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.

Representation in Writing vs Own Voices

Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Many of the novels I’ve read lately represent diversity or own voices, which I have loved. So let’s take a deeper look into how writing is evolving in today’s market, and how much of the market share they actually represent… or are they just the latest fad? Is this reflected in my personal library?

Firstly, let me state unequivocally that I do not lump diversity or own voices into a marketing trend. Granted, they are being used as just that at the moment, but trends are an unavoidable phenomenon in driving book and e-book sales. We saw a surge in YA after the success of Harry Potter and ‘Twilight,’ then erotica in the wake of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ followed by a push in non-fiction, primarily memoirs and autobiographies… and of late it’s been LGBTQIA+ and diverse characters (including own voices.) This observation has come from what genre of novels publishing houses are accepting for submission, and where I’ve seen the marketing dollars spent on for campaigns both online and in-store.

But I don’t want to get into a discussion on marketing trends and the publishing landscape, I’m more concerned with what we’re seeing in literature, and congruently, how is it reflected in my own personal library and shopping habits? I know the things I like to read, but am I a snob when it comes to novels that support diversity? People of colour, LGBTQIA+ characters, characters with a disability or mental illness, empowered female characters… I think it’s about time I survey my shelves and tally up just where I sit on the spectrum.

In addition to that, I grew up in a privileged household, am healthy, able-bodied, and only lived through some aspects of discrimination and illness. So it limits what literature is relatable to me personally. While I like to educate myself and take a walk in other characters shoes to experience walks of life differing to my own, it still needs to be something I can connect with on some level. So the results of this discussion are skewed because of my life experience. I can strive for political correctness and inclusivity, but by nature, I will never truly know what it is like for some minorities. But literature plays a huge part in breaking down those barriers. As a former high school teacher I can see the value in this.

Blond student looking for book in library shelves at the universityFirstly, let’s take a look at my own shelves to get a sample size. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. Though take into account that I’m only looking at novels that I have purchased and read myself over the last thirty odd years. So it’s encompassing a lot of marketing trends.

Here’s the results from a sample size of 400 novels:

Own voices                         12%    (including LGBTQIA+ and people of colour)

I feel it’s important to recognise an authentic point of view that’s come from a place of genuine experience. It shows not only diversity in representation, but also in that of authors. While I believe a writer can create any character they wish, I feel it’s important to acknowledge books that fall into the own voices category, because they did not have access to the publishing industry in the numbers they do today previously. It’s illustrating how reading and writing is evolving, and indeed humanity as a species. Maybe we’ll get somewhere closer to a Star Trek future than we think.

 

LGBTQIA+                           21%

(Representation in the main characters of a novel)

Disabled                               9%

(A physical disability of some description in one of the main characters)

Mental Illness                    20%

(One of the main characters suffers some form of mental illness and is one of the major themes of the novel)

Person of Colour              14%

(Representation in the main characters of a novel)

Gender Inequality           11%

(The major theme of the novel deals with female discrimination/inequality)

Body Shape                        9%

(Main Character has body size issues as a main theme of a novel)

 

 

A further breakdown of GLBTQIA+  – looking at representation in the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity of the main cast.

Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 06 by Casey Carlisle

The main observation of these statistics, is that if I did not take into account the last ten years of reading, all of these categories would have a sum total of less than 5%. So there has been a massive explosion of diversity in recent years.

We’ve seen the trend of more intricate storytelling evolve throughout the entertainment industry. Film and television are exploring more developed characters and storylines, including diverse characters. Flashing back to some of the shows and books I’ve read in my teens, they feel stereotypical and tropey nowadays. At the time I felt they were amazing, but if reviewing today, I’d tear them to pieces.

Two things surprised me, and made me a little proud, upon looking at the statistics of my library, is that I have around 15-20% representation of most of the categories above. That means one in five books I pick up are representing diversity of some description. Which is statistically comparable to the real world population. I mean, I’ll be working on getting those numbers much higher, but for all the talk that the publishing industry was dominated by white middle-aged men in the 80’s, to being overtaken by women today, it says a lot about my attitudes towards inclusivity and humanity in general. It seems I sought out diversity even in my teens, despite it not really having become a movement for another twenty years, or much of a selection to purchase from.

One thing I want to touch on a bit further is that of own voices versus diversity. It’s kind of like saying only gay actors can play gay characters in film. Writing is using words as tools, just as acting is using expression as tools. It has nothing to do with the creator. I say you can do either. But. Where a person who has been discriminated against in the past has managed to break out and add to the wonderful world of entertainment, it’s important to acknowledge their struggles and change from that experience. Why should it have been a struggle in the first place? What can we do the make it more accessible in the future? It doesn’t need to get uber-political, it just needs to stay rooted in common decency and mutual respect.

Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Looking at my TBR, there will be a huge difference in the statistics in years to come. I’m seeing a lot of queer books, novels dealing with mental illness, disability, and people of colour. I might have to make conscience effort to include more dealing with gender equality and body image to round out my library. But it looks exciting!

What other genres or categories am I missing that you feel are important to note? I’ve thought about class and social standing, but that seems to be a very dominate storytelling tool. Maybe I can call out representation of fellow redheads in literature? Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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My Challenge to You:

Take a look at your library, how many novels have you read that fall into the above categories? What trends have you noticed in the publishing landscape? Do you even enjoy diverse reads?

Comment and let me know the results.

Happy reading Representation in Writing vs Own Voices Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘It Starts With L’ by Cassandra Fear

A book of promises that was unfortunately, broken.

It Starts With L Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: N/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 172

From Goodreads:

High school is tough, and Arielle knows this all too well. 

She’s slightly chubbier than most of the other girls and gets reminded of this every day. And the fact that she’s never had a boyfriend makes her prime meat for the bullying crowd. 

But then in walks Blake, the cute new boy who sweeps her off her feet and stands up to her bullies. Instant swoon. 

Now with a guy at her side, and the promise of a blooming love, Arielle realizes it’s easy to lose sight of what is important. Her best friend, Jess, is on a downward spiral toward disaster, and Arielle needs to find a way to help her. 

Unfortunately, Arielle discovers not everything in life is simple. Sometimes things happen, tragedy strikes, and it leaves you with wounds that might never heal.

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I actually feel a bit lost for words… ‘It Starts With L’ didn’t feel like a novel, more like an extended journal entry. It is a journey of self-discovery through a series of events, but I feel like we don’t get resolution to the challenges set up at the start of the book.

It Starts With L Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleIt is realistic and has a wonderful portrayal of family. Arielle feels like the clueless teen I was in high school. Half the time going with the flow, the other feeling out directions to take life in. The relationship thing felt a tad overdramatic; and yet the writing fell flat for me. It was a case of an interesting story but a subdued writing style. For such a short novel I lost interest frequently and found myself skimming forward.

Blake as a love interest is the embodiment of flip-flopping teen men. Hard to understand, hot and cold, loveable and infuriating. I would have loved to have seen his storyline resolved more fully.

There are a few curve balls towards the end that I did not see coming, and really redeemed Cassandra Fear’s writing for me. I was feeling the story was pretty uninteresting up until that point. Then my heart strings were tugged.

But overall, ‘It Starts With L’ l felt unfinished. The writing style not quite realized. There is some real talent here, but it failed to impress upon completion. The ending had me disappointed and I had difficulty in relating to the protagonist.

Unfortunately I don’t think I’d recommend this to anyone.

Overall reaction: Had hopes, but hopes weren’t met.

It Starts With L Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

It Starts With L 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 – ‘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

Bonkers Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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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 – ‘November 9’ by Collen Hoover

Trashy tropes and shenanigans.

November 9 Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: N/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 310

From Goodreads:

Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day before her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist.

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I loved reading this book. The Drama! I was hooked from the first line.

I think this book is great in illustrating that we are all fallible. Everyone makes assumptions, mistakes, and it is how we recover from these that defines our character.

All the characters are great: fully realised, they jump from the page, warts and all! You get clear character development from the cast too, so by the end you feel like you’ve gone through a journey, and it has changed you.

I really liked our protagonist, Fallon – her insecurities can translate to any girl with aspects of her body that she does not like. It was also great to see her get over her wallowing and deciding to make something of her career. That get-up-and-go attitude really resonated with me, and I instantly became invested in her story. That and the hilarious and sassy conversation with her father at the start of the book had me hooked.

As for the worst: I found Fallon’s love interest Ben to be a little long-winded, a little whiny, and a little over-expository. But I loved his character. I think the failings I had with his personality is another reason I deducted half a mark… Though he is tenacious, altruistic, and incredibly romantic. After finishing ‘November 9’ I decided his good traits outweighed the bad.

November 9’ is an easy read with some great wit. I did get a little annoyed and the small amount of swearing – and Ben calling Fallon ‘babe’ – but that is just a pet hate of mine and I didn’t let is sway my rating. Colleen Hoover weaves angst and tension in there as seamlessly as she always does, and one of the elements in her writing style that always has me coming back for more.

I would have rated this higher if something about the story didn’t creep me out a little. But that’s all personal. And I won’t discuss it here because I don’t want to spoil your reading experience with giving away the best part of the plot.

