Book Review – ‘What to Say Next’ by Julie Buxbaum

Bring on the awkwardness!

What to Say Next Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 292

From Goodreads:

Two struggling teenagers find an unexpected connection just when they need it most.

Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her. 

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?

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After ‘Tell Me Three Things,’ I picked up ‘What to Say Next’ in my following book haul eager for Buxbaum’s breezy narrative and quirky writing style. This novel did not disappoint, another light contemporary to while away an afternoon. I loved the unique viewpoint of a protagonist on the autism spectrum.

What to Say Next Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere were a few times I felt as though things were a little one-minded for the sake of drama, but hey – what teen does not live in that headspace. Everything is life and death, emotions exist in their amped up, purest form… mix in a touch of Asperger’s and it’s a force of nature. And I felt Buxbaum treated David with respect, and it felt like (as it should be) he was just another person in the mix of humanity getting through each day at high school. That he can have relationships, that he is independent and not someone to be sequestered into a special school just because of his bluntly honest outlook on life which may make some people uncomfortable.

They need to get over themselves.

The first half was a bit of a slow burn – but it goes with the tone in the way David’s mind works. It really set the tone on his perceptions, thought patterns, and prejudices he overcomes on a daily basis.

Miney was the ever protective big sister for David and I loved that family dynamic.

Kit, whose perspective is alternated with David’s, is the biracial love interest. I found it interesting how she was the only character that felt race and heritage was an issue, whereas the rest of the cast were pretty much colour-blind. It was a pleasant state to read about. And let’s face it, Kit, by all rights should be the only one to talk about race and discrimination.

I was a little annoyed at the role Kit’s mother played, it’s like she didn’t have much authority as a parent – but if you are always trying to be your child’s best friend, you walk that line…

Interactions between David and Kit felt like an innocent, beautiful blossoming friendship. So adorably cute. Some things get piled on this pair, well a lot of things, which made for great reading, especially to see how they overcame these obstacles. And the plot twist – where the heck did that come from? Totally side-swiped me.

The writing style is gorgeous, easy to read and in a tone distinct for both narrators.

Loved ‘Tell Me Three Things,’ this was a great addition to my library and look forward to what Buxbaum releases next. A definite recommend for me. Though it’s more of a slow burn contemporary that a short angsty tale.

Overall feeling: Shades of social inappropriateness (in a good way).

What to Say Next Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

What to Say Next 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 Art of Being Normal’ by Lisa Williamson

A quirky tale with an important message. Some fun, but don’t forget your tissues!

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 352

From Goodreads:

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long , and soon everyone knows that Leo used to be a girl.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means. 

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It has been quite a while since I’ve read a novel in the GLBT genre – so I thought it was about time to mix it up with ‘The Art of Being Normal.’ What it brought to the table was a level of realism that transgendered youth face depicted really well. Identity and coming out, along with a plethora of other aspects were handled gracefully within the narrative. It was such an enjoyable read for me.

Told with alternating P.O.V’s, it begins with David, the bullied outsider. I like how this character dealt with gender identity intelligently. Research. Though this is only the beginning of David’s journey. It should have been noted somewhere that not all trans know they were born in the wrong body at an early age – sometimes it’s an evolution from something not feeling quite right before arriving at the at conclusion of being transgendered (and involved diagnosis from a professional). I felt like it glazed over some important mechanics in the transgendered experience for the sake of story. Though David was a little frustrating for me at times, I was able to relate and enjoyed a different view of the world at large.

Our second narrator, Leo is an all-around good guy. I enjoyed his strength and found his stand-offishness true to character. However, I guessed the plot twist involving his story from the beginning. Kind of deflated my enjoyment a little. Loved Leo. His story, his mannerisms. And it was great to see a separation in narrative styles with the switching POV’s – Lis Williamson did a fantastic job with each of their voices.

Begrudgingly I admit it lacked a personal engagement from me, something intangible about the characters of David and Leo held me back from truly believing in them. I also had an issue with how they were obliged to get along – it felt forced and artificial.

Effie and Alex – David’s best friends. Love the support and unadulterated no-holes barred relationship they shared. So rare. At times their silliness destroyed the authenticity for me. But loved their sense of humour – had me laughing quite a lot. My favourite scene is when David points Effie and Alex out to Leo, and they pull faces – priceless!

