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What a cute fun read! Oh, and I want pink hair!!

Nerdiness, Conventions, and adorkable romances.

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Book Review – ‘A Very, Very Bad Thing’ by Jeffery Self

A lie by omission brings about a very, very good thing too…

A Very, Very Bad Thing Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

Marley doesn’t just want to be labeled The Gay Kid, but he doesn’t have much else going on. He doesn’t have any hobbies. Or interests. He’s the only kid he knows without a passion . . . until Christopher comes to town. He’s smart, cute, gay, and . . . the son of the country’s most famous, most bigoted television evangelist.

Marley and Christopher immediately spark — and become inseparable. For a month, it’s heaven. Then Christopher’s parents send him to a Pray Away the Gay program, which leads to even worse things. Hurt and outraged, Marley tells a very big lie — and then has to navigate its repercussions.  

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A Very, Very Bad Thing’ is a quaint novel with a heart-wrenching message. There is a big plot twist, something that I was not expecting, and turned my opinion of this book around.

A Very, Very Bad Thing’ started off slow and uninteresting. The writing wasn’t particularly engaging, and the storyline was something I’d read a zillion times before. All in all, I was starting to sum this book up as meh! But get to the plot twist just after the half way point and it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Suddenly it was interesting, emotional, and full of tension and conflict.

A Very, Very Bad Thing Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe wording our protagonist Marley says in public – especially in a speech giving scenario always felt very scripted and P.C. Given, it’s an emotionally distressed teenager, but I found it a little unbelievable for him to be so polished in those instances. Considering he was so goofy and sarcastic at the beginning.

Marley’s relationship with Christopher is very sweet, but I guess because it was so easy, I wasn’t sold on it so much. Then during the conclusion with the summing up of the events – insert moral lesson here – it also comes off a bit contrite. I found myself wanting it to get ugly – or ugly cry. Some events weren’t given enough time to marinate in the narrative.

I wanted the start to be shorter, the words and experiences to have more impact, so that the second act of this novel can explore the themes more effectively and not rely on poignant monologues to make its point. Symbolism can be so much more resonating.

This is all me nit-picking. I guess because overall, even though I shed a tear or two, it felt a little bland than what I was expecting. Like the characters were all on a healthy dose of lithium. I want angst, drama, and at least one person to get slapped.

A Very, Very Bad Thing’ does have a unique story. I have to praise Jeffrey Self for the original take on this love story. Lies by omission, misunderstandings, and doing bad for the voice of good were handled with an unexpected flair. It brings out an important lesson learned that many young lgbtqia+ face today. I love some social commentary in my fiction.

Christopher as a love interest is adorkable. Like a bouncing puppy despite the religious oppression of his parents. But I felt like he could have gotten a bigger chance to shine. I wanted something to stand out so he wasn’t so much the stereotypical boy next door.

Audrey, Marley’s best friend adds some comic relief, but I also felt she too was a bit typecast. Insert quirky BFF here. For as close as these two are, she seemed mostly absent for the second half of the novel… and best friends tend to assert their presence in times of need.

This book is a little battler, it has lots of heart but needs a bit of polish to really shine – but not a novel you can dismiss easily. Luckily it’s short in length so I persevered after finding the beginning a little uninteresting. Definitely worth reading to the end. I went in without knowing anything of the plot and was totally taken on a whirlwind. I’m on the fence in recommending this one – it’s interesting, but I feel the writing style and pacing needs some maturation… Maybe for a tween demographic and lovers of lgbtqia+ genre specific novels.

Overall feeling: You got me there girl

A Very, Very Bad Thing Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

A Very, Very Bad Thing 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 – ‘Queens of Geek’ by Jen Wilde

Reading, Vlogging, and Book Conventions…

Queens of Geek Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 262

From Goodreads:

Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

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I really enjoyed this book, it’s full of geek culture, diversity, and is totally kitsch. ‘Queens of Geek’ kicks off in great style and I could see great potential in the direction of the plot, but for me its conclusion travelled on the side of self-declarative cuteness rather than difficulty and drama. For some reason I wanted more, but that by no means alludes to a poor reading experience: instead I immensely loved the tone of identity, and the treatment of mental illness and sexual orientation.

I rounded ‘Queens of Geek’ up as a bit too contrite. The lovey-doviness between the couples too saccharine sweet, I either wanted some passion, some erotic tension, or some angst – none of that was translating.

Charlie was a fun character. Identifying as bisexual and dealing with her ex and a new love interest at the Con brought tension and some interesting altercations. Especially while trying to juggle her public persona at the same time.

Queens of Geek Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Taylor was a bit boring for me. I loved how she struggles with anxiety, and way she tries to overcome her mental illness and finding support from new and old friends… but I wanted something else of interest about her other than this. I thought it was going to be her blogging – like we’d get some wit, humour, and great content that way; but it only resulted in a few journal-esque entries. As much as I thought Taylor was cute – and faced a lot of challenges, I wanted something other than her mental illness to stand out to me.

Jamie, the third friend in the trio and Taylor’s love interest – insert geeky, Labrador, floppy-haired BFF with secret crush here – I mean could he be any more stereotypical and non-descript? I was egging for some fights, some tension, some misunderstandings. He felt like a prop rather than another person in the plot. The only thing he did on his own was buy merchandise.

I love the angle for diversity and all the nerdiness of a Con rolled into a novel. A blogger, and vlogger, and an actress on the rise, characters dealing with mental illness; there is a lot to love about ‘Queens of Geek’ and I applaud Jen Wilde for writing such a cool novel – I just wanted her to take it further. I put this down a lot not only because I’m not a big fan of alternating P.O.V’s but also the pacing was a little slow.

The cover art is a great concept and what really attracted me to picking up this after a few glowing reviews from fellow bloggers.

Overall a masterful little gem that is a definite recommend for the YA reader- especially if you are one to geek-out over conventions.

Overall feeling: Cutesy-wootsey.

Queens of Geek Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Queens of Geek 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 – ‘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.

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.