Book Review – ‘The Revolution of Ivy’ by Amy Engel

A dystopian that packs a punch…

the-reveloution-of-ivy-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 290

From Goodreads:

Ivy Westfall is beyond the fence and she is alone. Abandoned by her family and separated from Bishop Lattimer, Ivy must find a way to survive on her own in a land filled with countless dangers, both human and natural. She has traded a more civilized type of cruelty–forced marriages and murder plots–for the bare-knuckled brutality required to survive outside Westfall’s borders.


But there is hope beyond the fence, as well. And when Bishop reappears in Ivy’s life, she must decide if returning to Westfall to take a final stand for what she believes is right is worth losing everything she’s fought for.

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An amazing follow up to ‘The Book of Ivy.’

Amy Engel is not afraid to go where she needs to go – to face an ugly reality and do what must be done – that is what wraps this duology up in a nut shell. It is beautiful and terrifying in all its hues, just like life.

Amy has a way of telling a story and developing a character that is ferociously organic. I revelled in our protagonist, Ivy’s growth as a person, her experiences, her feelings… all of it had motive and direction. There is little I can fault in this novel.

Bishop too has his own journey – and he really shines here as a character – there was not a lot of change in the first novel, but in this finale he had no option, but to either put up or shut up. The dystopian world is almost colonial, reminding me of the wild west without the cowboy hats and spurs.

Amy throws ethical dilemmas at the couple, both on a small and large scale. I really love the way her brain works, how Ivy and Bishop learn to adapt to survive in this new world. To help it grow with them and leave behind trappings and prejudices of old.

The Reveloution of Ivy Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe introduction of Caleb and Ash give this novel a much needed softer side – that of family, loyalty and security. Even though they have that hard edge essential to survive in this hostile landscape, the couple are everything that is needed to nurture stability and sanity. Forming their own family… it reminded me of something from a GLBT novel (and even RuPaul has been quoted as saying) where they get to choose their family. I really liked that aspect to this novel. How nomads flock together to form communities to benefit the whole. To survive.

The love story aspect of ‘The Revolution of Ivy’ develops further, and I have all the praise in the world to how it is handled. Responsibly, practically, realistically. It’s one of the best romantic story lines I’ve read in a long while.

All of my expectations were met. With that statement, I’d have to say it was fairly predictable, but it was one hell of a journey! So it won’t take a genius to guess the ending.

The pacing is pretty fast, though I think the debut was a little quicker, but there is always something happening, the plot is driven forward with every paragraph. I spread it out over two days. I’ve read many dystopian novels, many of the popular ones in this genre, and I have to say, the Ivy duology has knocked them off their pedestal, it has cemented itself in my top five favourites for this genre.

Highly recommend you give these books a go – it’s a fantastic adventure that really makes you think!

Overall feeling: Took me by surprise!

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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.

A Week Away (which means no NaNoWriMo for me)

Old high school friends visiting that I’ve known for years, an underwater walk with sharks, and venturing across the tundra at Australia Zoo.

A Week Away Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I was thinking about scheduling some posts for my week away from the keyboard, but it turned out I was too busy getting the guest house ready for visitors – my place was like an episode of ‘The Block.’ I was running around buying styling items, painting, assembling furniture, covered in all manner of dirt, dust and hues of paint. And I never knew my body odour could get so bad… peeeyouuu!

But the space looks fantastic and I’m very proud of the effort.

So instead of creating prose at the computer this week I’ve been staying up late with a glass of champagne reminiscing over high school days, giggling at our antics, and catching up with each other’s lives until late into the night. The days have been filled with wildlife. Sea Life Mooloolabah is a huge favourite of mine – my Marine Biology roots express themselves and my friends and family get a personalised tour through the exhibitions, regaled by my stories of encounters in the wild. I may or may not embellish for artistic and humorous purposes… that’s just the way I roll. Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin’s brainchild) was fun, and attending in the off season, means no lines, plenty of time to stand gazing at the wonderful animals without getting jostled for a prime viewing spot from pushy tourists. Its open plan, ornate gardens and massive statues give a great ambience to the zoo experience. There are no cramped cages and unhappy animals here. Most are rescued or unable to be released into the wild due to being bred in captivity – not that I’m a stout activist, but it is reassuring that the animals are benefiting from care here rather than being abducted from the wild for our amusement.

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Today we just got back from a rainforest walk to the local waterfalls, which was great to spot all the kaleidoscope hued tropical parrots and parakeets and a chance at glimpsing some platypus in the wild (lil’ buggar was too fast for me to snap a quick pic). The only down fall – my hayfever and being covered in sweat from a muggy day – I so wanted to “accidentally” fall into the water at the falls, but forgot to bring a towel and wasn’t about to treat other bushwalkers to this winter padded body.

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After life in the city, moving up into the mountains dotting the coastline has left me with a renewed appreciation for flora and fauna and is always a peaceful and inspiring backdrop for writing.

So if you were wondering where my regular posts were this week – I’ve been renovating, and then got lost in nature. I’ll be back to regular posting in the next day or two, refreshed, revitalised and feeling greatful.

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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 – ‘Girl Walks Into a Bar’ by Rachel Dratch

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

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

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall feeling: Gurl – you got me!

Girl Walks Into A Bar Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Girl Walks Into A Bar Book Review Pic 05 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 – 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

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.

It’s just a jump to the left…

It's Just a Jump to the Left by Casey Carlisle

I thought I’d do a little time travelling today – would my self of yesteryear even recognise me today?

5 years ago by Casey CarlisleI was a much different person back then. In the grand scheme of the universe five years isn’t such a big stretch, but I was amazed at just how much things have changed… I still had all my family members, was working in an office full time and just coming out of a seven year long battle against cancer (thankfully triumphant). But notably, I don’t think I had embraced being a writer yet.

