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

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

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

No. of pages: 279

From Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Becoming Nicole Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Book Review – ‘Autoboyography’ by Christina Lauren

Cuteness with all the feels…

Autoboyography Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 407

From Goodreads:

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

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What a sweet love story. I was wrapped up in the three of the main cast in the process of writing a novel of their own! It was like a sugar-rush high for me to read of other author struggles and an angsty soppy cute romance entwined within.

I appreciated the education on the Latter Day Saints religion, and how it did not feel preachy. That it was simply an aspect of Sebastian – not all of him. Just like him being a mentor, author, brother, son, gay… all parts of the whole. But religion is a bit of a trigger for me in reading. Something about it always makes me feel uneasy – but that says something about me and my personal experiences, and not about the quality of ‘Autoboyography.’ Nonetheless, the experience of faith within the pages took the shine off enjoying the story a little.

Autoboyography Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI like the representation of our bi protagonist, Tanner. How he addresses that it is a valid identity and not an excuse for indecision or infidelity. Though I was put out with how his mother basically forced him back into the closet when they moved to Provo… it almost felt like child abuse. But they supported Tanner in a multitude of other ways that was heart-warming. Because of this restriction, it made it difficult for Tanner to be himself and form honest relationships. It was great tension for the story.

Sebastian, I love/hated him. He was so sure of himself in some parts, and a meandering lost puppy in others. If I was in Tanner’s shoes I may have slapped him a few times in frustration and hurt. Seriously Seb ping-ponged all over the place. I would have been a blubbering mess, dissolved into a puddle of my own making.

Tanner’s best friend Auddy, for some reason I want to say she was a beautiful disaster – but she definitely was no disaster. Maybe a little messy. And definitely beautiful… ginger sisters need to stick up for each other! Auddy is definitely the major grounding force for this novel. While Tanner’s Dad is the voice of reason.

On the whole I found Christina Lauren’s writing style pleasant and easy to read. Spotted with some interesting word choices that lent an air of intelligence shining through the narrative. Though there was a small amount of repetition that jumped out at me, which could have been identified at the final editing stage – I was a little perplexed as to why it wasn’t ear-marked because besides that, the writing was outstanding.

Autoboyography’ definitely dragged the feels out of me. That fluttering in my chest, nervous knots in my stomach, and yes, a few escaped tears. I didn’t want the story to end when it did. That’s a great sign of how much I was into this novel.

We get a few chapters from Sebastian’s perspective at the end of the novel, and why I can see how it fleshed out the story and added some angst and tension – it’s a pet hate of mine when you suddenly change the P.O.V. after it’s been thoroughly established. It feels a little lazy. I wish we could have uncovered those little factoids from Tanners perspective and kept the narrative consistent. Or maybe I’m being overly OCD?

Autoboyography’ is fairly predictable – it’s a love story, so you can guess the ending from the first page. But I really enjoy a predictable romance every now and then. Great escapism. I was also surprised at the moments of humour interspersed throughout. It certainly added another layer to the narrative and grounded it in reality.

Overall feeling: A totally immersive experience that gave me all the feels.

Autoboyography Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Autoboyography 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 – ‘The Love Interest’ by Cale Dietrich

A great satire with heart.

The Love Interest Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 377

From Goodreads:

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

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This book far exceeded my expectations. I’ve see blazing reviews and some flaming ones, and after reading the blurb, I was definitely interested, but didn’t have lofty predictions. Some parts of the book are cheesy, some ironic, but I didn’t expect the subtext of hopeless desperation through most of the novel. I was in tears more than once because of the helplessness that the characters faced, but still managed to have hope. It was heartbreaking.

The Love Interest’ does a great job of presenting stereotypes and tropes and throwing them into the harsh light of day to show that they really don’t exist. The characters have layers and motivations and aren’t simply the label that has been given to them.

The Love Interest Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgCaden is a fun protagonist. He is determined, a little stubborn, but compassionate. It was a great mix, and I was relieved that even with the fact that he is the protagonist – he also is not. That he is not ‘the chosen one’ or ‘the solo hero of the world.’ It takes a team – and you get a strong sense of that.

Dylan (‘Dyl’) kept surprising me… and for all the right reasons. I think he is my favourite character from this story. We never truly know his motivations because the novel is told only from Caden’s perspective, and this narrative adds delicious tension – as it does between all the cast – for each are pretending, hiding secrets, tenuous with trust. As hard as it was to peg Dylan, he also felt the most genuine.