The discussion of ‘insta-love’ and other bookish elements was a great touch, using them as an underlying theme had me cheering. The pacing is well done too, even though it takes place over many years, you don’t get bogged down with too many irrelevant aspects not important to the main storyline.

I will say I did not see, or remotely guess the plot twist. I revelled in the drama. For me the ending was sweet, if a bit meh… but that is my personal taste given the situation, not the writing, how everything was brought to culmination. Again all of the issues I had with ‘November 9’ stem from my own reactions to the situations faced by Fallon. Another great title from CoHo herself and something I’d recommend to all faithful fans and lovers of contemporary romance.

Overall reaction: Messy people make for a great read.

November 9 Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

November 9 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 – ‘Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity’ by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

A road trip of two teens facing their fears…

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 272

From Goodreads:

The last time Jess saw her father, she was a boy named Jeremy. Now she’s a high school graduate, soon to be on her way to art school. But first, Jess has some unfinished business with her dad. So she’s driving halfway across the country to his wedding. He happens to be marrying her mom’s ex-best friend. It’s not like Jess wasn’t invited; she was. She just told them she wasn’t coming. Surprise!

Luckily, Jess isn’t making this trip alone. Her best friend, Christophe—nicknamed Chunk—is joining her. Chunk has always been there for Jess, and he’s been especially supportive of her transition, which has recently been jump-started with hormone therapy.

Along the way from California to Chicago, Jess and Chunk will visit roadside attractions, make a new friend or two, and learn a few things about themselves—and each other—that call their true feelings about their relationship into question. 

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I was looking forward to ‘Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity,’ it promised interesting characters and a journey filled with crazy events. What I got was cute, cheesy, and sometimes a little frustrating.

I liked the narrative style – it was about people, and not the body issues they struggled with (Jess struggled with her gender and Chunk with his weight.) I liked how it illustrated how not everyone gets it. And how any one person is more than one thing and has faults of their own… how the sum total of many things makes us up as individuals.

I did find our protagonist Jess a bit selfish. How she was all about her transition. But I know people who have lived through that process, and it sums up their mental space for that period of time. They’ve been on this journey for so long it consumes them. Not to say they are bad people or narrow-minded. They are simply protecting themselves, anchoring to their core to allow growth once they’ve found that safe place within. But I would have like to have seen her step outside issues other than her gender expression. Nut her story is an important one, and I liked how she interacted with the outside world and started to test boundaries.

Chunk could have been a little more expressive and assertive. He was so compassionate, it felt crippling. I was praying to see him a little more confronting and add some tension to the story, force Jess to think with a bigger perspective. He just such a big adorable teddy bear.

Jess and Chunk were both likeable, and engaging to read, but I wanted more dimension and intensity. It would have lifted the tone from pleasant to impactful.

Young couple driving convertible at sunset

It was a great story illuminating issues trans people face, and showing representations of sexuality. It was also wonderful at depicting the fear and doubt that non-hetero-normative people live with for their entire lives. But the other side of this is that these issues weren’t really delivered in a realistic way other than a stream of thought. Jess was sheltered and detached from the community, and from taking part in all the activities of the road trip. I get that she was afraid and protecting herself, but not having the issues she faced connected to the reader in some real life experiences, or those of other characters, diminished the importance of these somewhat.

But this book is a marvellous tool in offering a starting point for dialogue about so many issues of the human condition, and how we treat each other.

I loved the nerdy and sci-fi references – nice touch and appealed to my inner geek. It was also great to read about diverse characters that had real world problems.

I’m ambivalent on the ending – while I enjoyed it, I think that there was more character growth and a lot more issues they needed to work out to reach that point. It felt rushed. Otherwise, wonderfully dramatic and managed to drag out all the feels..

Overall feeling: not too shabby.

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 04 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.

Fit for Writing

Ever since I took the plunge and started taking my writing seriously, long hours at the keyboard have resulted in an expanding waistline. Now, the imaginative prose I churn out have thickened into a spare tyre around my mid-section.

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So I started exercising, not only to keep my body fit, but my mind fresh and pumped full of endorphins – only it didn’t work. The pounds kept creeping on. I was starting to feel like I had been cursed. *shakes fist at the sky*

I eat healthy, exercise regularly and felt I was doing everything to keep that trim body, but it just wasn’t happening. The same thing I used to do in my 20’s and 30’s has stopped working. After speaking to a doctor and then a fitness trainer, I discovered women of a certain age (I hate that phrase) go through a major hormonal shift, and weight gain happens to be a consequence.

