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 – ‘Cruel Beauty’ by Roasmund Hodge

A magical and disorientating re-telling.

cruel-beauty-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle—a shifting maze of magical rooms—enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love. 

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For the first half of this ‘Cruel Beauty,’ I squirmed uncomfortably, not for anything that was written, but the writing style was elaborate and fanciful and took a considerable time to relax into. I’m also not a huge fan of re-tellings, and this one was a little too close to the original to stop me from pulling comparisons. But this book is a fantastic beast in its own right and I’m glad I gave it a chance.

Nyx was a fun character to read. She was hateful and resentful as well as determined and righteous. Not a wilting flower, or a warrior, but a fallible human being, and I really liked that. She wasn’t afraid to speak the truth, get a little snarky, or even a bit devious.

cruel-beauty-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleI did find all the mention of Gods and mythology confusing at times, as I also did with the aspect of the Prince’s *cough-Beast’s-cough* house. The whole setting was so imaginary and malleable that it was disorientating and difficult to track the nature of the plot. But in hindsight, it exactly does what it is supposed to do for the tale. The narrative has a magical tone to it which reminds me of old Irish fairie tales.

The weird love triangle thing between the Prince, the Shadow, and Nyx felt a little forced and manufactured, and the beginning of the relationships did not feel as if they grew organically. But I do like how, even with teasing of an unreliable narrator, there were reasons not to trust any of the characters in this novel.

I was guessing and flip-flopping in opinions on everyone. Which was both a good and a bad thing. I like to be kept on my toes… but not so much as there isn’t a solid grounding in either the main character or her quest. There was such a feeling of being untethered through most of the novel, that it stopped me from truly enjoying it. Only towards the end, when aspects of the plot started to draw together did I truly revel in ‘Cruel Beauty.’

The novel is beautifully written, completely matching the genre and tone, but not a style I enjoyed reading too much. I felt like I was back a University wading through the works of Chaucer at times. Some readers will love this, but for my personal taste, I found it annoying and slowed the pace of the storyline.

It had a strong high-fantasy vibe, rather than nostalgic for the original tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and is probably why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have. I really have to be in the mood to digest high fantasy, and like reading my world built, and quest painted out in clear concise language. Even now, after completing the novel I can’t clearly define the universe and role of the Gods, or the magic system used.

With the over-indulgence in the writing style playing against it, ‘Cruel Beauty’ did a wonderful job at painting a scene, my imagination ran wild with the fantastical places and magical/dream-like elements.

On the whole it was an okay read – I loved the last quarter and had an ‘aww’ moment at the end. The first half needs to drive the story along more forcefully, and the development of the world more concise for me to get into it, which would probably remove about fifty pages from its length and pick up the pacing.

I liked this take on the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and have seen the mixed reviews. I guess if you love fairy tales, and high fantasy, ‘Cruel Beauty’ is one for you; otherwise you might be a little confused like I was.

Overall feeling: okay, interesting, pretty good…

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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 – A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Beauty and the Beast turned Fae – Yes Please!.

 A Court of Thorns and Roses Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy

No. of pages: 416

From Goodreads:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever. 

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This is the first novel from Sarah J Mass that I’ve read, and I have to say I was impressed.

Not being a fan of fairy-tale re-tellings, but am finding this genre to continually grow on my bookshelf – ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses,’ puts an original spin on the Beauty and the Beast fable.

Outstanding story telling – although there are a few moments, one at the start and one near the end, that felt a little too convenient and were made to happen for the sake of the story line (and to fit into the original fairy tale mould). Which is what ultimately knocked this down half a point for me; I guess because the writing and character development had so far exceeded my expectations that these contrived plot points were glaringly contrite. But that is the worst of my criticism.

It has been years since I’ve gotten lost in a fantasy world. I’m usually reading contemporary, science fiction or supernatural. But Maas got me hook, line and sinker…

Feyre is obstinate and challenging from the first page – and we really get to believe her assumptions, ‘know’ that she is right. And then it slowly gets pulled apart like a slowly unravelling jumper. I loved her fierce independence and will to stand up on what she feels is right. Feyre is the type of character that spurns me to continue reading page to page – and that’s without the action and intrigue of her story.

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Tamlin is a great beast. Scary, complex, intelligent and handsome. Most incarnations of beasts are superficially frightening, but Tamlin is righteously terrifying in all his glory. And, as the story goes when he’s softened and tamed by Belle (Feyre) we get to see more of his beauty. Don’t think he’ll become any less infamous though.

The adventure has only just begun. It’s obvious upon completion this is not a stand-alone, and I am very excited and eagerly awaiting the next instalment. So, in the meantime, I will catch up to many of my bookish buddies and fill in time working my way through the Throne of Glass series.

‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ left me feeling a little shell-shocked by the end. We really get put through the ringer. It’s fast paced adventure makes the 400+ pages a breeze and Maas’ beautific writing style pull you into a magical world and make reading effortless.

Even though we all know the story of Beauty and the Beast, this story still manages to surprise. Definitely adding this to my favourites list and it is listed in my Top 5 Favourite reads of 2015. Highly recommended, even if you are not into fantasy, this will blow your mind.

Overall feeling: *uplifting music*

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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.