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

This story brings to light much of the pain and turmoil transgendered teens face in coming to terms with their condition/identity, some of it had tears falling from my eyes. (the feels! The feels!) The relationships in ‘The Art of Being Normal’ are beautiful.

I did want to read something other than issues regarding their gender identity. This book was all about that, and didn’t have much otherwise. I’m starting to find books are using GLBTQIA issues as a plot point or the big reveal annoying: when these are issues that are dealt with for a lifetime… along with everything else. So, more everything else please.

It’s all a very “nice’ depiction of a transgendered experience – and I use that term hesitantly – because some youth experience so much more darkness and hardship. But that is too serious for what is meant to be a supportive, uplifting, and positive story about trying to live your truth.

Great pacing, I completed this novel in two sittings and never found places where my attention was wandering. Great subject matter, but I found it very predictable, though, I would highly recommend this to all my friends.

Proud to have ‘The Art of Being Normal’ in my library, it has been the most grounded story that has dealt with sexual identity in such a point-blank style to date. Refreshing.

Overall feeling – Simple, impressive even if it was predictable

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Freelancer’ by Jake Lingwall

Great promise but poor structure and execution for a novel.

Freelancer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 224

From Goodreads:

Kari is a freelance hacker, taking jobs from clients to design anything from art to security software. In a world where 3D printers, drones, and computers connect directly to the brain, Kari finds keeping her expert programing skills secret while trying to finish high school almost impossible. With the threat of the second Civil War looming, Kari must decide how far she will go to keep herself, her family, and her friends out of harm’s way, even when her choices might have consequences she’s not ready to face.

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I was really excited to read this – I conversed with the author and loved the premise of the novel. There was so much going for it… and then I started reading…

Freelancer’ is difficult to get into at the beginning – bogged down with technical details and simulations instead of getting on with (and setting up) the story. Lingwall missed a proper introduction to the novel and jumped right into the middle part.

The protagonist, Kari, is hard to relate to and her motives difficult to understand. The more I read, the less I cared about her. She was coming off like a paranoid prepper – which was weird mixed in with all the teen high school angst. There was little background given or inner monologue leaving her actions as mere plot devices directed obviously by the author. One thing I will applaud was that it was good to read about a diverse character, though, unfortunately, her heritage played absolutely no aspect in the narrative (or her identity) whatsoever. A prime opportunity to create conflict and tension missed. Sadly this trend of little or no character development is also prevalent in the remainder of the cast.

Maybe because of the major issues I had with the narrative style and basic novel writing tools, Kari’s skills felt unrealistic – I guess if there was better world building and character development I wouldn’t have felt this way. Additionally, because of this, the number of times Kari was put in jail felt more like she had been sent to her room for being a bad girl – it didn’t feel like she was being threatened, punished or even all that frightened about the turn of events.

It is obvious Lingwall knows what he is writing about when it comes to the science fiction aspect of the story – very cool concepts of technology. It can also be said that his action scenes are excellent.Though, it was like this book was written around a number of action scenes without any thought to the characters and how to structure a novel. Fun, but needs A LOT of development.

Elements of great political intrigue leading up to a civil war (I’m presuming – the writing wasn’t very precise). Only because of no world building for the political climate either – am I just meant to accept it what is going on? I was a little frustrated by the halfway point. If it weren’t for the personal attachment with David (Kari’s love interest), and his family I may have not even bothered.

Consequently, I could have skipped first half of the book. It did little to set up the characters, their motivations, what they stood to lose, and the climate/world. So many essential elements in writing a novel overlooked. The formatting with frequent italicised thoughts were distracting and not needed. One chapter actually started with “Insert chapter nine text here.” Inexcusable! Where was the proofreading! So many elements giving me a very bad impression. ‘Freelancer’ needs a heavy hand from a professional editor. So much promise but no delivery.

It’s a pity because this book has a great climactic ending, though the note after the dramatic scene felt lukewarm and as directionless as the start of the novel. Reactions from the adults in this scenario felt contrived and unrealistic. With phenomenal action scenes, amazing plot, I wish it was executed with precision.