Our female love interest, and target of the boy spies, Juliet fell a bit flat for me. She has skills and towards the second half of the book really shines; but during the first half felt more like a prop to tell Caden and Dyl’s story.

I think the only thing holding me back from giving this a perfect score is that I would have loved to see more complexity in the female characters, and maybe a bit more angst develop between the Caden and Dyl. But that’s me being picky, because I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Love Interest.’

There are a number of plot twists and events that I did not see coming. I was literally questioning “What?” out loud and re-reading the paragraph. It’s been a while since a book had done that to me, so I have to applaud Cale Dietrich in causing me alarm. Brilliant!

I think the reason behind such polarising reviews is because on the subtext of irony – on the surface it’s a love triangle, Dyl and Caden are gorgeous teens, parentless, and forced into becoming spies for a corporation – it’s very YA. But underlying that plot, the narrative flies in the face of all those tropes. Right up to the last page. It is amusing, touching and poignant.

Dietrich’s writing style is effortless, I read the book in one sitting, fully engaged the entire was through. I did have a slight pet peeve of the boys calling each other ‘man’ in their dialogue with frequency – like when girls get called ‘babe’ or ‘baby,’ it’s just something I find irritating. But that’s my personal problem and didn’t disrupt my enjoyment of ‘The Love Interest.’

The overall plot is, for the most part, easily predictable. However, Deitrich crafts angst beautifully, teasing you over and over again driving the story forward with a thrilling pace. I was also honestly surprised at the amount of action and James Bond styled gadgets. So while guessing the end was easy – the journey to get there is filled with surprises, laughter, tears, and hot bodies.

Although having a gay protagonist is not anything ground-breaking, it felt genius in this context. It was also dealt with in a respectful manner, and in a way anyone coming to terms with their sexuality should be treated. There was no fear or discrimination against their orientation, and it left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. I was really invested in the boys pairing up.

I was a little ‘iffy’ on the world building, and the relevancy for the organisation – and indeed the use of agents like Caden and Dyl. It is all so much overkill. But that too is a sarcastic pun at YA tropes. So you can either take it literally, of view it in the tone it is written, dripping with derision and satire.

Definitely giving ‘The Love Interest’ two thumbs up, and recommend this to all my friends. It’s a great adventure with tones of love and irony.

Overall feeling: tickled my fancy.

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The Love Interest Book Review Pic 04 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 – ‘Honestly Ben’ (#2 Openly Straight) by Bill Konigsberg

A great perspective and an adorable romance.

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 330

From Goodreads:

Ben Carver is back to normal. He’s getting all As in his classes at the Natick School. He was just elected captain of the baseball team. He’s even won a big scholarship for college, if he can keep up his grades. All that foolishness with Rafe Goldberg last semester is over now, and he just needs to be a Carver, work hard, and stay focused.

Except…

There’s Hannah, a gorgeous girl who attracts him and distracts him. There’s his mother, whose quiet unhappiness he’s noticing for the first time. School is harder, the pressure higher, the scholarship almost slipping away. And there’s Rafe, funny, kind, dating someone else…and maybe the real normal that Ben needs.

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What a fantastic follow-up to ‘Openly Straight.’ I laughed out loud many times – I love the cookie humour in this series. It was great to break the tension and release the angst and anxiety of the novel.

Where ‘Openly Straight’ challenged the notions of labels, in ‘Honestly Ben’ I felt we got to live in a number of them and discover that they are merely descriptors that make other people comfortable (or uncomfortable) – and what it truly means to carve your own path.

Identity, sexuality, gender are all in different hues, and never too stagnant. People are different and grow and change over time, so it stands to reason that those concepts would evolve too. It was great to get a wider scope of what these terms are, and mean. It was an eye-opener on diversity for me. I got a bit of an education. And I like that I learnt something, but hand in hand with this kind of thing – and that I see in many other novels tackling these same topics – it always saturates the narrative in the world of socio-politics and correctness, and suddenly you find yourself submerged in a world that is less real, and consequently loses its relatable edge. But that is unavoidable – as you need to saturate yourself in something to truly understand it. I commend this novel for the aspects in this area.

