Book Review – ‘Tales From Foster High’ by John Goode

Another teen coming out story – but I lurved it J.

Tales From Foster High Book 1 Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 219

From Goodreads:

Kyle Stilleno is the invisible student, toiling through high school in the middle of Nowhere, Texas. Brad Greymark is the baseball star of Foster High. When they bond over their mutual damage during a night of history tutoring, Kyle thinks maybe his life has changed for good. But the promise of fairy-tale love is a lie when you’re gay and falling for the most popular boy in school. A coming of age story in the same vein of John Hughes, Tales from Foster High shows an unflinching vision of the ups and downs of teenage love and what it is like to grow up gay.

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This brought some unexpected feels from me. A couple of little story arcs to tug at my heartstrings. Other than that, ‘Tales from Foster High’ was an excellent tale of angst, coming out, and discovering the stuff that you are made of. Told in dual perspectives this bind-up edition of three novellas feels seamless as one big story.

Kyle is a brilliant portrayal of the invisible kid, just trying to make it through high school and get out of his home town. I also like how, even though he was portrayed as a nerd, he wasn’t stereotyped as covered with pimples, wearing glasses, skinny, and unattractive. It was great to see him through Brad’s eyes and know that beauty is subjective to the beholder.

Brad, although embodying the ‘all American jock’ trope, quickly started deconstructing those expectations with is actions in the first chapter. I admired his teetering between courage and fear.

Both of these characters go through a lot and come out the other side different people.

The parents were a little annoying. It felt a bit stereotyped, and even though they went through their own storylines as well, I felt their behaviour at the end nothing short of miraculous. And unrealistic. Though it added a great deal of impact and added to the romantic climax.

There are some sex scenes – which while a little titillating, served the tone of the novel from the male perspective. Their encounters were meaningful and not over written.

The bullying gets a little violent and had me questioning where the teachers and parents were through all of this. I know events like this are still a reality in some schools, and thankfully starting to decrease in numbers as acceptance grows, but the neglect of the school was downright criminal and thought they got off far too easily. Plus the rest of the students seemed to be a mass of people that just went with the flow instead of a realistic hot-pot of personalities and beliefs. In the real world someone would have made noise in some respect, either by getting parents, teachers or authorities involved.

So, a fun story, a little unrealistic, but highlighted a lovely romance and some hot-button struggles gay youth face in school – highlighting an education system that can become corrupt.

Eye opening and heart-warming. Something about coming out stories draws me in, and with ‘Tales From Foster High’ having a social conscious and dealing with important issues sheds light on aspects of growing up gay I may have otherwise never known about. But at the core of it, this novel has a beautiful growing relationship between two unsuspecting teens. This experience has me keen to purchase the rest of the books written in this collection – even though they are mostly only available in e-book format.

Overall feeling: Naw, aint that sweet.

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Tales From Foster High Book 1 Book Review Pic 03 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 – ‘The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’ by Stephen King

Woodsy creepiness at its best.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Horror, Thriller

No. of pages: 264

From Goodreads:

Trisha McFarland is a plucky 9-year-old hiking with her brother and mom, who is grimly determined to give the kids a good time on their weekends together. Trisha’s mom is recently divorced, and her brother is feuding with her for moving from Boston to small-town Maine, where classmates razz him. Trisha steps off the trail for a pee and a respite from the bickering. And gets lost.

Trisha’s odyssey succeeds on several levels. King renders her consciousness of increasing peril beautifully, from the “first minnowy flutter of disquiet” in her guts to her into-the-wild tumbles to her descent into hallucinations, the nicest being her beloved Red Sox baseball pitcher Tom Gordon, whose exploits she listens to on her Walkman. The nature writing is accurate, tense, and sometimes lyrical, from the maddening whine of the no-see-um mosquito to the profound obbligato of the “Subaudible” (Trisha’s dad’s term for nature’s intimations of God). Our identification with Trisha deepens as we learn about her loved ones: Dad, a dreamboat whose beer habit could sink him; loving but stubborn Mom; Trisha’s best pal, Pepsi Robichaud, vividly evoked by her colorful sayings (“Don’t go all GIRLY on me, McFarland!”). The personal associations triggered by a full moon, the running monologue with which she stays sane–we who have been lost in woods will recognize these things.

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I’m getting back to my roots – back in Junior High I took interest in reading through Stephen King, Isaac Asimov and Dean Koontz. Since graduating I have read little of their titles since, so am currently attacking King’s back catalogue – maybe to recapture my youth, but definitely reliving the fun I had when reading. ‘The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’ was a great addition to my collection and a welcome distraction to many of the YA titles I’ve been reading of late.

I really liked the play of perception and the POV of Trisha (Patricia) our protagonist, lending the interpretation of the story open to the reader to draw her or his own conclusions.

