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 – ‘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!

Why Not Me Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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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© 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 – Luna by Julie Anne Peters

She dances to the beat of her own drum in the moonlight

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

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

Regan’s brother Liam can’t stand the person he is during the day. Like the moon from whom Liam has chosen his female namesake, his true self, Luna, only reveals herself at night. In the secrecy of his basement bedroom Liam transforms himself into the beautiful girl he longs to be, with help from his sister’s clothes and makeup. Now, everything is about to change-Luna is preparing to emerge from her cocoon. But are Liam’s family and friends ready to welcome Luna into their lives? Compelling and provocative, this is an unforgettable novel about a transgender teen’s struggle for self-identity and acceptance. 

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I loved the soul of ‘Luna’ and its message. There is valuable information in here. Attitudes to realise and live by.

On the whole this is such a cool story – shedding light on a family coping/not coping with Liam/Luna and the realisation she was born in the wrong body. The fact that it was in the setting of a family unit, even a dysfunctional one, shows that gender dysphoria, and relating to people starts at birth and it can be a long, awkward, and sometimes painful journey.

The cast of characters is what brought the rating down for me – they felt too much of a caricature. Additionally, flashbacks happened too often (a pet hate of mine). I know they were imparting vital knowledge to drive the plot forward, but towards the end of the novel I was getting tired of them. The content of these reminiscing’s also made me cringe – like events had been lifted out of a University study of typical gender dysphoric traits… it lost a personal edge, like it wasn’t connected to the characters at all.

With the story told completely from Regan’s POV, it helps shed light on the impact of a transgendered individual on family, and makes no apologies. I really enjoyed this aspect. At times Regan felt a little too politically correct, and others really hit the nail on the head. It is a difficult subject to wrap your feelings around.

Luna Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleLiam / Luna was the worst character in this book. She was written in a way to speak to a cause and left me not really connecting to her as a person. I love her message, but found myself rolling my eyes at her pretty much the entire time. In the famous words from ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way” – and that’s what I feel about Liam/Luna; she had the potential to be epic, but what I got was a cheesy afterschool special.

Chris felt like the most realistic of the cast, I would have loved to see him more involved in the main plot, I feel he could have balanced out all of the PC factoids and added a dash more authenticity.

With all of the issues I had with the characters, Luna illustrates a unique and important issue surrounding acceptance, how we treat others, love and gender identity.

I felt this was more a story of how far you can push someone before they snap, and that event causes a switch in perception allowing you to lose that baggage and become a better version of yourself. Like a cathartic cleansing of your personality.

Luna is ground-breaking, helps shed light on important causes and provides a story for anyone out there who identifies, or has someone in their life identifying as transgender. And I can’t praise this novel enough for tackling such a sensitive topic with aplomb (even if the characters fell short of the mark).

A fast-reading, light narrative easy enough to read in one sitting on over a weekend.

A quaint book with a universal message : don’t judge and be who you are.

Overall feeling: Amazing story

 Luna Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Luna Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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.

Book Review – Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman

Pobody’s nerfect

Alex as Well Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 224

From Goodreads:

Alex is ready for things to change, in a big way. Everyone seems to think she’s a boy, but for Alex the whole boy/girl thing isn’t as simple as either/or, and when she decides girl is closer to the truth, no one knows how to react, least of all her parents. Undeterred, Alex begins to create a new identity for herself: ditching one school, enrolling in another, and throwing out most of her clothes. But the other Alex—the boy Alex—has a lot to say about that. Heartbreaking and droll in equal measures, Alex As Well is a brilliantly told story of exploring gender and sexuality, navigating friendships, and finding a place to belong. 

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It’s been a very long while since a book elicited feelings of distaste, outright hatred and deplorability – and ‘Alex as Well’ did just that – for all the right reasons.

Alex was a little hard to relate to – but I grew to like her. Some of her behaviour, on the surface, is weird and distances the reader from the story… but if you ask why she’s acting in a certain way – and pick up on other clues – it all makes sense. Though at first glance I was like ‘what tha?’ The great thing in not giving you all the answers – this is just one girl’s story. If you read intelligently, because Alex herself does not possess the knowledge behind her behaviour, the reasons for every small action are there. This is really a very clever book.

There was a little overkill, or extreme measures in some areas of the plot – but I felt it worked in the context: to highlight Alex’s plight in dramatic manner. Any other method would have diminished the prejudice Alex needs to face.

The alternate POV just about killed me – such a distinct voice apart from Alex that slowly sheds light on a different kind of naivety. How the uneducated really should learn to keep their mouths shut until they get the facts. So many people form opinions on their ungrounded assumptions. It is annoyingly obvious in ‘Alex as Well.’ I really wanted to scream at the book to wake up to some of the idiotic comments on the page.

The change in narrative works expertly, you get a different kind of stress, all adding to the pace of the story line.

The whole book really encapsulates the phrase “nobody’s perfect.” Some other issues were touched on but not fully developed, like bullying and certain friend/relationships… but the search for self, identity and empowerment is a great one.

A short novel I read in one sitting in one day – something I’d recommend to challenge your perception a little. A valuable addition to any GLBT+ catalogue in you library.

Overall feeling: Blew my mind (expanded my awareness)

Alex as Well Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Alex as Well Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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.

Beautiful Ache

Thought for the Day Poc 01 by Casey CarlisleThought for the Day by Casey Carlisle

I love to read. It takes me away from this world and shows me things I’m not brave enough to do. I get to have gorgeous men swoon and fight over me, I get to be fit and daring and travel. I get to live.

So many of my friends keep saying, why don’t I go out and do all of those things I find in pages of novels. Maybe I would if I were rich, didn’t have to work, or my body kept as active as my mind.

