Wrap up – Flat-Out Trilogy by Jessica Park

From tear-jerking angst to cute romance.

Flat-Out Love Trilogy Wrap Up Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

This series was spread over two and a half years, mainly because the first novel dragged out all the feels and left me with a book hangover; the second did little to add to the story and left me with disappointment; and the third, though a great read, did not live up to the heights of the debut.

I jumped into ‘Flat-Out Love’ when it had just been released and there was plenty of hype. At that time I had not read a novel dealing with grief and loss or mental disorders. The romance was unique for me as well. My reading habits were steeped in Adventure, Science Fiction and Horror; so this contemporary felt like something amazing and new, opening up a world in a new genre. As you can imagine I gave it a rave review, grabbed by the witty facebook status updates and Julie’s angst over Finn and Matt.

I immediately jumped online and ordered a copy of ‘Flat-Out Matt’ hoping for more Park goodness… it was in the era where ‘Midnight Sun’ from ‘Twilight’ Author Stephanie Meyer got leaked, and many authors were starting to release books of the same plotline, but from a different character’s perspective. After such a great high, I got a big dip. There wasn’t a lot of new content, no new insights, it was basically a recap of ‘Flat-Out Love.’

It took me another two years before I picked up the last title in this series from Park, the middle book had scared me off. But ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ managed to redeem the author somewhat in my eyes, although it was missing the wit and irony I had loved so much in the debut – and it took a little while to start liking the main character. There was also a watering down of angst and issues dealt with in ‘Flat-Out Love.’ It was in a word: charming. The great thing about it is that you get a jump six years into the future and get a snapshot of how things turned out from the first book.

Overall Park’s writing is great. It has a lyrical sophistication that will engross you. It suffers somewhat with long inner monologues, and sometimes, repetition of particular phrases. But all are engaging and she can really set a great pace, building to a climax that is emotionally messy and satisfying at the same time. ‘Flat-Out Love’ is clearly the best by a mile, and I would only recommend the other books in the series to hardcore fans. They all have elements of Christmas, the loss of a loved one, and learning to live with mental blocks/disorders.

I want to say the characters are kind of quirky – but not in a cute way – in a damaged way. Jessica Park has lost her shine for me as nothing has lived up to the first novel, which I highly recommend (you can skip the rest). I might be tempted to try some of her newer releases ‘Clear’ and the ‘Left Drowning’ series, but they aren’t anything I’m rushing out to purchase. With a great writing style, complex characters Park has a lot going for her writing, so maybe I’ll cave and read some more next year. Watch this space.

flat-out-love-trilogy-wrap-up-pic-02-by-casey-carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Flat-Out Love’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/book-review-flat-out-love/

Flat-Out Matt’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/book-review-flat-out-matt/

Flat-Out Celeste’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/book-review-flat-out-celeste-by-jessica-park/

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.

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Book Review – ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ by Jessica Park

Sometimes it takes trying to be someone else to find yourself.

Flat Out Celeste Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation.

But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe.

Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him.

Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love.  

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I read the previous novels in this series, ‘Flat-Out Love’ and ‘Flat-Out Matt’ around two years ago, and ultimately lost my momentum with this collection from Jessica Park. The debut was draining – in a good way – all the feels from Julie’s story left me in a book coma for a few days. Then ‘Flat-Out Matt’ re-visited that dark place, as well as adding a touch of bland with a repetitive storyline we got in ‘Flat-Out Love’ this time told in Matt’s perspective. So I needed a break away from Julie and Matt’s world… and the narrative seemed to think so too, because ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ picks up years later. Celeste has grown up and is about to enter college. Don’t expect to get a lot of Julie and Matt in this novel, though we do get some more of their story. As the title suggests, we find out how Celeste has grown since Julie impacted on the Watkins family’s lives, and the challenges she now faces when more of her safety zone has to be left behind as she embarks on a tertiary education away from family and home.

flat-out-celeste-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleInitially some grammatical errors that should have been fixed within the first chapter immediately tarnished my excitement. And Celeste was cute when she was younger with her literal way of speaking. But now older, her speech pattern felt fake and a bit annoying. Especially with her naivety – she’s supposed to be intelligent, and being ignorant of a few things felt unrealistic and included as a hook or comedic device. I did not find it amusing.

After a few chapters in, the magic started coming back again. I began to like Celeste and got invested in her experiment to become a different, more likeable person. It has some light comical moments that did not rely on her lexicon. She transformed into an endearing character, if not a little insecure and lost.