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe romance was still angsty and steamy. Though at the same time a little stand-offish. I guess because in the first novel we’re dealing with Rafe’s identity, and here, with Ben’s. So the focus is on them finding their place in the world and not so much on a romance. You get a strong sense of Ben exploring who he is. I actually found it compelling and refreshing.

I revelled in the fact that life is allowed to be a big confusing mess, that somethings you just can’t put a label on.

As with ‘Openly Straight,’ I found Koinsberg’s writing style compelling and hard to put down. I completed this book in one sitting and was craving more when finished. There is always a sense of hope and desperation it the tone of the characters that has them practically leaping off the page.

There were issues I had with a bit of machismo in ‘Openly Straight’ which get addressed here – and in such a way it was delightfully surprising. Ben has such a knack for controlling a situation in a positive way and I felt involuntarily drawn to him. If he were a real life person, I’d be pathetically devoted to this young couple, simply because of how they treated the world. Truly inspiring.

Though all the characters are fallible, it was in an endearing way, making them feel like people I knew. Even with their growth through the course of the novel there is a strong note that their journey is far from over at its conclusion.

The general crux of the novel is very predictable, but the way the story is told distracts you from the inevitable, and leaves you with a sense of wonder. I totally felt like I’d been given a great big warm hug – and I wanted to live in that moment for as long as I could.

I enjoyed how Rafe and his mother were challenged on how they labelled people – seriously or not, almost like reverse discrimination I want to say – just because you know something, doesn’t mean you know.

I can only hope we get to visit the world of Rafe and Ben again sometime in the future – I’m completely down for that. So I’m sending out vibes into the universe for Konisberg to get inspired and continue writing for this collection.

Overall feeling: Totally amazeballs.

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Honestly Ben (#2 Openly Straight) 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 – ‘Openly Straight’ by Bill Konigsberg

Getting a chance to redefine yourself… and discovering you are so much more than you first thought.

Openly Straight Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He’s won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He’s been out since 8th grade, and he isn’t teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that’s important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys’ boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret — not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate break down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn’t even know that love is possible.

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I really loved the perspective in this novel and its discussion on the importance we place on labels, and the type of people we are without them.

I found the friendship/relationship growing between Rafe and Ben adorable. How some people you can just click with, and others are doomed to simply remain superfluous. It was a great character study in friendships.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the ending… I actually found it poignant. The object of this novel was about Rafe finding himself and learning the importance of the labels he’d let himself get classified into. Life is messy, it’s coloured with other people’s perceptions, there is no clear black and white… and it’s an ongoing journey.  I feel this was set up at the beginning of the novel and then commented upon at the end, comparing where Rafe ended up to where he started. Very cerebral, loved this aspect.

The friendships were great too. How Rafe felt freer to be himself by metaphorically going back into the closet. I get the whole thing about people constantly seeing him in a certain way – generally speaking we all do that. They are identifiers that help us to relate to the world at large. But they certainly not all we are. The more you get to know someone, the more they deconstruct the labels you have put on them.

It was wonderful to read a novel about a gay youth experience that didn’t involve single parent families, or unsupportive families, violence and discrimination, there were some elements of bullying and heterosexim used to illustrate the differences between a gay perception and a straight one. The whole book felt positive and informative about friendships and how to find your comfort zone with the outside world.

The relationship between Rafe and Ben was like a slow burn. It grew organically and was introspective. It was if they both decided to take the blinkers off and come at their growing feelings in a different way. I found it refreshing. A little unrealistic, because I’ve yet to meet a teen who approaches the world this way. But I appreciated it for what it is.

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Claire Olivia is cute too. Wise beyond her years. Like most of the cast in this book they are all proficient at character studies of those around them.

I also got some great writing tips from Mr Scarborough’s critique of Rafe’s writing – pushing him to think about the motivation behind his prose. Also the different forms of writing – a short story compared to free writing (stream of consciousness) it can only serve to enrich my own journey.

The humour in this novel is fantastic. Many times I was chortling so loud I sounded like a misfiring hairdryer! The characters have a dry sarcastic wit that translates well off the page.

The only downside, and the reason I’m not awarding top marks is because I felt like I wanted more from this novel. More meat. While highly philosophical, I found myself yearning for more plot, more story. As it stands this novel is fantastic, but as a reader, that sense of needing substance is not a great thing. It’s speculative, adorkable, and even educational, but not filling.