Great. But what if I don’t feel comfortable with the extra weight, what if I’m concerned about an increased risk of diabetes or other health issues? I can learn to love jiggly bits, as long as it is not at the cost of my health and lifestyle.

All is not lost. With this shift in metabolism and body chemistry, I’ve been told I need to change tactics – cardio will no longer help shed the pounds alone. I need to be doing some weight training. It works, but be warned – it’s much harder to achieve.

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So I’ve begun the new regimen… it’s still too early to see results, but I can tell you, those aching muscles during the two days after a workout are a killer. I mean it. I hobble around like an old woman in pain moaning and groaning. Having to sit down and get up is particularly challenging…and don’t get me started on climbing the stairs. I went to the toilet and felt like I was going to have to call for a crane to lift me up and down. I’m really starting to hate exercise. How long will this pain go on? I think I’d rather keep my added padding and forgo the torture. That is, until I get dressed and my clothes are hugging a bit too tightly.

I swing from depressed, to feeling ugly, to determined and motivated at the flip of a coin lately. It’s hard to write when your belly hits the table, constantly reminding you that it’s time to trade in your wardrobe for the next size up. Or your friends are worried you’ve fallen pregnant ‘at your age.’

Sheesh. When did I get so worried about the way I looked? Where is my female empowerment?

fit-for-writing-pic-03-by-casey-carlisleIt’s really got nothing to do with other people finding me attractive, or fitting into a certain dress size, or hitting a particular number on the scale. It’s about being able to bend over and tie my shoe, being able to step easily into my nickers, and not have them ride up uncomfortably to unmentionable places, wedged in by slabs of cellulite. It’s about feeling vital and young, about that headspace that is clear of doubt and a nasty voice calling you fat and ugly. It’s about me.

That’s half the challenge –getting over your own crap. Finding the motivation to keep going. Even though it’s getting harder, bit by bit you can get there. Soon the clothes will fit, you’ll feel better and productivity will rise because you are happier. But you could be happy as you are without losing the weight, if you can change your attitude. Though it is hard when society’s beauty standards are thrown in our face every second in a modicum of ways.

There is so much wrapped in my head in trying to shed these pounds.

The other part is time. If I am a writer, I should be spending the bulk of my day writing. But daily chores, marketing, blogging, socialising, and of course, now exercising, keep demanding attention. It adds further frustration and impacts on my frame of mind when I stare at a blank page. Who needs this typhoon of detritus spinning in their mind when they are trying to focus on their manuscript? Not me. No sir. It’s enough to turn me to drink. Another champagne thank you!

I’ve written a few articles on health and fitness, and a few about time management – all focused around my headspace, wellbeing, and time for following my passion. And let’s face it, I’ll probably still drop an article here and there on the same topic, because the problem will still be here. It’s a part of life, and we can’t write it away. Though writing about it does help release some negativity, remind me what is important, and keep the issue in perspective. I choose to never give up, keep striving for that balance. For that fulfillment. Sometimes it’s hard work, but I’d rather keep my eyes on the horizon than stare at the ground around my feet and go nowhere.

So, to all of my fellow writers out there who stumble across roadblocks, stay strong!

Stay Calm and Keep Writing!

UPPERCASE lowercase banner 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 – ‘Girl Walks Into a Bar’ by Rachel Dratch

Funny, poignant story about a positive and persevering girl continually one step behind.

Girl Walks Into A Bar Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Memoir, Comedy

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

In this side-splitting memoir, the former Saturday Night Livestar recounts the hilarious adventures and unexpected joy of dating and becoming a mother when she least expected it-at the age of forty-four. Anyone who saw an episode of Saturday Night Live between 1999 and 2006 knows Rachel Dratch. She was hilarious! So what happened to her? After a misbegotten part as Jenna on the pilot of 30 Rock, Dratch was only getting offered roles as “Lesbians. Secretaries. Sometimes secretaries who are lesbians.”

Her career at a low point, Dratch suddenly had time for yoga, dog- sitting, learning Spanish-and dating. After all, what did a forty- something single woman living in New York have to lose? Resigned to childlessness but still hoping for romance, Dratch was out for drinks with a friend when she met John.

Handsome and funny, after only six months of dating long-distance, he became the inadvertent father of her wholly unplanned, undreamed-of child, and moved to New York to be a dad. With riotous humor, Dratch recounts breaking the news to her bewildered parents, the awe of her single friends, and the awkwardness of a baby-care class where the instructor kept tossing out the f-word.

Filled with great behind-the-scenes anecdotes from Dratch’s time on SNL, Girl Walks into a Bar… is a refreshing version of the “happily ever after” story that proves female comics-like bestsellers Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler-are truly having their moment.

