Book Review – ‘Just a Geek’ by Wil Wheaton

A look into the fandom behind Star Trek, redefining identity and growing up.

Just a Geek Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Non Fiction, Autobiography

No. of pages: 267

From Goodreads:

Wil Wheaton has never been one to take the conventional path to success. Despite early stardom through his childhood role in the motion picture “Stand By Me,” and growing up on television as Wesley Crusher on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Wil left Hollywood in pursuit of happiness, purpose, and a viable means of paying the bills. In the oddest of places, Topeka, Kansas, Wil discovered that despite his claims to fame, he was at heart “Just a Geek.” In this bestselling book, Wil shares his deeply personal and difficult journey to find himself. You’ll understand the rigors, and joys, of Wil’s rediscovering of himself, as he comes to terms with what it means to be famous, or, ironically, famous for once having been famous. Writing with honesty and disarming humanity, Wil touches on the frustrations associated with his acting career, his inability to distance himself from Ensign Crusher in the public’s eyes, the launch of his incredibly successful web site, wilwheaton.net, and the joy he’s found in writing. Through all of this, Wil shares the ups and downs he encountered along the journey, along with the support and love he discovered from his friends and family. The stories in “Just a Geek” include: Wil’s plunge from teen star to struggling actor. Discovering the joys of HTML, blogging, Linux, and web design. The struggle between Wesley Crusher, Starfleet ensign, and Wil Wheaton, author and blogger. Gut-wrenching reactions to the 9-11 disaster. Moving tales of Wil’s relationships with his wife, step-children, and extended family. The transition from a B-list actor to an A-list author.

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Being close to the same age as Wil Wheaton, and growing up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, reading ‘Just a Geek’ was a little like flipping through my own photo album. There were a lot or parallels: I too was a big nerd, loved all things computer-orientated and writing… but the similarities ended there.

Just a Geek Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleThe tone of ‘Just a Geek’ is witty and charming. It’s easy to relate to with Wil’s honesty and detailed histology of acting and the movie industry. Not to mention Conventions and the etiquette involved. You can peek under the polished, candy-coated façade that Hollywood puts on everything and see the politics, back-room negotiations, and marketing ploys the Powers That Be pull in order to churn out the next million dollars or so: and the participants (actors) are merely fodder for the machine. But that is the bleakest part – and it rightly so causes depression and anxiety for someone who is trying to make a living and provide for a family.

But on the other hand you see a community form. And said community starts to depict the terms to the industry – it felt like a nerd revolution. I really enjoyed reading all of the mechanics that make up the Trekkie-dom.

I was expecting a bit more about the Wheaton family, more anecdotes, and some more about his acting jobs. Plus, I wanted to hear more about his writing other than WWdN… but this was published over ten years ago, and likely that didn’t really exist then. But ‘Just a Geek’ is a fun juxtaposition to where Wil Wheaton has now become a much larger celebrity and acted in many other fandoms like ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Eureka.’ Plus all those picture memes with Will Wheaton heads on everything has me in stitches every time. He’s evolved from the adult that has finally embraced his Wesley-dom, a Wheaton movement.

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While his narrative is amusing – I wouldn’t call it gut-busting. I guess you had to be there. What I’ve seen from him on screen, he is quite the hilarious character, and can guess the descriptions of his improv troupe don’t do them justice.

It was a lovely trip down memory lane, though I must admit, at times his writing felt a bit dry and repetitive – it is still very entertaining and offers great insight to not only the movie industry, but the human spirit. Honestly I’d love to read something of his that is not a memoir, the mechanics of his writing suggest there is a great talent there.

An easy autobiography to read, but if you weren’t a Star Trek fan I don’t think you would get much from this novel – because it primarily deals with Wheaton redefining his relationship to the character Wesley Crusher he played on the series, growing up, and developing a different approach to the industry while being a husband and father. But if anything ‘Just a Geek’ shows Wil Wheaton for the extraordinary human being he is. Intelligent, hilarious, compassionate and a loving family man.

Overall feeling: Oh my stars!