So where was I five years ago?

Casey Carlisle red 01I had recently joined Facebook for the first time… my maiden venture into all things social media and online possibilities. I was a late bloomer. So I guess this my fifth birthday of sorts.

One of my first profile pics…

Visiting my Mum in Townsville to help her with her business, and catching up with some old friends I hadnt seen in years – not to mention meeting a couple of cute guys – I had little stress and begun to branch out and enjoy what life had to offer. My weekends were spent socialising and going out (not writing). Gone were days spent resting from Chemo, or simply feeling too weak and tired (or motivated) to do anything. It was a time of possibilities.

Realising I was also at the arse-end of fighting off cancer with two major final surgeries sheduled in the following months. That thought was terrifying!

It’s weird – that was such a turning point in my life. I beat cancer. Got my life back and decided I wanted to write (with the encouragement of many friends and family). But at the time all I could think about was I hope my eyebrows grow back.

Although I took another three temporary office jobs before I taking the plunge and devoting all my time to my passion, I guess fate had been steering me in that direction. Only because I was actually quite happy in those admin roles; one company went bust, another was sold and my position made redundant, and the thrid was a short temporary contract. I loved my work collegues and the daily tasks, so I think if I hadn’t been forced out of the roles, I’d still be there today, dreams of writing on the back burner. Gee girl – can’t you take a hint?

The key thing you need in realisling your aspirations is that you need to set yourself a due date… otherwise you will keep on procrastinating.

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It was also the year I got back into contact with old high school frineds I hadn’t seen in nearly twenty years, one of which lived 20mins away! It was like a mini reunion. And I have to say I’m so glad we reconnected – they are all so near and dear to my heart, and their mere presence gave me strength through the major operations, and losing my mother, aunt, and grandmother in close succesion. It really felt like I was some cosmic joke at the time – see how many times you can kick Casey in the teeth before she snaps.

Don’t give into the darkness. You are special. You are worth more than all the precious stones in the world to someone.

And when you come out the other side, stronger, you can go on to acomplish amazing things.

This all takes me back even further – to high school; and envisiging what I thought my life was going to be like. Dreams of woking with whales or puppy dogs, editing a national magazine or writing my own books. I also wanted to run my own accounting firm or have a role within my parents company… (ahh, to be young and clueless again)…I pretty much attempted all those things and more. But am happy for settling into a life of writing novels. And if I could give my teen self any advice – don’t get your hair cut short, you’ll regret it and it will take three years to grow it back. Oh, and oversized  t-shirts with shoulder pads, hightop sneakers and legwarmers don’t look great together… on anyone… especially in neon green!

So, my hair is lighter, my backside wider and I don’t wear as much make up. While it has been a difficult couple of years I’m still smiling. Greatful for all the people I have met, those same people who gave me the courage to keep going, to reach for passionate endeavours. These few battle scars have made me a more interesting person… and I hope a provocative writer… there is still more of my story to come!

Casey's Childhood Banner 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.

Book Review – Faerie Tale

Faerie Tale Book Review Cover by Casey CarlisleGoodreads:

Successful screenwriter Phil Hastings decides to move his family from sunny California to a ramshackle farmhouse in New York State. The idea is to take some time out, relax and pick up the threads of his career as a novelist. Good plan, bad choice. The place they choose is surrounded by ancient woodland. The house they choose is the centrepoint of a centuries-old evil intent on making its presence felt to intruders.

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What an amazing world Raymond E. Feist paints, melodic, mysterious and enrapturing.

For some reason this book reminded me of ‘Pet Cemetery’ by Stephen King, moving to a small town, curious children exploring the woods about the house and getting into trouble, ominous scariness lurking… you get the picture.

Source: deviant art - dragoroth

Source: deviant art – dragoroth

This was the first book into the world of Raymond E. Fiest for me, and I have to say, he has a vivid and unabashed style. It may get over-descriptive at times, but I was never bored or skipping pages ahead. ‘Faerie Tale’ is sufficiently spooky and disturbing in parts, and magic and fantastical in others. It still stands the test of time, holding it’s own despite being written over twenty years ago. This is no childhood story re-telling as of the likes of ‘Cinder,’ or ‘Beastly,’ Feist has created his own story based in mythology and cultural history.

I am not one to get overly terrorised by scary books – it takes a lot to get me worrying what’s under the bed or tapping at the window – usually having something to do with the unknown, believability and a great build up in the mythology or world building: and ‘Faerie Tale’ has it. Many nights I had my legs neatly tucked safely under me, away from hooked claws and chitinous legs which may lie waiting in the shadows. The pacing is a little slow, given Feist’s over-descriptive manner, but he builds great suspense. The novel can get a little graphic too: so be prepared to get uncomfortable or grossed out. Additionally, given the slower tenor to the story, the ending did feel abrupt in comparison, but well executed.

The family on which this tale is centred, The Hastings, are slightly stereotypical, but have their own flaws and quirks so they feel real and flesh out the story. The Father, Phil’s reactions to the events that take place in the novel are realistic and add legitimacy to the fantasy, which is needed to juxtapose the experiences of his twin boys, Sean and Patrick. Without giving away the plot, you see a great deal of loyalty and family bonds being tested, which is a great change from rescuing damsels in distress 😉

With more than one Antagonist, the main being Erl King, a nasty faerie leader, who is conniving and terrifying, really makes you fear the dark places. He is supported by the Magi – a human sect intent on aiding the Kings desires. They all weave a bloodcurdling and thrilling ride for the Hastings family.

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Source: tumblr a-touch-of-magic

A pleasant break from the recently released spate of Young Adult reads, I’d definitely recommend ‘Faerie Tale’ for those who love great escapist novels that buck the trend of star-crossed lovers.

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 Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle  

© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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.