Book Review – The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried’ by Shaun David Hutchinson

A brilliant juxtaposition of contemporary and fantasy.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, LGBT, Paranormal

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.

Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly—and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.

As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.

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Saying goodbye to your departed frenemy… who just happens to be a zombie.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried’ is a hilarious and heart-warming tale told in alternating perspectives of best friends turned enemies Dino and July. But, July is now dead, well… undead. Death has been put on hold while these two teens make amends with each other and some other issues they have been struggling with.

Dino’s family run a morgue, and he is currently undecided on a lot of things. His career path, his friendships, his relationship. How he can confront people. He’s kind of emo and artsy. He also has a gorgeous transgender boyfriend, Rafi, that he feels like he doesn’t deserve.

July is loud and brash, the centre of attention, and very jealous of Rafi. He’s stolen all of Dino’s attention away from her and she’s left to float around other less important friends. So how does she deal with this abandonment? With passive aggressive comments and pranks on Dino.

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Now July is back from the dead – zombie style without the hunger for brains and human flesh, and with Dino as her only confidant. The both have to overcome their antagonism to figure out why people aren’t dying and what to do with July now that she’s a slowly decomposing, flatulent corpse. With witty banter, great pacing, and emotional reveals, I was hooked from the first page.

The overall plot is predictable and obvious, but the subsequent plot points in-between were not. But all that middle-story stuff lent to some great character arcs for our two leads. With themes of friendship, redemption, loss, grief, and finding your place in this world ‘The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried’ is a brilliant read.

I’m loving the more graphic art trend of the cover illustration – you can see something similar on another of Shaun David Hutchinson’s titles, ‘The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza’ which I’m keen to pick up.

Overall, a strong recommendation from me. Great characters, quirky storyline, and a well-paced read.

Overall feeling: Killed myself laughing.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried Book Review Pic 04 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.

Film vs Novel – Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why Film vs Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

I have a lot of emotions about this novel. One is that I think is it an important topic, that it was valuable to experience life through the eyes of a teen pushed to a point of seriously considering suicide as an option. The other is the total despair and sadness, the loss of life of someone who had their whole life in front of them. That so much value was placed on silly teenage pranks and behaviour. That she couldn’t see that life does get better, that there is help. But the main theme of the novel is not about suicide, but what we can do for each other to stop it. To put an end to apathy. That everything we do impacts on someone else, and even the smallest gesture can turn someone’s life around.

Thirteen Reasons Why’ has been on my radar for a very long time, but I never picked it up. Suicide is such a sensitive, heavy topic, I didn’t want to put myself through the emotional ringer. I don’t like to think about the consequences for such actions. It’s dark and depressing. I did not want to put myself in that headspace. But this novel does not drag you into shadowed corners and lament at how hopeless life is. This is more of a factual account of circumstances that leads Hannah to her decision. Our protagonist Clay his hope. A shining beacon that lets the reader know that all is not lost. This tone is also reflected in the television series throughout the first season that follows the plot of the novel.

Though it is never stated outright, there are hints in the text of how Hannah is suffering depression, which it has been happening for a while. A condition that goes undiagnosed and it compounded by a series of unfortunate events… all narrated by herself on the set of cassettes she addressed to the main people who affected her life and turned her to a path of loneliness.

Thirteen Reasons Why Film vs Novel Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The first half of the novel is a little slow, introducing characters slowly as each is discussed until about halfway when we start to get more shocking revelations. After that, I was glued to the page. A sort of morbid fascination. What drove Hannah to do what she did? What is going to be Clay’s reaction? So much more happened than I was expecting. The television show follows suit with flashbacks, but is has the luxury of multiple perspectives, where in the novel it is solely Clay, and Hannah through the tapes. Katherine Langford plays Hannah in the show and exudes that lost child putting up a happy front to disguise all the turmoil underneath. The novel focuses on Clay piecing together a timeline through each tape, where the screen interpretation focuses on events and hypes up the bullying more. We see many of the reveals in the novel much earlier in the screen version to keep an episodic pace.

Clay is a great protagonist. He reacts to the circumstances appropriately – a guide to how you should react to what is happening, as testament to so many characters in the story who lack that compassionate behaviour. He is the litmus test for all of the other characters in the story. The narration treated the events respectfully and lets the reader make pragmatic decisions with compassion. I too loved the depiction of actor Dylan Minnette’s of Clay; he captures the quiet nature and determination that is so strong in this character.

Thank goodness for the screen adaptation, otherwise I may never have read this book. It’s what spurned me to bite the bullet and read the novel before indulging in the series. Because, again, suicide = scary and depressing. I like to read fun, happy, escapist books much of the time.

Definitely thought provoking and I can see it as a great conversation starter for teens (or anyone) who feels they are in the same situation as Hannah. The novel even highlights that there were people who cared, who wanted to help, but she just didn’t give them the chance. So I never got that complete isolation and spiralling pit of despair that this topic generally deals with. We get a balanced view of all parties involved.

The novel ends on a great note too. Hope. Looking forward to see where the tv shows takes these themes beyond the scope of the book… dealing with real issues and hopefully not turning it into another overwritten teen drama.

Highly recommended. It’s not as depressing as it may seem. I didn’t fall into a sopping mess, rather just felt sadness and pity. At this point I have to say both the book and screen adaptation are a solid tie.

Thirteen Reasons Why Film vs Novel Pic 03 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.

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss…

Rediscovering my passion for writing through loss Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

… and setting up a cracker of a year!

Holy Hanna! I can’t believe it is already March and this is the first blog post I’ve written for 2019… where did the beginning of the year go?

For the last two months I’ve done nothing bookish or indulged in writing. Sad face emoji. Over the holiday period it was my intention to get some much needed spring cleaning done and finally go through everything boxed up from my mother’s estate. I’ve put off the unboxing for far too long. Mum passed just over five years ago and there were always distraction and other things that took priority. But there were no excuses over the holidays and the job is well overdue. Yay for me being proactive and ticking some of the less desirable items from my to-do list. I’m patting myself on the back for this one!

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Here’s me thinking a few weeks was all that was needed. Erm… I didn’t take into account the emotional connection to objects and photos. Each day was a rollercoaster between the joys of unwrapping something I desired – like my birthday; and something triggering the loss and grief all over again. Two weeks stretched over an exhausting six weeks. My over-ambition hobbles me again *shakes fist at the sky* However the experience has left me feeling lighter, cleansed, and motivated. If not more connected to my mum.

It’s reminded me of all the things I started writing for in the first place. Flashbacks to mum’s words of encouragement. It has re-invigorated my drive. Last year was feeling like it was difficult to make any progress – even though I had been. It simply came down to nothing being finished. (That’s what you get for running too many projects at once.) But it has left this year as one where I can start crossing items off my goals list.

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It’s left me wondering if I should work less on the blog and concentrate on the professional landscape I’ve been building; or knuckle down and attempt to do both. I’m just a little concerned of burnout or overextending myself. (Like I always tend to do.) I don’t want to spend all my time at a keyboard, I value getting out and exploring the coast and Hinterland, connecting with family and friends. Guess I’ll give it a go and see how things work out. Both aspects of novel writing and blogging are fun – it’s just one is building a career, and the other is sharing the love of reading… choices.

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So now I’m back in the swing of things, and we’ll see where this journey takes me. What opportunities I can create… and hopefully the regular schedule of blog posts won’t suffer.

In the meantime, happy reading and lots of positive and creative vibes to those on their own writing journey.

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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.

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.

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.