We meet Justin, a goofy and adorable love interest with run-on sentences that reminds me of a few of my past boyfriends; so it wasn’t hard to instantly adore him. Around the middle of the book Justin starts calling Celeste the Snow Goddess, and I just about threw up in my mouth. His trying to be cheesy-romantic came off as tacky. But that was the only stand out moment that I experienced, the rest of the time he was nerd-girl-porn for me. Justin embodies patience, maturity, and clearly doesn’t like labels. He’s comfortable with who he is, and I just wish I could have a Justin all of my own in real life. *sigh*

Some parts of the book got a little waffly with rambling dialogue (which are character traits of both the leads, but after a while became slightly tiresome.) I felt we got a bit of a spoony ending – but it suited the characters and tone of the novel, so no complaints. Though, after the gut-wrenching climax of the predecessors in this franchise, I was expecting more. Overall ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ was enjoyable, more so than I expected. A great follow-up to end the trilogy that encapsulated some of the original charm with a softer tone. Recommended if you like a light contemporary with quirky characters.

Overall feeling: Sweet.

Flat Out Celeste Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gif

Flat Out Celeste Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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.

Top Ten Reads for 2014

Top Ten reads of 2014 by Casey Carlisle

Out of all the novels I’ve read (and reviewed) this year, I thought I’d list my top ten and why they tickled my chicken…

 

The Fault in Our Stars Title by Casey Carlisle

 

This book completely destroyed me. I mean messed me up. It was really beautiful… and sad. But I loved it and it is my top pick for this year. The fact I’ve had my own battle with cancer (twice) it really struck a cord within me… but I’m still waiting to meet my Augustus.

 

Anna Dressed in Blood Title by Casey Carlisle

A great mix of horror, dark humor and ghost slaying. With some witty banter and not-so-cookie-cutout characters, I was really impressed. It took me back to my Buffy the Vampire Slayer days. Can’t wait to see what the movie is going to turn out.

 

Cinder Title by Casey Carlisle

A surprising take on the classic fairy tale. Usually this type of book is not one I’d pick up, but given the science fiction twist I was curious. And then fell in love. A cyborg, Moon people, a prince and a robot bestie, what’s not to like?

 

Hyperbole and a Half Title by Casey Carlisle

I squirted tea out of my nose reading this – so fair warning, don’t eat or drink while reading Allie Brosh’s novel, you’ll laugh a lot. And loudly. I definitely got a great ab workout. I was even surprised at how much expression was conveyed in the child-like graphics accompanying her stories. Brilliant.

 

Beautiful Creatures Title by Casey Carlisle

So the movie inspired me to start reading this series, and I was not disappointed. The language itself is worth reading for, even if you aren’t interested in the story. I was in awe at the lyrical tone in the narration. The charm of the South oozes from the page really placing you in the bayou and battlefields.

 

Eleanor and Park Title by Casey Carlisle

This was my childhood – growing up in the 80’s I loved all the pop culture references and the quirks of the characters. The story is unassuming, yet packs a beautiful punch.

 

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Casey Carlisle

Mysterious. I loved how this book built up a story without delivering a punch line. The language is beautiful and builds slowly easily dragging you into Mara’s world.

 

Obsidian by Casey Carlisle

I really loved this. Although I don’t like chauvinistic characters, the love story sizzles on the page. It has elements of Roswell and I Am Number Four. A guilty pleasure that I am looking forward to continuing with the series.

 

Will Grayson, Will Grayson Title by Casey Carlisle

The first book I’d read of Green and Levithan, and enjoy the satire and metaphor embedded in the text. They manage to slowly peel back the layers of their characters to reveal someone completely different by the end. Plenty of witty banter and colourful characters.

 

Flat Out Love Title by Casey Carlisle

A pleasant romantic read with a touch of mystery solving. The main reason for loving this book is the research that went behind it – Park really knew her characters and their motivations. A prime example of character driven plot. Celeste had me rolling on the floor with her blunt one liners.

 

What books made your top ten? Tell me what your favourite read for 2014 is.

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© 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.

Book Review – Flat Out Matt

Flat Out Matt Book Review by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

Matt is a junior at MIT. He’s geeky, he’s witty, he’s brilliant.

And he’s also very, very stupid.

When beautiful, cool, insightful Julie moves in with Matt’s family, why (oh why!) does he pretend to be his absent brother Finn for her alleged benefit?

It seems harmless enough until her short-term stay becomes permanent. And until it snowballs into heart-squeezing insanity. And until he falls in love with Julie, and Julie falls in love with Finn.

But … Matt is the right one for her. If only he can make Julie see it. Without telling her the truth, without shattering them all. Particularly his fragile sister Celeste, who may need Julie the most.

You saw Matt through Julie’s eyes in Flat-Out Love. Now go deeper into Matt’s world in this Flat-Out Matt novella. Live his side of the story, break when his heart breaks, and fall for the unlikely hero all over again.

Take an emotional skydive for two prequel chapters and seven Flat-Out Love chapters retold from his perspective, and then land with a brand-new steamy finale chapter from Julie.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

After enjoying ‘Flat Out Love’ so much, I went into this with high expectations, only to find it is more of a companion/outtake/behind the scenes type of publication. It still had that quick wit and invoked the passion felt in its predecessor, but lacked the continuity of a story, jumping forward in chunks of time. There was also too much repetition. Experiencing events through Matt’s eyes did not uncover anything drastically new, or put an interesting spin on events.