I know that this is a debut for a series, but I won’t be continuing on, or recommending this to anyone. A few shining moments, but the rest just gave me a headache.

Overall feeling: oh no…

Freelancer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Freelancer Book Review Pic 03 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 – ‘Lady Renegades’ by Rachel Hawkins

A great girlie teen action adventure with a paranormal twist.

Lady Renegades Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 264

From Goodreads:

Just as Harper Price starts coming to terms with her role as David Stark’s battle-ready Paladin, protector, and girlfriend—her world goes crazy all over again.

Overwhelmed by his Oracle powers, David flees Pine Grove and starts turning teenage girls into Paladins—and these young ladies seem to think that Harper is the enemy David needs protecting from.  Ordinarily, Harper would be able to fight off any Paladin who comes her way, but her powers have been dwindling since David left town…which means her life is on the line yet again.

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I was really excited to finish up this trilogy – it is just so much fun! I’d pre-ordered a copy of ‘Lady Renegades,’ so the moment I had spare time, I pretty much devoured this book in a weekend.

Lady Renegades Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleWith a darker, more depressing tone for the conclusion, our protagonist, Harper wrestles with her inner demons. Which was a nice break from all the action, and to revel in some character development. Because of this, we never lose Harper in fight scenes, her presence is strong, and you get a real sense of her growth by the conclusion.

Blythe was a nice touch to the story, an antagonist you’re never quite sure is an antagonist. Her presence really added another dimension to ‘Lady Renegades.’

There didn’t seem to be as much comradery between the cast as in the previous books; or the comedic moments, or witty banter for that matter. It’s still there, just lightly sprinkled over the story. And so it didn’t quite have the same feel as I got from ‘Rebel Belle’ and ‘Miss Mayhem.’

It didn’t really feel like much happened in this book. It’s only 264 pages long, and I flew through it. A light-hearted after-school special feel to the narrative and fun dialogue. The pacing pics up towards the end, though I did feel there was a lot of repetition of the situation Harper faced near the finale that was unnecessary. The story felt very predictable, but sweet and I never stopped rooting for what I wanted to happen.

A satisfying end to a fun trilogy. Though lacked the punch of the debut. I felt like I wanted Harper’s journey to be harder and be more complex… maybe because I was left with the impression that the story came to an end way too quickly. But it’s still something I’d recommend to all my friends.

Overall feeling: *smiles sadly*

 

Lady Renegades Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Lady Renegades Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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 – Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins

Pres is on the warpath yet again…

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Genre: Y/A, Paranormal, Comedy, Romance

No. of pages: 273

From Goodreads:

Life is almost back to normal for Harper Price. The Ephors have been silent after their deadly attack at Cotillion months ago, and her best friend, Bee, has returned after a mysterious disappearance. Now Harper can focus on the important things in life: school, canoodling with David (her nemesis-turned-ward-slash-boyfie), and even competing in the Miss Pine Grove pageant.

Unfortunately, supernatural chores are never done. The Ephors have decided they’d rather train David than kill him. The catch: Harper has to come along for the ride, but she can’t stay David’s Paladin unless she undergoes an ancient trial that will either kill her . . . or make her more powerful than ever.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

As fun a read as Miss Mayhem is, it did suffer ‘Sequel Syndrome’ and left me a little disappointed. It certainly did not “up the anty” with the storyline or characters. The witty banter and awkward action sequences we got in Rebel Belle weren’t as prominent in the second book of the series. Given the brevity of Miss Mayhem, I was expecting something action packed and punchy… but it still felt a little drawn out.

Harper and her boyfie were still adorable, and the tension between the two a great addition. Also with the rest of the cast, testing their friendships. But I felt it could have been more – you know really turn up the pressure some more to let them shine. There are brief moments, but all too fleeting.

Miss Mayhem was enjoyable and a quick, easy read; however it did not measure up to its predecessor. Granted it’s the middle book in a trilogy, so it can be a bit of a no-man’s land… but as an author, you should be able to make it great. Maybe Rebel Belle had gotten my expectations up? The story was great, I loved it. But it could have been condensed down to a shorter story that really shines. Maybe this trilogy should really be one book after some heavy editing?

Overall feeling: Is there any more?

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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.