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean’ (#3 To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) by Jenny Han

The challenges we face when high school comes to an end.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

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This was such a cute book! It did however, feel like a slight departure from the previous two novels. Mainly because ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ and ‘P.S. I Still Love You’ dealt with finding love, and the tone of ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean’ was much more melancholy. Not only because it is the end of the trilogy, but also because Lara Jean is at the point in her life where she is leaving for college, her father is re-marrying, and so she is saying goodbye to her childhood, her home, her family. Given Lara Jeans, quiet nature and love of all things antique, change is hard for her – and thus we get a tale of how she deals with so much adjustment and growth out of a place where she felt safe and loved.

It also gives a lot of hope about the future that these changes initiate.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgLara Jean herself was still a cute naïve square with a homemakers flare. She kind of embodies everything I’m not. I related to the challenges she was facing with family, college, and her boyfriend Peter. But all the other girlie stuff left the book feeling a bit dry. I realised Lara Jean’s character hasn’t changed so much. I enjoyed how we didn’t get as much frou-frou (subjectively) as we did in the previous two books; and here dealing with upcoming nuptials, her nervous baking, and hand-making presents as farewell gifts to her friends… it got a little boring for me and dragged down the pace.

I found Lara’s love interest Peter, lovingly adorable, but also annoying with his quiet internalised tantrums. I had to keep reminding myself that he is still a teenager. For some reason I didn’t connect as strongly with him in ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean’ as I did in the previous books.

Kitty, Lara Jeans younger sister was more mature here, but still had a few moments of her annoying and abrasive stubbornness – but it wouldn’t be Kitty if we didn’t have that. And I did not feel like throttling her at any given moment, so you really get a sense of how she is growing up. Plus the sister relationships and bonding of the Song girls was amazing to read. I’ve not had such a strong connection to family and identify from any other book that I’ve read so far. Han is a master at creating believable sister bonds and relaying a family unit.

I shed a few tears in several parts, Han’s writing still manages to touch me where it matters, so even with the issues I had with the story, I can still resolutely say that I adore ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean.’

It was a massive guessing game as to how this would all end. And I was still unsure even right up to the end, so I can’t say it was all that predictable. With Lara Jean constantly changing her mind and weighing up her options, I was never really sure in which direction she would go. And it’s clear she had no idea either – and that made for wonderful tension right up to the very end.

Though not as strong as the first two novels, its tone is completely different, but I’d still recommend it. Plus fans of Han and Lara Jean will not be able to resist knowing what is in store for the middle Song girl in the future…

Overall feeling: Naaawh

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.

Squash, Stitches, and a Scared Doctor

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That one time I got into the squash championships, almost lost an eye and threatened my doctor.

Not only was I a big old nerd when I was in high school, but I was also a bit of a tomboy. And growing up in the ‘80’s, living in a small dustbowl of a town in the middle of the Australian desert, you need to make your own fun lest you go insane, turn to drink, or think it’s a great idea to build a house out of recycled tin cans. That, and my hyperactive constitution, my parents forced me into as many activities as they could because I’d probably burn down the house experimenting with my Chemistry Set. (Though I did burn down the neighbour’s car once – but that’s another story.)

So I was signed up for T-ball and swimming as a kid, but then graduated to horse riding and squash. The latter I got pretty good at, and while vying for the Town’s Junior Squash Championship, at a tied match point… I know this is the tense stuff of cinematic legend, and I am not embellishing… my partner was about to miss the ball and I’d become the victor! But as luck would have it, he decided to run backwards and leap into the air to spike the little black ball. However, in his back swing he managed to collect my eye.

My eye! Argh, I was scarred for life and probably blind. That effer! I’m meant to win this game. And you’re not meant to hit girls! Squash is a non-contact sport!

That’s exactly what ran through my head the seconds before the world went black and white noise filled my ears.

When the world came rushing back, my eyes wouldn’t open, but I could feel lots of warm stickiness running through my fingers. It’s still a bit fuzzy, even to this day about what happened. A lot of people were talking at me. Guiding me. A cold wet cloth pushed to my face. I was in the car one moment. And the next at the doctor’s surgery. Sometime in the car my face muscles had unclenched and I was able to open the unaffected eye.