Jessica Parks writing is flawless and I completely love her style, I just didn’t get into this so much. There is more adult content in this edition (unlike ‘Flat Out Love’) which does not detract from the story – in my opinion, it reflects Matt’s maturity and redeemed the book.

Although highly predictable I wish it could have explored more of the family’s issues and/or history and reveal more about their lives. Or even a new character introduced into the mix that Julie never got to meet. I was left feeling a little unfulfilled at the end of the story, but got a warm hug in re-connecting with one of my favourite literary couples.

I’d only recommend this to hard core fans of the first book in the series – it’s definitely not a stand alone.

Flat Out Matt Book Review Pic 2 by Casey Carlisle

  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.

Once more with feeling…

Afflicted with writers’ brain…. more commonly known as an overactive imagination.

Once More With Feeling by Casey Carlisle

Like the Emmy Award winning episode of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ giving the musical treatment to a genre that you don’t typically associate bursting out in song with – amongst beheading demons and avoiding the pointy end of wooden stakes. I was wondering what some of my favourite books would be like if re-vamped with show tunes.

Once More With Feeling by Casey Carlisle

Twilight, The Mortal Instruments, The Hunger Games, Divergent, even some of the contemporaries; The Fault in Our Stars,  Flat Out Love, Mara Dyer, and well, Will Grayson sort of already was… there are so many scenes where bursting out into song would appear camp, or just wrong. I was chortling to myself while in the waiting room to visit the dentist.

Trying to avoid the stares from others seating nearby at my spontaneous outbursts of laughter I couldn’t help picturing other real life situations, like say your at the Gynaecologists and the doctor breaks into song…

 

images (2)It pains me to say

I wish my news was nice

        But in fact my dear…

You have an infestation of pubic lice!images (2)

 

Or even better you are out walking your dog and he decides to take a crap… and a duet ensues!

images (2)I need to poo

This is so embarrassing

        Look at me poo

        Here comes a cute boy jogging

        ….. poo ….

        Not so entertaining

        Morbid and disgusting

        Vulnerable and compromising

         I really should get moving

        But my dogs’ bowls are evacuating

         Thoroughly disturbing

        Do something distracting

        The cute boy is smiling

         It’s squishy and it’s smelling

        There’s no way of telling

         If that boy thinks I’m amusing

        With my dog who is pooping

         Why o why is this happening

        The cute boy is passing

        I FINISHED MY POOOOOOOO!    … Oh, a bee!

        That’s relieving…

images (2)We’re leaving!

 

I could go on and on… I was in that waiting room for an hour – do you know how many situations you can dream up in that time?

Keep laughing, keep writing…

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© 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.

 

 

 

 

Book Review – Flat Out Love

Flat Out Love Book Cover by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it. When Julie’s off-campus housing falls through, her mother’s old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side… and the social skills of a spoon of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is  a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there’s that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That’s because Finn is travelling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, emails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie’s suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that… well… doesn’t quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

soucre: librarianwhodoesntsayshhh.com

soucre: librarianwhodoesntsayshhh.com

Such a great summer read! Quick, extremely witty and mixes emails, facebook updates and the inner musing of the main character, Julie, to create a story that is delicate and compassionate.

Flat Out Love’ had a great pace and there was always something to captivate your attention, be it the mystery Julie was trying to uncover, hilarious one liners, or the awkward situations she found herself in the middle of. It’s a testament to rolling with the punches all the while keeping a sense of humour about you (because the alternative is to get stressed out – or even worse…)

Jessica Park is a pleasure to read, her style is uplifting even dealing with the darkest moments. I pretty much predicted the ending of the book after the first quarter, but it did not detract from the reading experience, because is was more about how the ending happened, not that it happened.

source: Goodreads.com

source: Goodreads.com

One of the best aspects of Park’s story is that she allowed the characters to unfold in their own time, letting the reader slowly get to know them – much like we do in real life. There was an issue I felt overlooked, in that Julie never questioned what was going on hard enough; but that has more to do with my bull-at-a-gate personality than the writing, and it was plausible, given that Julie was an introvert and not wanting to rock the boat with the tenuous atmosphere.

Matt and Finn are equally funny in their own particular styles, and found myself looking forward to status updates – they were sheer gold! It was hard not to fall in love with either. While their little sister Celeste was a hoot, again in her own way, much like the straight man in a television sit com, calling it like it is. She was intelligent and screaming out to be loved, there was no hope but instantly gravitating towards her adorableness.

source: girlwhowouldbeking.com

source: girlwhowouldbeking.com

Flat Out Love’ left me feeling great. A simple, brilliantly told story. There is much more depth to it than I first thought, Jessica Park really understands the psyche and her characters motivation. I’m adding the companion novel ‘Flat Out Matt’ to my reading list in hopes of more of Jessica-goodness. Highly recommend this for a light and fun read, or maybe as a break in between heavier novels.

 

Flat Out Love Book Review by Casey Carlisle

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.