Book Review – ‘Noteworthy’ by Riley Redgate

Drag of a different note…

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

No. of pages: 404

From Goodreads:

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

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 This was a fun book to read. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down until I reached the last page.

For the most part I enjoyed protagonist Jordan, I felt she was a fun and adventurous. I also liked how she thought about trespassing on other minority group’s territory; I.e. transgender men, gay men, and feeling like an impostor and essentially wondering if the act of disguising herself as a guy was itself was discrimination. Not as gender expression, but for a chance to join a singing troop. It can certainly be viewed that way, but in another light completely harmless. It’s all about perspective.

I enjoyed how you didn’t get a sense this had a love story in it, but I knew Jordan was going to meet a man from reading the blurb, and it was fun trying to sleuth out which person it would be. I like that is wasn’t clear until the near of the novel, because different people’s reactions played out in realistic and organic ways.

I was horrified about a certain elevator scene – I get the point of gender roles being reversed and it not being made such a big deal of – but in the aftermath (and reveal) I wondered if her fellow Sharpshooter Isaac who was in the elevator with her and listened to her drunken ramblings, then went around exposing Jordan, how nothing was brought up about that altercation. It didn’t play to bolster Isaac’s character at all.

This is so full of drama and angst I was glued to the page.

I liked the social commentary on gender, gender roles, gender identity, and sexuality. It is such a big jumbled mix and really hammers home that we are all simply human – in all different shades.

Noteworthy Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The boys of Raven (The Sharpshooters) each had their own distinct personality, and really added colour and complexity to the world of Kensington-Blaine’s College Campus (and a great example of fantastic writing and character development.)

I’m not a big fan of poetry or song lyrics in novels – they lose their context and meaning in this medium, and I ended up skimming past the lyrics to get back into the narrative. But it’s a personal preference, some readers may enjoy the cadence. I have to admit, I learnt a lot about music and a capella just from the language used and descriptions of the group trying to pull a number together for a performance. So intricate – it really helped paint a picture in my head of how they actually sounded: which is a phenomenal task creating an imaginative aural sound from a sentence written on a page.

I think the ending was oversimplified (maybe a little trite,) but to be fair, if it wasn’t executed in this manner the book would have dragged out another couple of hundred pages. It was a cute tale. Tones of ‘A Mid-Summer Nights Dream,’ ‘Milly Willy,’ and ‘She’s the Man…’ playing with gender roles can be fun. But with such a heavy subject matter like identity and gender roles, ‘Noteworthy’ was wrapped up too quickly and too nicely. I found myself wanting a more resounding conclusion. But what a fantastic writing style. I remember the first few sentences and how expressive they were in setting a great tone for the novel.

It is predictable in that it wouldn’t be a story without Jordan getting found out – so that part was easily foreseen: but the things Jordan went through was waaay more out of the box than I had guessed. I’d expected some hijinks, but this was visceral and poignant. A great social commentary.

Overall feeling: Ay Caramba.

Noteworthy Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Noteworthy 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.

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Book Review – ‘Another Day’ (#2 Every Day) by David Levithan

Same story – just a switch in perspective.

Another Day (#2 Every Day) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 327

From Goodreads:

Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person…wasn’t Justin at all.

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While I revelled in Levithan’s great writing – there wasn’t much else to this novel after reading ‘Every Day,’Another Day’ a companion novel recounting the events from the debut of this series told from Rhiannon’s perspective only added tiny glimpses of new information to the storyline. It did not, however introduce new plot points, new characters or add something new to the ending.

I found myself skimming over the dialogue as it is exactly the same as that from ‘Every Day.’ I was really hoping Levithan was going to do something new, enrich the tale of A and Rhiannon, but it was all predictable, re-hashed and flat.

Another Day (#2 Every Day) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I was still able to consume it in a day, love Levithan’s writing style, the themes of identity, gender, and humanity that were explored; but really, this felt like when you re-watch a movie with the Actor/Producer comments option on… it’s all the same, but just a little bit of extra padding. And it can either bore you and tarnish that first experience, or allow you to relive the splendour of your first time reading.