I’m definitely keen to read on in this series – with a novella (‘Openly, Honestly’) and a second book recently published ‘Honestly Ben,’ you can bet I’m going to be diving in as soon as I can. I also will be adding some of Bill Konigsberg back catalogue – his writing style is effortless, introspective, and deliciously hilarious. Dude – you’ve made me a fan!

Overall feeling: It got me here, *points to head* and here *points to heart*

Openly Straight Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Openly Straight 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.

Book Review – ‘Goodbye Paradise’ by Sarina Bowen

It felt like that inappropriate conversation you had at your last dinner party.

Godbye Paradise Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Contemporary, Romance, GLBT

No. of pages: 266

From Goodreads:

In Paradise, there is no television. No fast food. Just long hours of farm work and prayer on a dusty Wyoming ranch, and nights in a crowded bunkhouse. The boys of the Compound are kept far from the sinners’ world. 

But Joshua doesn’t need temptation to sin. His whole life, he’s wanted his best friend, Caleb. By day they work side by side. Only when Josh closes his eyes at night can they be together the way he craves. 

It can never be. And his survival depends on keeping his terrible desires secret.

Caleb has always protected Josh against the worst of the bullying at the Compound. But he has secrets of his own, and a plan to get away — until it all backfires. 

Josh finds himself homeless in a world that doesn’t want him. Can Caleb find him in time? And will they find a place of safety, where he can admit to Josh how he really feels? 

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This book was difficult and uncomfortable for me. Which feels hard to say because the narrative style and writing was quite pleasant. My discomfort came from the subject matter – a polygamy cult. Most of the time, anything I’ve read with a strong religious element is written so badly, and the prejudices that go along with their belief systems really gets my shackles up – so much that I usually toss (or throw) the book aside in frustration. But my biggest issue with ‘Goodbye Paradise’ was plausibility.

There were so many issues with poorly researched facts that I was grating my teeth through the entire novel. Men at the age of twenty, with a third grade education, isolated from the outside world would have a vastly different mindset to those of Caleb and Joshua. The lexicon they used was way off base. So too were a lot of their behaviours. The structure of the cult was on point, but the psychological ramifications of growing up in that environment were for the most part, completely ignored. Let alone introducing characters struggling with their sexual identity. In reality they would be seriously messed up.

Caleb and Joshua seemed to have everything so easy given their circumstances. So many missed opportunities to develop the characters and have them connect through these difficulties. I mean, the angst could have been off the charts. Instead, there was some fascination (in secret) followed by full on man-groping sex. The way it was written and presented made me lose all interest in seeing this couple together in an intimate way whatsoever. The language was rough and confronting. No romance. Though there were some occasional cuddly moments afterwards… but all that does not a memorable romance make.

Goodbye Paradise Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Another pet hate – especially in romance novels with erotic content, is partners calling each other ‘baby.’ It’s just a thing which is a personal trigger of gagging noises… so it was just another thing working against me liking ‘Goodbye Paradise.’

Caleb and Joshua didn’t even have troubles to overcome in the real world all too much. Not over having grown up in a cult, not over having practically no education, and not over their self-tortured homosexuality. Even their attraction with each other was met with little self-flagellation.

I picked this book up after a rave review from a book reviewer I follow, and even after I bought it and read the blurb warning lights went off *trigger warning* this sounds like religious zealots, oppressed homosexuality and explicit sex scenes. This trope has been overdone. A little. But on the faith of a fellow lover of this genre I dived in. It’s a short book anyway, so it wouldn’t take up too much of my time.

The sex scenes did not feel titillating at all. It was all swearing and wham-bam-thank-you-man. Little build up, practically zero foreplay, a brief description of all the important bits, then a short dalliance in the afterglow. For a couple of bible bashed repressed young men, it felt totally out of character. I like my sex scenes to mean something to the plot, and to the characters. I need an emotional connection to find the scene rich and engrossing. Otherwise it comes off as insincere and smutty. ‘Goodbye Paradise’ was just on the wrong side of the line between the two.

So, I couldn’t get past the plausibility of the story to enjoy much else. Salina’s writing is lovely, but am hesitant to try any other one of her titles given the lack of character development, build-up of tension, and the abrupt, couth sex scenes. I don’t think I’d recommend this to anyone – there are so many better written novellas out there. Maybe I’d revisit this author again after she has cut her teeth on many more releases.