There was a lot of blood. A hell of a lot of blood. I panicked, thinking I must be holding my eyeball in my skull. My skin must have been half ripped from my face. This is not a good place to be. I guess it looked bad enough to get to see a doctor immediately, which turned out to be a tiny, soft spoken Asian man. I’m no wilting flower, tall, fit, and vocal. This medical professional only came up to my armpit, but Mum assured me he was the best doctor to help. I was terrified. I mean, my eye!

Squash, Stitches and a Scared Doctor Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleThe worst part was the Doctor told I’d need stitches. And I am more needle-phobic than the regular person. But practically crushing Mum’s fingers in a death grip, I had to suck it up and suffer through the procedure. Only, at the worst possible moment I opened my eye to see a giant needle coming straight toward my eye. Having it so close, it looked like a nuclear missile with a metal pike about to slam into my head. And I don’t care how okay you are with needles, wave something in front of your vision, and anyone would flinch. My reaction was to push the doctor across the room screaming “Touch me with that thing and I’ll deck you.” I was such the well-bred young lady.

I don’t know how she did it – maybe some Mamma Bear determination – but Mum calmed and encouraged the skittish doctor, and despite being half my size, splayed her body over me and pinned me to the operating chair, directing the doctor to “Just do it.” A completely different take on the Nike catch phrase.

I survived. My eye hadn’t fallen out. But I did lose the squash game. Junior Champ Runner-up. And a lovely scar that took seven stitches to mend. Nearly invisible in the crease of my eye. A gnarly black eye, that when I returned to school caused my partner to get harassed no end. *grins evilly*

When the eye completely healed I’m not sure if I was relieved at how invisible the scar was, or disappointed that physical proof of my ordeal was so miniscule. The guy who won the Junior Championship never spoke to me again. In fact, he avoided me like the plague. And after that my parents stopped trying to force me into activities. I returned to my nerdy ways and avoided needles with even more vehemence.

I don’t know what happened to the kind Asian Doctor, maybe I rattled him so much he quit the Practice and moved to a place where young girls didn’t threaten to bash him into a bloody pulp. Or my photo is on the wall behind the receptionist’s desk with the words ‘Banned For Life’ in big red letters. I never got to thank him. I waited a week longer than necessary to get the stitches removed – because you know – terrified. But in the end a portly nurse in a pale blue uniform removed them by distracting me in conversation, saying she was just cleaning the area before starting… and the next moment – all done.

And that’s the story of how this geek-jock lost the Alice Springs Junior Squash Championships sometime in the ‘80’s and managed to get a doctor cowering in a corner.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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.

Down a dark path…

Dwelling briefly on the bad things that happen to us in life, can also bring out the good.

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I like to think I look at the brighter side of life. Stay positive and always aim for happiness and positivity. Though, you can’t have the light without the dark, and, as an exercise I wanted to explore some of the things that have greatly impacted on my life that I wish I could change – but that said, those difficult times have shaped me into a stronger person and taught me valuable lessons…

down-a-dark-path-pic-02-by-casey-carlisle – I want those ten years back I spent in hospital beds, visiting clinics and specialists for treatment and becoming a human pincushion. There is a chunk of growing up I missed. Things that you only get to experience when you’re young. I hear stories from my friends and wish I’d had similar experiences to go wild or be silly. I have always had to remain focused, never knowing how much time I have left. Some reckless abandon and teen milestones would have been nice.

down-a-dark-path-pic-03-by-casey-carlisle – Losing my mother destroyed any sense of family and security I had. It left me alone in this world and hammered home the fact that we are all alone, many people we call friends are untrustworthy and are out for what they can get. People I counted as friends turned and started grabbing for money and possessions. I stopped seeing the best in others for a while.  Losing my cherished pooches devastated me in an unexpected way. That loss of unconditional love fills your life with joy and happiness, and when it is gone you feel lost and empty. I know death is an inevitable part of life – we all have to deal. But I’d love to skip the pain and emptiness part. It’s debilitating and hangs around for years. After finally getting cancer into remission, I only had a short space of time before facing the Grim Reaper. It’s just another thing that has made me appreciate the present and live in the moment. Making life happy, going for your dreams and sharing the love has never been more important to me.