I am looking forward to ‘Someday’ the third book in the series (which I now have in my possession;) there were so many elements that were set up and not resolved, and I am anxious to see where it all leads. What is the mythology behind A’s condition? Are there others like A out there? How do they live/function in society? Is there the possibility of A remaining in one body? Do A and Rhiannon have a chance at a future together? Will we see Nathan Daldry play a part in this new instalment? What new aspects of identity and the human spirit will ‘Someday’ explore…. so many questions. So there is a lot to look forward to.

I’d only recommend ‘Another Day’ to die-hard fans of ‘Every Day,’ and maybe don’t marathon them, as it gets very repetitive. Otherwise, read the debut, and skip the second book and jump straight into ‘Someday’ you’ll probably enjoy the story much more (and won’t miss anything.) Or if you want a refresher on ‘Every Day’ before jumping into ‘Someday,’ then this could be a great way to do that.

Overall feeling: Argh! Not what I was expecting.

Another Day (#2 Every Day) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Another Day (#2 Every Day) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’ (#1 Wayfarers) by Becky Chambers

The exploration of space putting humanity under the microscope.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (#1 Wayfarers) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 404

From Goodreads:

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

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Never have I read a novel where all of the characters are so fully realised! The depth, history, culture, politics, piled on top of interspecies interactions is a level beyond. I was flabbergasted and delighted. Such detail in sculpting out alien races, their physicality, and socio-cultural background was amazing. Adding their individual personalities on top of that – Becky Chambers is a Goddess.

The story line is simple – but this isn’t really a novel about the destination. It’s about the journey and how it shapes you. I fell in love with the crew of the spaceship Wayfarer. There is such a sense of family and belonging. This is such high quality sci-fi that has the reader not only looking upward to the stars, but also within to their humanity… or should I say sense of self given that only a small portion of the cast are actually human.

The relationships and friendships the crew form is also a symbolic narrative on interracial and same-sex relationships in society today. It was handled so brilliantly, I’m still a little gobsmacked and amazed at how Chambers crafted such an intricate novel of so many individuals working together from such disparate worlds. It was a thing of beauty.

One aspect of ‘The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’ that played against a perfect score for me – and it may be because of all that detail, intermingling, and fully-realised characters – is that the pacing felt slow. I put this book down twice to read a number of other novels. I didn’t want to read it tired, or get despondent because the world of the Wayfarer is so interesting and colourful. But there were sometimes I just wish the story would’ve moved forward.

Rosemary, the newcomer to the crew. The much needed administrator provided a fresh perspective for the reader to initiate introduction to the alien species living on the Wayfarer as the ship is commissioned to build permanent wormholes across the universe. I loved her quiet and open observation, her introspection. And also how she contributed to the crew of the ship: being a paper-shuffler is often considered as a frivolous job, but Rosemary pulls her weight and gets the crew out of some scrapes. Her unique perspective even lends itself to a growing affection for alien crewmate Sissix which was truly incredible to read unfolding on the pages of ‘The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (#1 Wayfarer) Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Other characters of note like navigator Ohan a dual ‘them/they’ identity, and Grum the chief and Doctor of the Wayfarer who’s lifespan starts off as female, develops male after their egg laying years are over, and ends up “wherever” after that. It really challenges human society’s views on gender, gender roles, and identity. The narrative tackles this with ease, and puts our existence into perspective – maybe leaving me feeling a little small.

There were a few plot twist that had me salivating and engaged, but were spread too far apart or built around the climax.

Chambers has a wonderful writing style, so descriptive yet innocent. I just wish the pacing was much better. I wanted the story to be 100 pages shorter without losing all the information we were given. Halfway through I didn’t think I was going to like this novel at all, but Chambers changed my mind with the sheer, practically tactile world, and the characters she builds.

As soon as I finished I jumped online and ordered the next book, ‘A Closed and Common Orbit,’ and pre-ordered book three, ‘Record of a Spaceborn Few.’

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet’ is told in numerous perspectives, that of the crew, the A.I. on the Wayfarer, other alien races, and normally I don’t like a lot of ‘head jumping,’ but it totally worked. Each different perspective brought something new and developed the story even further.