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I’m starting to enjoy memoirs a lot more lately. Relating my life to theirs, learning about life’s difficulties by walking in someone else’s shoes and all that. And it definitely helps if they’re funny – I’m a positive person. So autobiographies from comedians always get to the top of my TBR when I’m in the mood.

Even though Rachel Dratch is another great favourite comedian/actor of mine, and for some reason I wasn’t expecting this memoir to be gut-busting hilarious the entire way. Maybe I’ve been educated from my past reads in this genre, or maybe it was the style of narrative in the first few pages that lead me to realise this was going to have much more of a story and a moral about it than a collection of funny stories.

I really enjoyed it. Yes, I had a number of laugh-so-hard-I-cried moments, and there is a lightness and positivity lurking underneath Dratch’s tales of misadventure. I related to her story. A lot. It’s my age, my gender, my experiences with many knock-backs, but an inevitable will to go for what I want. A mix of optimism, pig-headedness, cowardice and mysticism.

Girl Walks Into A Bar Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gifWe get a peek behind the curtain at SNL and some of her acting jobs which was interesting – more so about how she dealt with the environment rather than juicy back stage gossip. But it is her journey through life, and events/opportunities continually coming much later than typically expected (another thing I related to), that were touching and heart-felt. It was not meant to be a poor-me sob story or pity party. It was a plain statement of how society puts pressure and labels on women of a certain age in the various stages of their life. Sometimes it just makes you want to scream ‘Assface’ at everyone, like one of the crazy New Yorkers she talks about. It is unfair and discriminatory (and somewhat bitchy) but Dratch navigates around it all silently, forever searching for her own happily ever after. But – she’ ain’t dead yet, so don’t expect to read it by the end of the book – though the spirit still lives strong in her heart.

Girl Walks Into A Bar Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgI would have liked to read more about her creative process, and experienced a little more funny stuff in her book, but feel privileged to have been able to share this snippet of her life. It helped validate my own choices and circumstances.

I read the book in a day, there were no boring bits, no drawling on with dull events. It left me with a feeling of being ready to take life by the short and curlies. I remember to smile, laugh, cry, love my family, and revel in the roller-coaster that is life.

It was an interesting experience to strongly identify with a woman I don’t know, on the other side of the world living a life so drastically different from my own – but still the same in some ways.

A thoroughly entertaining, touching story of getting on with life…

Overall feeling: Gurl – you got me!

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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 – ‘Why Not Me?’ by Mindy Kaling

Real life. Real empowerment. Said with a smile.

Why Not Me Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Memoir, Comedy

No. of pages: 240

From Goodreads:

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

In “How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions,” Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, (“Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn’t the land of appropriate–this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman’s traditional hair color is honey blonde.”) “Player” tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. (“I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.”) In “Unlikely Leading Lady,” she muses on America’s fixation with the weight of actresses, (“Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they’re walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.”) And in “Soup Snakes,” Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak (“I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.”)

Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper. 

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While ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’ was a collection of random stuff that was very much like taking a peek inside Mindy Kaling’s brain, ‘Why Not Me’ is like reading her journal. Though it in not as funny as the first book, it deals with topics of more substance. I still laughed out loud in parts, but appreciated her candor and insights – and really, truly, believe Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal. Without a doubt. Full stop.

Some parts of the narrative felt a bit waffly, and Mindy tends to wander off the topic many, many times. But that is her style. She is being genuine and true to her way of addressing the world. I actually appreciated it more than in the first book because it mirrors my own thought processes. My stream of consciousness doesn’t travel in a straight line, but jump all over the place before returning to the current topic. I’m like a dog whose attention is grabbed by a squirrel. SQUIRREL!

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I liked her musings over weight and food (and it should never be an issue – but it seems as women, our bodies will always be attached to our achievements. Sad but true.) Snippets of dating and making friends. Every nerd, book lover, outlier, goes through motions of doing ridiculous things to make friends, impress people, or try to fit in. Mindy’s honesty is like casting a gaze back into my own history and recognising a kindred spirit that has done many an idiotic and incidental event in order to have someone like me. Or something inexplicably random – just because – no reason… and wondered what the hell they put in the water to make me do or say such a thing. Damn Commie Bastards!

I liked her views on confidence, bravery and fear towards the end, but the reading did not feel as compelling as it should, and left the ending feeling a little flat.

But another, quick, enjoyable read from Mindy that will help enlighten other girls, women, and gay men around the globe to stand up and go for your dreams without sham and doubt. Recommended. That is all.

Overall feeling: Mindy always makes me want to dance.

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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.