I didn’t get the complexity of plot or storyline either that I was hoping for – the blurb of the novel just about summarises the entire book. This was highly predictable with no surprises.

The last 20% of the book was fantastic – the pacing spot on, the plot twist and tension practically created a mini novel within this one. This last section is ‘Goodbye Paradise’s’ saving grace. I’d love to rate it higher, but looking at it as a whole, and what is already on the market, I’m sticking to my guns.

One little factoid – Sarina had previously released this book in 2015 under the pen name Nealy Wagner and it was titled ‘In Front of God and Everyone.’

Overall feeling: I wanted to love this, but I just can’t

Goodbye Paradise Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Goodbye Paradise 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.

Book Review – ‘Telling Jase’ by Penny Wilder

Interesting and sexy, but not fully realised.

Telling Jase Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Contemporary, LGBT

No. of pages: 35

From Goodreads:

Sean Taggert has been in love with his best friend and former college roommate Jase Shaw for the last two years and nine months. He’s never told Jase how he feels, though. There were always other people in the way. Up until six months ago, Jase was shacked up with his cheating college boyfriend Marcus. Up until last night, Sean was engaged to the mother of his two-year old child, Cody. Cody may have been the result of a drunken one-night stand, but Sean would do anything for his son, including marry a woman he doesn’t love. But when Sean’s fiancée Lisa, calls him from her New York vacation to say that she’s left him and Cody for good, Sean calls Jase, the only person he knows who can get him though this. Now that they are both free, maybe it’s finally time for Sean to tell Jase how he really feels.

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I love getting recommendations from other bloggers, so when Kara Skinner @ Lover’s Quarrel sung praises about ‘Telling Jase’ I went and got my copy right away.

This was titillating, but also awful. It hit many triggers that I absolutely loathe in contemporary short stories. Also, calling people ‘Babe’ or ‘baby’ makes me cringe, that and a few other words had me wanting to bang my head against the wall when combined with all the other factors I’m about to list.

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The whole instant attraction thing –  the protagonists’ romantic relationship was introduced that way, and then went back and contradicted itself. Also the coming out aspect of it was written for maximum drama and minimum realism. Well… the whole tone of the book was exactly that. Lots of bang for your buck (pun intended) but little authenticity.

There were so many facts that were overlooked, ignored, or simply not researched. I understand these novellas are a complete guilty pleasure: read for the angst and highlights of intense relationships, but I need a solid believable storyline, a build-up, and backstory. I want to live in the character and feel their motivations. Grow as they develop, so when we get to the pay-off or climax (pun not intended this time) it means something and has all the pieces clicking into place… and ‘Telling Jase’ did not do that for me.

The two-year-old Cody was unlike any two-year-old I’ve ever known – underdeveloped, quiet, well behaved, and seemed to need little looking after or attention. In real life, children of this age are loud and all-consuming, they don’t sleep through the night and Carers are a delusional mess half the time. Kids are a beautiful miracle, but the early years are a struggle, especially for a sole parent to handle.

Our protagonist and father, Sean, kept falling asleep exhausted from his emotional dilemma, but not from all the attention on his child? Erm…

And Jase all of a sudden is Superdad… not to mention how he and Sean skip through so many massive developmental milestones in relationships and get straight to the old happy married couple stage after one conversation.

I want to enjoy this book for what it is. A fun steamy story about a single dad in love with his best friend, but the practical side of my brain won’t let it be. And though the sex scene was erotic, it felt obviously written from a woman’s perspective on what she thinks man on man sex is like. I felt a little more research could have been done to make it outstanding.

I really liked Penny Wilder’s writing style, she painted great scenes that I could see in my head clearly. I’d love to read something from her that was fully realised instead of a novella. I can almost taste her potential to create a best seller.

These types of stories are so short and predictable, so I didn’t get any surprises. But one would have been nice. Additionally, when a story is reduced to a few scenes, it’s hard to comment on plot or character development. I do like reading these on occasion as a guilty pleasure, but as I’m moving forward in my writing career, I’m increasingly becoming dissatisfied. I don’t think I’d recommend this to anyone I know. Sorry ☹

Overall feeling: Awkward

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