I’ve had cancer. Twice.

And afterward, you are not quite as spritely as you once were. Especially after so many operations.

Funnily enough, some of the books I’ve read romanticise cancer. The main character finds love and fulfilment in the short time they have left. And when they’re gone, it’s like the world is left with a beautiful ache. How courageous and strong they were. Many books end just before that point…

Cancer is not like that. Not at all.

It’s painful, draining and ugly.

You go through a roller coaster ride of emotions and physical sensations. There is nothing romantic about it. I did not get to meet my dreamboat guy and I did not die.

I survived standing on my own two feet.

And while I am happy to be alive, and certainly not wasting the second and third chances I’ve been given, there is no traipsing off into the sunset to realise my dreams. I still have to struggle on with the day to day drudgery. But there is appreciation. For the little things, for friends and family, the beauty around me. My ‘To Do’ lists are much different – they are mostly populated with meaningful things. Meaningful to me. When you stare death in the face and tell him to back off, you become much more serious about things.

A year after I got the free and clear, I lost my Mum. It feels like I am going through the whole process again.

The rollercoaster.

Surviving. On my own two feet.

Appreciating the little things.

Now I am left with a beautiful ache.

Bucket List 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.

Excerpt from ‘Plain & Ordinary’ by Casey Carlisle

Plain and Ordinary title bannerUnable to focus on role call, I missed hearing my name. Also, neglecting to notice the teacher walking to where I sat, desperately trying to think of some way that Mum being diagnosed with M.S. was no big deal. As much as Mum played it down, tried to convince me it would be many years, if any, before any symptoms began to impact on our lives. It was cosmically unfair. Why her? Surely there was someone out there, someone who shot people in the back, kicked puppies and dumped toxic waste in waterways, someone who deserved such a debilitating sentence.

“Carl Grainger?” my riviere was broken by the teachers’ all-too-near voice.

The classroom sniggered.

“Yes?”

“Are you alright?”

“Sorry. I didn’t get much sleep last night. Next door’s cat is on heat. It was yowling non-stop.”

“If you’re too tired for school, maybe you should get you parents to come and get you…”

“I’ll be okay.”

Someone behind the teacher meowed causing strangled laughter to wave through the room.

“Settle down everyone.” Mrs Berryman turned and walked back to her desk staring down certain students along the way. “There are just a few announcements this morning…”

I tuned her words back out, my gaze skipping across the floor until they settled on a pair of familiar sneakers. Following up to the face of their owner, Tom was glaring at someone across the classroom, no doubt the same person who had elicited the feline mewl at my behest. I was puzzled why he would do something like that. There was no need to rock the boat, it wasn’t like I was offended, or hurt. In fact I had to hide a smile when I first heard it. Plus, it was the first lie I could come up with under pressure. Blurting out that I’d stayed awake all night worrying that my Mum was slowly dying wouldn’t have bode well. I could just imagine the unwanted attention and phone calls home after uttering that sentence in class.

The muscle in the corner of his jaw rippled and flexed as Tom ground his teeth, and the hand on the top of the desk was scrunched into a fist. I admired how the tendons under his skin moved. He looked impressive, ready to strike a knockout blow at any given moment. If I commanded attention like that, I doubt my Father would treat me like such a disappointment. A warm flush spread across my skin just as Tom’s eyes suddenly turned to lock onto mine. I’d been staring for quite some time with goodness knows what moronic expression. Great, now he’s going to think I’m retarded as well.

Instead he winked.

I dropped my gaze instantly to my hands, face burning hot and itchy. What the hell was wrong with me? It’s not like he can read my mind. There’s no way he could know I wish I was more like him; if only to put my Dad in his place. And just maybe be more capable in finding some way to save Mum. Anything to be more than I was – plain and ordinary.

Book Review – Dorothy Must Die

Dorothy Must Die Book Review by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you along with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted. Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I’ve been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

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It’s not really a book I would have picked up, but after being suggested by many friends I finally caved – and it wasn’t half bad.

I got lost in the story easily and the narrative carried me through Amy’s adventures with ease. The underlying tone of bullying and corruption of power is very prominent and I like how these issues were dealt with in a magical setting. It was about finding your voice and standing up for yourself – without crossing that imaginary line that causes harm to another… unless absolutely necessary. This is a book about premeditated murder after all.

An enjoyable and fantastical read, I can see it appealing to those who love fairytale retellings or inspired stories. Not really my interest, but nonetheless Danielle Paige weaves a colourful world where two-dimensional characters are given three dimensions.

Our protagonist, Amy, felt a little whiny and altruistic at times, but when you’re dealing with clichés, it’s hard to put it off completely unscathed. I’m glad her internal monologue questioned everything, how she drew her own conclusions and formed her own opinions from facts and observations. She’s not the typical victim we usually see in YA (not completely).

I found Dorothy Must Die quite a fast read, and there were plenty of times I was rolling my eyes at the story, but it has witty and comedic moments, in addition to building tension to a point where you really get a sense of danger. The pacing is a little stop-start at times, which left me yearning for the climax… and when I finally reached the end, wasn’t entirely impressed. It could have had so much more punch if the storyline was built better towards the culmination. Dorothy Must Die, wasn’t terrible, it’s entertaining and pleasant to read, but not something I will rave about.

Dorothy Must Die Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

There were elements of brilliance in Danielle’s writing, but it didn’t quite pay off.

If you are into the fad of fairytale genre novels, be they adaptations, or new novels in the same world (which is not unlike fanfiction) then you’ll most likely love this. Otherwise I’d only recommend it if you want spend an afternoon reading something light and a little left of centre.

Dorothy Must Die Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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.