in all our hearts. This is her funny, touching and disarmingly honest memoir, filled with stories of friends, laughter and occasional heartache – but never misery.

From her childhood on RAF bases, where her father was a pilot, to her life-changing encounter with a young Dawn French, on to success and family, the book charts her extraordinary story, including the slip ups and battles along the way.

Prepare to chuckle, cry, and whoop with delight.

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It’s very amusing, a light tone oozing through the narrative. Life is always painted in positivity and promise. It was very, dare I say, English.

The best parts, I found, had to deal with the behind the scenes stuff about becoming a comedian, getting the gigs, and inventing new material for her career. Anecdotes with Dawn French, Ruby Wax, Joanna Lumley and Goldie Hawn are brilliant, and are like your sitting there having a natter over a glass of champagne. Jennifer Saunders work ethic, being an artist at heart, is blunt and honest and has cemented Sandwich as a girl after my own heart. Endearing.

Dealing with elements of communication from the past – before technology butted in and removed much of the need for the written word are instilled with Jennifer’s particular brand of silliness. It reminds me of the notes I used to pass between my girlfriends in high school classes.

BQ Bonkers by Casey Carlisle

The narrative tends to wander a bit. Following Saunders train of thought before being dragged back to finish the story in earnest. Sometimes it was with a delicious side story, sometimes with some backstory, and sometimes with something nonsensical, mildly interesting, bordering on dull.

For the most part I found ‘Bonkers – My Life in Laughs‘ entertaining and educational. But in some parts, and more frequently towards the end, a little waffly.

I especially loved the chapters over Jennifer dealing with cancer. How she got through it, what happened, and how it affected her life a short time after. It was personal for me. I could relate to so much of it having experienced my own journey. It is also a tale to promote for all women to get regular mammograms. Many stories I’ve read about cancer suffrage deal with being sick and feeling shite. But Saunders kept her positive outlook powering right on through. As I did. My strongest memory is still pissing myself laughing at episodes of ‘Glee‘ on my laptop in attempts to keep up the positive energy and distract from what I was told of an unavoidable 6 month expiration date.

Overall feeling: Positively funny

 Bonkers Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.

Caught up in your craft …by Casey Carlisle.

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Sometimes when you’re so involved in your work, the reaction from the viewing public is like a slap in the face.

If you have been following my blog, you know I am a cancer survivor, and having gone through the recovery process twice, I know how important it is to support the community and people involved in treating the disease… and keep a sense of humour about the whole thing! One of my proudest endeavours in giving back, was a fundraiser event in the form of a self-produced Theatrical Show, including all of the antics and headaches that happened behind the scenes. (There will be more about the creation of the show in a later blog, but for now I’m going to share with you the amusements from the dressing room the centre stage that had my eyes watering from both despair and laughter.)

Our show was the Grand re-opening of the Perth Town Hall after extensive renovations, and culminated months of preparation in choreography, rehearsals, designing and sewing costumes, creating a lighting design and turning over a few cast members.  Our poke in the eye at American-styled Beauty Pageants had each of us performing comedic spot numbers, hilariously scripted interviews, a swimsuit parade with the most outrageous styles we could think of, and ball gowns that put Lady Ga-Ga to shame. The only serious numbers were our Las Vegas Showgirl inspired group numbers, an Acrobat act, and my rendition of a Broadway ballad.

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The excitement, and butterflies assaulting my stomach when the curtain rose at the Premier, kept me energised for the entire night. I needed it to plough through my 47 costume changes, two of which were executed in 30 seconds side of stage – only because the giant headdresses and butterfly wings couldn’t fit through the door backstage. The challenge for the night, especially while twirling across stage in our massive feathered backpacks – not to fall off the edge or face-plant into the floorboards  – which was exacerbated by the fact the floor pitched forward. The Perth Town Hall, being a Heritage Building, constructed around the initial settlement of the city, had levelled audience seating arrangements, not tiered like a regular theatre. Therefore reconstruction to alleviate this problem was strictly outlawed, and we had to adapt. But what the hey – we were professionals!

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The Perth Town Hall, shot from the lighting and sound booth as I discuss the tech-run with a cast member.

The worst thing to happen on stage, though not a pitch over the edge of the tilted stage, but a singular delayed cue for ‘curtain up,’ leaving Chaise (a seductress cast member doing a cabaret number) stranded on the wrong side of the curtain. I imagined her diving underneath the heavy red velvet fabric (as would completely be in her character) but thankfully we were saved from the sight of her bony arse disappearing underneath the heavy fringe by a frantic stagehand.

Backstage was a flurry of diamantes, feather and wigs, as we each raced to change into the next outfit. Our Diva-in-training, executed a stumble down the back stairs, landing legs-in-the-air, buried waist deep in a large clothes bin. Moments later, having recovered from her dunking, managed to mix her next outfit with another dancer, resulting in her prancing back on stage in a way-too-tight leotard, while a dancer nearly lost her pants…  it only added to the comedy and delighted the crowd.

I had become so focused on the creative process of developing the show and enjoying the experience with my friends and cast mates, that I was completely unprepared for the audiences reaction – my big solo spot, singing ‘And I am Telling You’ from Dreamgirls, had people (and my bestie working the spotlight) shedding a quiet tear. Probably due to the context of the song and my well publicised battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When the number drew to an end, it felt like the longest awkward pause, before an unexpected roar with patrons rising from their seats in appreciative applause. But what really fuelled the night was the congregation’s continual laughter from the comedic tone we had woven throughout the entire performance.

Our night ended on a high having a dose of celebrity afterwards with the majority of the public and a small press gallery waiting for photos and autographs and the red carpet. And was it all worth it? Hell yes! Not only did we raise $40,000 for a great cause, everyone involved, be it member of the production, or audience member, had a ball and brought us closer together through giggles and glitter.

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Our spacious dressing rooms, chock-full of costumes ready for the Gala performance.

© Casey Carlisle 2013. 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.