I think I would have rated it lower if it wasn’t for the outstanding complexity of characters given I put the book down twice from a dragging pace. This is truly an interesting novel and I can’t wait to see what ‘A Closed and Common Orbit’  brings. I just hope Chambers has grown even more expertly as a novelist…

Overall feeling: Phenomenal!

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (#1 Wayfarer) Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (#1 Wayfarer) 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 – ‘Sovereign’ (#2 Nemesis) by April Daniels

Daniels writing is improving at lighting speed.

Sovereign (#2 Nemesis) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 315

From Goodreads:

Only nine months after her debut as the superhero Dreadnought, Danny Tozer is already a scarred veteran. Protecting a city the size of New Port is a team-sized job and she’s doing it alone. Between her newfound celebrity and her demanding cape duties, Dreadnought is stretched thin, and it’s only going to get worse. 

When she crosses a newly discovered billionaire supervillain, Dreadnought comes under attack from all quarters. From her troubled family life to her disintegrating friendship with Calamity, there’s no lever too cruel for this villain to use against her. 

She might be hard to kill, but there’s more than one way to destroy a hero. Before the war is over, Dreadnought will be forced to confront parts of herself she never wanted to acknowledge. 

And behind it all, an old enemy waits in the wings, ready to unleash a plot that will scar the world forever. 

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I enjoyed ‘Sovereign’ much more than ‘Dreadnought.’ There wasn’t any of the identity issues that didn’t sit well with me from the debut. Here we see protagonist Danny solidly in her role of superhero, and no longer needing to justify her affirmed and presented gender and role. Characters and forces working against her are aplenty, both in terms of accepting her transformation, and super powers. The story felt grounded.

This was full of action. I was transfixed from the start to the finish. I would’ve completed it in one sitting if my eyes weren’t growing heavy as it got late in the night.

Danny’s friendship with Calamity was strained and weird for the first half of the novel – and I didn’t feel like it was totally justified. But is was beautiful to see their relationship grow and change. Android and hero support, Doc, was my favourite, and she managed to ingratiate herself further into my heart through ‘Sovereign.’

Sovereign (#2 Nemesis) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

We see many characters return, and some new ones get introduced as threats remaining over from ‘Dreadnought’ and new ones raise their heads to challenge Danny in some awesome fights. I will say towards the end, I was on the edge of my seat, though the climactic fight lacked some emotion and anticipation. I’m loving the way April Daniels crafts battle scenes, but terms and sentence structure became a bit repetitive to zing some of the energy out of those encounters – but that is me being really, really picky.

There is a lot of politics in this one. It’s kind of an undercurrent of the whole series – I feel like it’s mirroring an observation of the current climate of the real world in dealing with discrimination and laws for LGBT rights.

The tone of ‘Sovereign’ was less about gender and more about a person. Less about having superpowers and more about fighting for what is right.

Really looking forward to the next novel in this series – with the jump in improvement between ‘Dreadnought’ and ‘Sovereign,’ the third novel could be outstanding!

We’re still needing to address the Nexus (and Professor Gothics role), closure with Danny’s parents, the fate in the direction of the Legion, and I’m wanting to see what happens between Danny and Red Steel: it feels almost flirtatious.

I’m on the fence with recommending ‘Dreadnought,’ due to the issues with how it handles Danny’s transformation and adaptation to her new gender, but I’d be happy to recommend ‘Sovereign.’ So once you get over that initial hump this series really starts to take off.

Overall feeling: Mindgasm

Sovereign (#2 Nemesis) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Sovereign (#2 Nemesis) 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.

Film vs Novel – Every Day

Every Day Film vs Novel Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe book by David Levithan consumed me. I read it in one sitting, totally engrossed in the condition of the human soul and its ability to love. I was really excited to hear a movie was coming out, and when I finally got to see it, while not disappointed, though felt the tone and narrative had moved away from the text.

The spirit of protagonist A goes beyond gender and sexual identity and into a space of simply ‘being.’ An exercise in gender fluidity. It was such an amazing perspective on existence. Juxatpose that with the love interest, Rhiannon’s perception and interactions with A, and her gradual understanding and acceptance of A, and their humanity, and you end up with a universal attitude of love and acceptance of everyone. It was truly inspired. This theme rings true in the novel, however in the film version we don’t get the insights and expansion of A’s experiences and it loses a lot of soul and context of the narrative. Additionally Rhiannon spent a larger portion of the movies length struggling and coming to terms with A. So many cuts had to be made to get this novel to fit into an acceptable length for a movie, we miss much of the characters struggles and development. But the cuteness and romance are still front and centre, as is the sci-fi/paranormal element of A inhabiting different bodies every day.