down-a-dark-path-pic-04-by-casey-carlisle – why is so much of our lives and happiness dependent on how much money we have? People steal it, owe it, try and trick you to get it. One of the most troubling times in my life and relationships has been over money. I wish it never existed sometimes. I worry about it less now, but there were times when I was seriously concerned about losing my home, having the electricity shut off and wondering when I could afford to buy food next. If anything it taught me to save, budget, live within my means and never be too prideful to ask for help.

down-a-dark-path-pic-05-by-casey-carlisle – how people treat and judge each other. I had my fair share of bullying growing up. And then rejection. From my family, the ones who are supposed to love you no matter what. It left me thinking everyone is insincere and vindictive. I never let anyone know my true self. There is always a big chunk of me that I hide. But nothing is more empowering than living out loud. At times, it’s hard to ignore the negativity and scowls around you, but the more you stop thinking about other people’s opinions and focus on your happiness, the more fulfilling your life will be.

down-a-dark-path-pic-06-by-casey-carlisle – At least a couple of times a week I get a flash in my head about something I’ve done, or said, that I wish I could change or erase. Why can’t I just accept that it is in the past and move on? Many of these events are small and trivial and don’t affect anyone. Some are over what impressions I felt I made on other people… and others have me wondering if I hurt someone else with words or actions… It makes me wonder if I’m wired differently, or I have a mental illness at times. I guess it’s a sign of compassion and caring for others, so I just have to accept I’m one of these people who wants to share the joy. It keeps me accountable for what I do, keeps my morals and standards high. Though is gives me worry at times, it keeps me aware of those around me that I love and appreciate.

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So, while all of the good times in my life far outweigh the bad, and some of these events, though difficult and life changing and haven’t come without a cost, I don’t think I would change them because I wouldn’t be the person I am today. But the whole ‘what if’ question leaves me imagining how life would have turned out if I’d managed to avoid these difficulties… hmm might be an idea for another novel 😉

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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 – ‘The Decisions We Make’ by RJ Scott

A bit of a bipolar read for me… great writing but poor story development.

The Decisions We Make Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 137

From Goodreads:

Daniel Keyes is an orphan, fostered by the Walkers. The product of a lonely childhood, he is thrown into the chaos of the Walker family and into the life of his new foster brother Jamie. 

This story is the journey of Daniel and Jamie finding their place in the world. Through Jamie being a victim of hate crime to coming out to family and friends, there are many decisions the boys have to make before they become men.

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The Decisions We Make’ was a mixed bag for me. Many elements were so well done, and then others fell way short of the mark leaving the book looking a little amateur. I can’t remember how I came to purchase this book, whether it was on a recommendation from a friend or not, because based on the blurb it doesn’t have much appeal to me. Though, I can see a great amount of potential for the author.

RJ Scott’s narrative styling is a bit dry, but the story is touching and cute.

Our two main characters, Jamie and Daniel were okay, but this novel was so short I didn’t have the time to get me to connect with them. I felt this book was built around a few key scenes without setting the scene and developing the characters enough. We jumped straight into the good stuff and the remainder felt rushed.

The tone of ‘The Decisions We Make’ is blunt. Sexy. Garish. With moments of intense emotion and angst, bringing on all the feels. I lurve these elements in a story, and they are depicted so well, but without to softness of building a rapport with the reader it left me feeling somewhat juxtaposed.

Our cast face some scary moments – both physically and mentally – and I love how RJ can tap into that. I was really engaged in those scenes.

I felt there was some insensitivity when different family or friends kept asking Daniel or Jamie if they could’ve chosen an easier path – like it’s a choice, like it is wrong and dangerous… a very “straight” mentality. It totally rubbed me the wrong way. I’m guessing that’s the link to the title? But other than that, I’m really not sure how the book title is linked to the story. The cover art also threw me – it doesn’t really reflect the characters and, I hate to say it, not altogether polished.

There was a habit in the writing style of friends and family stating that they already knew about Jamie or Daniel’s sexual orientation, or were easily accepting (in a flash of a moment.) And that came across as being falsely and staunchly politically correct and not realistic. Only because everything was so summarised and rushed, it lost the importance and impact of such a declaration.