Trisha has an indomitable spirit.  I was really cheering for her and amazed at how she faced each challenge.

Tom Gordon, the form of Trisha’s guardian angel, or inner strength was a great symbol to focus on. Though some of the baseball jargon got a little tiresome for me because I loath baseball – it’s not really a big thing here in Australia – I appreciated it for what it was. A distraction and a coping mechanism to get Trisha from point A to point B.

Our antagonist could fall under many forms – nature, fear fuelled imagination, her family; and I loved how it morphed from one to the other, never leaving you certain of anything.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

It took half the book to wind up and get interesting. I find every now and then Stephen Kings’s books do get a bit waffly in setting up the story and exploring the casts back stories. I know it is to get us to care about the characters and offer some perspective, but sometimes it feels a little long winded.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon’ had the right amount of suspense and hair-raising creepiness. The second half of the novel was absolutely brilliant and I could not put it down.

I enjoyed this a lot more than many other of Kings titles, because it was based on character development and an inner struggle rather than gory monsters and demons (though this could be argued). It was a psychological thriller instead of horror, and appealed to my survival instincts. I have found myself lost in the bush many times, having to trek a day or so to safety. It was so vivid, and the descriptions of the landscape – mysterious and beautiful at the same time. Nature can be astoundingly picturesque and the face of death at the same time.

A great read that induces chills and makes you want to pull your feet up off the floor, with the hint of the disgusting and the unknown. Totally recommending this to all my friends who like a scare, but don’t want to feel like tossing up their dinner from gore.

Overall feeling: wickedly chilling

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 Comeback Season’ by Jennifer E. Smith

Wasn’t quite knocked out of the park…

The Comeback Season Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Contemporary

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

The last place Ryan Walsh should be this afternoon is on a train heading to Wrigley Field. She should be in class, enduring yet another miserable day of her first year of high school. But for once, Ryan isn’t thinking about what she should be doing. She’s not worried about her lack of friends, or her suffering math grade, or how it’s been five whole years since the last time she was really and truly happy. Because she’s finally returning to the place that her father loved, where the two of them spent so many afternoons cheering on their team. And on this — the fifth anniversary of his death — it feels like there’s nowhere else in the world she should be.

Ryan is once again filled with hope as she makes her way to the game. Good luck is often hard to come by at a place like Wrigley Field, but it’s on this day that she meets Nick, the new kid from her school, who seems to love the Cubs nearly as much as she does. But Nick carries with him a secret that makes Ryan wonder if anyone can ever really escape their past, or believe in the promise of those reassuring words: “Wait till next year.” Is it too much for Ryan to hope that this year, this season, might be her comeback season?   

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I’ve been dying to get into a cute contemporary of late, it feel like it has been ages since I picked up a title to make me smile and tug on my heart strings, and so ‘The Comeback Season’ jumped out at me from the shelf. But comparatively, this books was sweet but dull.

If you are not a baseball fan, or a sports fan for that matter, ‘The Comeback Season’ may feel a bit slow, the narrative is bogged down with statistics and aspects of the game. For me, that’s what happened, and found myself skimming forward frequently. I had read a number of reviews that have stated the same opinion, but I just had to find out for myself given how much I enjoyed other titles by Jennifer E. Smith.

The Comeback Season Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleAlthough our protagonist, Ryan, and her love interest Nick are relatable, there was nothing outside of the baseball connection that had me particularly relating with them. But I must admit, they make a really cute couple and I definitely ship them J Overcoming their personal obstacles in an unassuming manner to discover the truth under their noses was endearing.

This book talks a lot about loss, and what happens after. And despite the fact that I too have lost a parent not too long ago, the book failed to draw the raw emotion to the surface. And that bothered me. I did however, shed a tear from a scene from Ryan’s childhood and the loss of her dog. That was heartbreaking and beautifully written.

I loved the note this book finished on – in true contemporary style, and is worth the read just to get to that destination.

We touch on some girl politics and friendships in high school, and it was a great relief to see them have great depth and evolve throughout the novel, avoiding the trap of a two-dimensional character… well done Smith!

For an unassuming book it has a lot to say. I truly wish I had connected with the book more, but by the end the narrative felt clunky and some of the symbolism, a little cliché. So, this juxtaposed with the beauty of Jennifer E Smith’s prose left me with an unsatisfied feeling from what I have gotten out of her other titles.

I think if there wasn’t so much baseball in the content I would have enjoyed ‘The Comeback Season’ a lot more, despite its authenticity, and rated it much higher.

A quaint contemporary, but not my favourite by Jennifer E. Smith.

Overall feeling: It’s okay…

The Comeback Season Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Comeback Season Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.