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On the reverse side, being A was weird. Always the interloper, unsure of your very existence. It’s a hard place to be. Alone and transient. Enough to send you completely bonkers. But A finds a way to balance it all – A’s own desires and wishes without impacting the lives of the bodies that are being borrowed for the day. The novel delves into this a lot, where the film mentions it in passing a number of times, and it’s not really discussed until close to the end when religious zealots Nathan (a body A previously inhabited) and his father Reverend Poole challenge A. (Thinking A a demon.) But both novel and film end the story on a big question mark.

Every Day Film vs Novel Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

I loved the tone of zero prejudice about the physical being and of identity. I loved getting to walk, if somewhat briefly, in so many other people’s lives and feel that impact. The novel explores so many aspects, where in the movie much of it is reduced to a montage. I think that was the biggest let down for me. We lose all context of the connection and struggle between the characters and the tension that is slowly building throughout the plot.

While we only get the tiniest hint of the mythology behind A and his existence, the rest of the novel feels like a social commentary on identity and how we treat each other. How we are all different, yet the same. I wanted to get involved more into the reasons why A was the way he was – a wandering soul. I was hoping that in the sequel ‘Another Day’ I’d get more answers, but alas, only another brief touch on the mythology. I have my fingers crossed that we can really sink our teeth into the paranormal or science fiction of it all in the third book of the series ‘Someday’ due out on the 2nd of October this year. Not long to wait now! There is no news of a ‘Someday’ film as yet… and we may not see it given the performance of ‘Every Day’ at the box office. The themes weren’t fully explored and the social commentary on gender fluidity was not strong enough for audiences to pick up – at it still may be a confronting and confusing topic for the population of general movie goers. Maybe if there was more action and exploration of ‘soul-jumping’ it would appeal to a wider audience. I guess only time will tell.

There’s not much to say about this novel. It’s a romance, a character study with a heavy dose of philosophy. I loved it. The concept so fresh in YA! Unfortunately, for me the film fell much flatter than the novel. Still a fun romp and light escapism, but ultimately not quite there.

The book is a beautiful quick read that I highly recommend. The movie does not do it justice, but is still great viewing – though it concentrates more on the romance than of the theme – what is a soul and what makes us human.

Every Day Film vs Novel Pic 05 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 – ‘Dreadnought’ (#1 Nemesis) by April Daniels

Comic book heroes, conspiracies and a social conscience.

Dreadnought (#1 Nemesis) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 276

From Goodreads:

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero.

Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl. 

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.

She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction. 

I loved this book because – hello superheroes – but also because of the diversity in its characters and unique perspective on the superhero genre. April Daniels brings together child-like fantasy and social commentary on identity, gender, and trans issues with ‘Dreadnought.’

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One point of contention, and even though this is an ‘own voices’ book, something about the start of Danny’s story and transformation did not sit well with me. She was oversexualised at times, and many of the cis-gendered characters reactions were so stereotypically gendered that I felt it was almost reverse discrimination… but then I realised that while the author was giving an authentic representation of the facets some transgendered youth experience, I think it was that the reactions were crammed into a short space of time, and that Danny’s physical transition was pretty much instant. Where in reality much of this is spread out over years and there is a much more diverse selection of attitudes from supportive and non-supportive people throughout the life of a trans person. So I think my issue comes from the science fiction side of things, rather than the underlying social commentary around someone’s transgendered experience.

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The introduction of Calamity/Sarah was a great tool for viewing the whole superhero industry and the role of villains with an outside eye. She also acted as a voice of reason and a level head that grounded Danny. Not to mention it felt like the only genuine friendship in the whole novel. Which is something ‘Dreadnought’ needed as Danny was essentially isolated from her transition.