Some contextual facts that really destroyed the story for me revolved around Daniel being in foster care, and the admission he makes, would make him and his parents liable for persecution from Social Services – where was his Care Worker in this story? Relationships and boundaries as set up early and monitored by Care Workers closely to avoid this potentially psychological scarring event. The whole situation was so glossed over it was painful. I understand it is a simple storytelling device, but it didn’t work for me in this context.

There is a tone of the comical around ‘The Decisions We Make’ as well, there is funny dialogue and situations that had me snorting. Another point I applaud RJ Scott for is some of the educational aspects. It approached both Daniel and Jamie’s exploration and self-discovery in a practical and responsible manner.

Overall an okay read, with all the elements I love in a book, but fell short in the delivery. Sad to say I don’t think I’d recommend it, maybe when the author has had some more practice developing a story…

Overall reaction: Dude!

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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 – ‘So Hard to Say’ by Alex Sanchez

A superb contemporary glimmering with diversity.

so-hard-to-say-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 230

From Goodreads:

When Frederick shows up at school, Xio is thrilled. The new boy is shy, cute, and definitely good boyfriend material. Before long, she pulls him into her lively circle of friends. 


Frederick knows he should be flattered by Xio’s attention. After all, she’s popular, pretty, and a lot of fun. So why can’t he stop thinking about Victor, the captain of the soccer team, instead?

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I felt ‘So Hard to Say’ was more aimed at a middle grade demographic, and in that sense, didn’t have the emotional punch I was looking for. Nor was the storyline complex. However, this novel was innocently concise and poignant. And definitely worth the read.

The narrative married perfectly with the inner voices of our protagonists Xio and Frederick. The Mexican culture that Xio brought, and the confusion and coming of age from Frederick’s story were nothing other than brilliant.

It completely captured those moments of questioning about first love, or attraction, and sexual orientation in the judgemental arena of high school. Even if you removed the aspect of Fredericks questioning his sexuality, the way he approached different friends directly translated to many friendships I had growing up – some you were friends with outside of school, some within… I liked that it showed multiple ways relationships develop throughout your childhood to teen years.

Even though it felt very innocent and stylized, it captures the issues facing our protagonists with an understated grace. This is not an angsty over dramatized account of Xio and Frederick’s life, but a great peek through their eyes with enough insight to set the scene and let you draw from your own emotions and experiences.

Xio’s inner monologue is mixed with culture and a lack of confidence that all teen girls seem to stumble through – what’s wrong with me? Why won’t he love me? I actually loved that realism about her, and her joy at embracing family and heritage.

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Frederick’s life in comparison felt sparse – but you soon realise it’s on purpose. He’s distanced many parts of his life because he’s not sure about things. It was a joy to grow with him through the novel and see him fill those empty spaces, on his way to becoming the person he is meant to be.

Xio’s closing chapter was the most touching and prophetic. I’ve had sexual and gender-diverse friends all my life and can’t imagine ever not sharing our journey together. Friendship is forever – especially when the bond is more like family than someone you happened to go to school with.

I personally learnt a lot from Xio; about Mexican culture and home life. It’s not something we get a lot of exposure to here in Australia. And the fact that the language was scattered into the dialogue was fun. Even in the end pages you get a glossary of terms that I found cool.

This is my first novel from Alex Sanchez and has definitely left me wanting to pick up more of his titles. They are short enough with a light writing style that lends to being able to complete in a day. A great book to give to a younger teen. It was educational, insightful and a cute contemporary. I’d recommend this to lovers of contemporary, diversity and simple love/friendships that can resound with you long after reading. It was certainly a pleasant surprise for me.

Overall reaction: How adorable (kinda like this panda – he’s black, he’s white, and he’s Asian.)

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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.

Outback sleepovers (it’s called camping people)

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In a world where glamping is the ‘in’ thing today, back in the ‘80’s, growing up in the desert, one of the things we did for fun (and to get away from the parents) was good old fashioned camping.

You only had to travel five minutes out of town to find a spot if you wanted to – there’s not much as far as facilities outside of Alice Springs. Smack bang in the centre of Australia, surrounded by bush and desert. So, as teens if we didn’t go ten-pin bowling, attend a Birthday Party, have a video night, hang out at the Truck Stop, or visit the Speedway on a Saturday Night (alternatively, there was the Drive-Inn… yep there were no cinemas in those days – the fun was seeing how many people you could fit into your car, admission was $10 per car. After we parked up, it was like a circus automobile with dozens of teens exiting and heading to the cafeteria before the matinee started) In a small town everyone knew everyone else, so if you wanted to get up to no good – you needed to go bush!

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Our idea of debauchery was gossiping and telling ghost story’s around the campfire… and maybe partaking in whatever booze we could get our hands on. Which usually consisted of bag wine, West Coast Coolers, or Port. Oh how times have changed, I’d sooner stick my arm up a Yeti’s bum than partake in any of those beverages these days. But what can I say, we were teen rebels! Sometimes we’d also play Spotlight. Which is a form of tag, or touch-chasey in the dark, where the person who is “in” has a handheld torch and it’s everyone else who hides and tries to get close enough to touch the torch bearer (and hopefully scare the pants of them as well) without being “spotted” by a beam of light.

I’m undecided if these nocturnal activities sound lame or not. I think I’d still prefer such idiotic fun over scrolling through social media feeds on a phone for hours. The only thing that could entice me away was a good book. But hey, I am a huge nerd. #nerdpride

Taking anywhere between one and four cars, packed to the top of the windows with food, bedding, water and contraband, we’d randomly head off in a direction away from the prying eyes of our parents. Little brother’s in tow (usually the payoff for some bribe to keep his mouth shut from witnessing a previous indiscretion.) And we were free!

Usually our campsites were pitched in or around the numerous dry riverbeds that meandered the landscape. Our outback sleepovers were always eventful. It meant flirting with your crush (however ineptly in my case), and we could make as much noise as we wanted – no adults to tell us to keep quiet. Yay!

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But the outback is fraught with perils: poisonous snakes and spiders, large goanna’s, and other four-legged wildlife. We were survival savvy though, and nothing nasty ever interrupted our partying. The only notable incursions took the form of a dingo, riffling through our belongings as we slept, and took particular favour to my leather camera case… there were bits and pieces scattered everywhere when we woke the next morning. And the canine perpetrator sitting beside the car patiently waiting for another morsel when we cooked our (usually inedible) breakfast. Of course I had to wail “A dingo took my camera case” for a few laughs (if you don’t get that joke google Lindy Chamberlain.) Another encounter, and one that could have been dangerous in hindsight, was when we woke to find ourselves surrounded by cows. Close to a hundred of them. I opened my eyes to find a bovine staring back, stupidly chewing its cud, threatening to drop a huge gob of saliva on my forehead. We literally had to push the ambivalent things away, careful not to spook the herd and avoid getting trampled. Thank goodness no-one was stepped on overnight.

It was all in a night’s fun for this outback girl, until we discovered how to get fake ID’s and hung out at the only club that would permit us entry… but that’s another story.

I miss my friends, and our (mostly innocent) fun, and look forward to a reunion of the old gang later in the year – maybe I’ll dredge up some more humorous anecdotes to share… watch this space!

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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 – ‘Shug’ by Jenny Han

Realistic fiction at its best with Han’s easy-breezy style.

Shug Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

SHUG is clever and brave and true (on the inside, anyway). And she’s about to become your new best friend.

Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is beginning to think there’s nothing worse than being twelve. She’s too tall, too freckled, and way too flat-chested. Shug is sure that there’s not one good or amazing thing about her. And now she has to start junior high, where the friends she counts most dear aren’t acting so dear anymore — especially Mark, the boy she’s known her whole life through. Life is growing up all around her, and all Shug wants is for things to be like they used to be. How is a person supposed to prepare for what happens tomorrow when there’s just no figuring out today? 

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Shug’ is cute and thoroughly enjoyable. It is everything that I’ve come to expect from Jenny Han. A young protagonist dealing with the pressures of coming of age. Moments of flightiness, misunderstanding and heartbreak. It’s all here.

Shug Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgShug, an affectionate nickname for out protagonist, Annemarie, is teetering on the edge of childhood, about to take the first steps of maturity and claiming womanhood. Her perceptions of gender roles, of responsibility, are that mix of naive and clear black and white… but as in life, nothing really works that way. So Shug has to find a way to learn to deal with it all.