Doc was in interesting character that merits a mention. The tech guru, patch-em-up, and gadget geek all rolled into one. While Doc was a great support (team) for Dreadnought, there were some obvious secrets being kept that had me wanting to keep an eye on Doc’s motives, despite being a trusted member of the gang.

But I loved all the issues that this narrative brought to light – and that it wasn’t all about being trans. It was about government conspiracies, complex characters, good versus evil; and all the shades of grey in-between, passing high school, making friends, confidence, and discovering how to take control of your life.

There were elements of body shaming and comments of hormonal emotional states that were a little off-putting for me. Danny kept saying she was the same person, but all of a sudden having a different outside did change her behaviour…it was a little contradictory.

The superheros deal: I loved how there was not a cut-and-dry side of who was good and bad. Each had their own motivations and none of them were all completely righteous. Just like people, we are all fallible, superpowers or not.

Daniels can craft some great fight scenes – I was glued to the page through it all, almost bobbing and weaving in my lounge chair. If that doesn’t give you a hint about how well paced this novel is… I completed it in a day! ‘Dreadnought’ definitely kept surprising me. There was so much going on. I really can’t say I predicted the ending at all. Instead I was just so swept up and engaged in Danny’s story that when I reached the end I was blinking in a stupor.

Great ending too, it resolved enough of the story to give me satisfaction, but teased enough for me to want to rush out and purchase the sequel. Which I did – I added ‘Sovereign’ to my shopping cart immediately. So stay tuned for a review on the follow up soon.

Overall feeling: Blown away – this is how I felt while reading…

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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.

Top GLBT reads

Top GLBT Reads from 2016 Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

GLBTQIA+ is such a wide banner, and I get great enjoyment from reading diversity in this genre – but here’s the top five titles I read in 2016…

Tales From Foster High Book 1 Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleThis edition is a bind-up of the first three novellas, and while in appearance, it starts of stereotypical, it quickly deconstructs these tropes with the main characters. Our protagonist, Kyle, starts of as the invisible kid, the nerd that everyone overlooks, and his journey into the man he wants to be. This is a romance with some important issues that gay youth (and society) face. A little unrealistic at times, but adorable characters with an important message. I’m interested in exploring the rest of the series, but am having difficulty with availability, different versions of editions and bind-ups, and many only available in ebook.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 4 stars by Casey Carlisle

 

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

you-know-me-well-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisle This is by far my favourite book penned by David Levithan to date. I like his novels, they have interesting characters, a gay narrative, build great relationships and end in some poignant positive note. ‘You Know Me Well’ was all that and more.

We get a young teen coming of age, laced with edgy sarcastic humour. But this time the portrayal felt more realistic to me than in many of Levithan’s other titles. And just when I was sure the direction the book would take – it shot off on a tangent. I wasn’t expecting the big Pride fest either. A little cheesy, a little overdone gayness, but had an easy flow and captured my interest from the get go – I could barely put it down. Not that its compelling, rather more engaging and heart-warming. I connected with the protagonists, Mark and Kate more than I have with any of the cast in Levithan’s previous novels. And it was great to have a lesbian perspective. Most of his books have been dominated with a gay male perspective – it was great to see more than one gender represented.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 4 stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

If I Was Your Girl Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle The first thing that drew me to ‘If I Was Your Girl’ was the amazing cover art; and the second was when I found out it was a contemporary with a transgender protagonist. I’ve read a few other titles similar and enjoyed the concepts of identity and social anxiety – they make compelling stories.

I found Amanda, our protagonist, to be strong but a little naive and a somewhat whiny – but it worked for her age and to set up her hearts desires. It was easy to relate to the fear and anxiety Amanda goes through and how it is always there, as it would be with anyone hiding a big secret. The treatment of questions about her old name, body parts and surgeries, and how they should never be asked just made sense. It’s intimate and personal and is passive-aggressive, if not a form of bullying to ask if you do not have a close relationship. But it is always one of the first questions out of people’s mouths when they discover someone is transgender. It actually taught me some deportment in handling this issue, and for that I am thankful. The last thing I want to do is come across as rude and mean in the face of someone who is going through a difficult journey.

The violence described in this book that Amanda lived through felt a bit much. I understand it is a real issue for transgender teens, but for me personally, was confronting and didn’t add much to the story. Although, its educating readers to real world fears people like Amanda face – it makes a blunt, horrific point which I find disgusting and devastating.

A great book about a girl’s emotional journey into adulthood.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 4 stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleWhat ‘The Art of Being Normal’ brought to the table was a level of realism that transgendered youth face depicted really well. Identity and coming out, along with a plethora of other aspects were handled gracefully within the narrative. It was such an enjoyable read for me.

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

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

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

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

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

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 4 stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

wilful-machines-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisle In a sci-fi future at a boarding school (reminding me a little of Harry Potter) with robots and conspiracies – totally had me engrossed.

Lee, our “Walk-In” protagonist (well closeted gay teen,) coming to terms with living up to his family’s expectations, watched everywhere he goes by cameras or security, it’s no wonder he’s attempted suicide… but that’s all in the past. He’s just trying to get by. I was interested from the first page and read this book in one sitting. We see Lee’s character develop slowly throughout the storyline and I identified with his insecurities, having to live up to an image and the pressures of responsibility.

When a new student starts at Inverness Prep, Nico, the dreamboat all the girls swoon over – so does Lee. And luck would have it, Nico seems interested in Lee too. If only Lee weren’t a “Walk-in.” Nico is a little wacky, messy, and loves to sprout lines from Shakespeare, so it’s not like he fits into any model jock trope. I liked how their friendship develops and how each of their trust is tested in the story.

There is a fair amount of predictability for the novel, but I think it’s on purpose, because the main point of the novel isn’t what happens, but the questions it raises. I’d guessed the major plot points early on, but still got a lot of surprises along the way.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 4 and a half stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads from 2016 Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

not-your-sidekick-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisle There is a lot of fun to be had reading this book. ‘Not Your Sidekick’ is choc-full of superheroes, has a diverse cast, and some plot twists that come out of nowhere. Learning about a dystopian earth in the future suffering affects from a solar flare, and humans presenting powers (called meta-humans) run by the government as superheroes. That’s a pretty cool premise.

The first half of the book is a little slow, but still compelling. Mixed with a lot of humour and comic book styled tales, it didn’t bore me at any point. Lee’s writing style is witty and fresh, tapping into the psyche of a sullen confused teen expertly.

If the mention of super heroes hasn’t tipped you off – I’ll tell it to you straight. Expect campy goodness. Cheese and moments that are way over the top. It comes part and parcel with this genre.

Our protagonist, Jessica Tran, an Asian bisexual high school student, with just the right mix of confusion, vulnerability and sarcasm to keep me glued to the page. I did find however, due to a few things in the storyline, she can come across as a little dumb at moments – which doesn’t work well with the fact she performs well at school and her new job. I think the author needs to revise that plot point so Jessica doesn’t appear so stupid. Her anxiety over approaching her crush was spot on – I felt all the angst right along there with her. The addition to a great relationship with her parents (also meta-humans) and two best friends, was refreshing. There was no “poor me I’ve suffered so much“ going on with Jessica. She was just a regular insecure teen trying to find her place in the world.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 3 and a half stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA James Crawford has been fearless when writing this trilogy, not fading away from carnage and devastation, and his writing has gotten better with each installment. With the final book prolific in the grandiose battle and wrapped up the trilogy expertly. This guy really knows how to write a climactic ending.

I did get a little disappointed with having precedence set up with ‘Caleo’ and ‘Jack’ being each from their perspectives respectively, to ‘Nolan’ told in multiple perspective. And I didn’t get to live inside Nolan’s head for as long as I wanted to. We got snippets of his backstory, but did not get to dwell in the present, fathom out motivations and feelings with him as we did the other main characters in the preludes. So I felt a little cheated.

I admit having some issues with the writing style and plot in each of the books, but is marathoned you’ll get a much better experience. A fun addition to my library.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 3 and a half stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

I’m finding a lot to relate to in this genre. The diversity is growing in terms of sexuality and gender identity in new releases starting to add new narratives in the market. It taps into that outsider and minority feeling we all get at some point in our lives – which is why these titles, and movie like the X-Men franchise are so popular. I look forward to discovering some more great GLBTQIA+ titles this year.

Happy reading!

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