Her best male friend Mark, and BFF Elaine are facing issues of their own. As they start to grapple with independence and carve out the person they want to grow into, it inevitably leads to distance. Distance from Shug. Somehow they have to navigate this predicament and determine what it means for each of their relationships.

Jack, (one of Marks best friends) also faces the same conundrum, but as Shug grows to learn more about him, soon discovers he is nothing like she first assumed.

Shug’s parents are grappling with difficulties in their own relationship as well – and this throws her compass for safety spinning.

All of this leads to an engaging read about life, relationships and saying goodbye to a part of your childhood.

The narrative is deliciously innocent, while the tone of the novel more melancholy. So, combined with Han’s smooth writing style and a slow but gradual build with pacing, ‘Shug’ braces at that edge of adulthood expertly. The story did feel a little flat – but I liked the simplistic plot and easy to read style (though it is targeted to a young audience). A pleasant read for an afternoon.

Overall feeling: sweet and pleasant, like a deep breath of fresh mountain air…

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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.

Dad’s car is a death trap!

Dads car is a death trap Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgA stroll down memory lane to the time when I had a brand new driver’s licence I happened to borrow my dad’s ute to take a girlfriend home… and well, the trip didn’t go as planned.

First of all – no jokes about female drivers please. I know sometimes we can be overcautious (as I can be) but gender has no weight on someone’s driving skill. I should know, my Mum was a rally car driver.

Picture this – Sicily 1949… sorry, I just caught an episode of ‘Golden Girls’ and couldn’t resist. Anyhow, the year was in the late 80’s. I had big hair, cut-off acid wash jeans, legwarmers and a hypercolour t-shirt. And I looked narly! At that time I lived in Alice Springs, a small desert town smack bang in the middle of Australia. In other words: Satan’s armpit.

My best friend and I were 16 going on 23; and after spending most of the day inside watching movies (the type you had to hire from a video store and watch on a VCR) due to an unseasonal summer shower, it was time to end our girlie hang out and get her home. I’d not long had my driver’s license and yet to buy my own car, but my parents usually let me borrow the family car. But this time it was unavailable, and the only thing free was my dad’s ute. A small maroon V8 flatbed truck. I really didn’t want to be seen driving it at that age – it was ugly.

But hey – it was a set of wheels – which meant freedom… and beggars can’t be choosers.

This thing gurgled and grumbled like a vintage airplane. We prayed no-one we knew would spot us in this bogan muscle car. So, off we ventured on the wet roads to the other side of town, taking the back streets with Bananarama blearing out of the tape deck. Yay! ‘Venus!’

It was pretty uneventful for half of the trip. I was freaking out a little, because the auto was bigger than I was used to, and smelled like stale boy and cigarette smoke. But at least it was an automatic, no embarrassing struggles trying to change gears. Given this was a column shift, the shift lever stuck out of the steering wheel column. Gah! End me now!

The only issue was that the accelerator pedal was a touch sensitive.

And a touch is all it took to send us rocketing down the street, pushing our bodies into the back of the bench seat. As if we were about to leave the atmosphere on a quick jaunt to the International Space Station.

And that’s exactly what happened after I pulled to a stop sign, seeing the roads clear, went to turn a corner… and we suddenly found ourselves in a world of blurred landscapes, teenage screams and screeching tyres.

A wet road and a monster of a truck aren’t a good mix…

Dads car is a death trap Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.gifWhat happened next was a collage of permed hair and hooped earrings flapping in the breeze as the car skidded across the road, turning one and a half times, jolting to a stop on the other side of the road facing the wrong way. And off to the side of the road a large dirt storm gutter decorated with metal star pickets.

Dads car is a death trap Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.gifThank goodness for deserted small towns. And that the car stopped at the curb. Unscratched, still rumbling like a leopard with a cold.

I swear my girlfriend needed to buy a new pair of nickers. I just about soiled myself. This whole event cemented the hatred we had for supped-up muscled cars even more. They were a death trap waiting to happen.

The weird thing was, when the car hurtled from the place I’d stopped at the intersection, we squealed. And after a momentary shriek we fell silent, mesmerised by the suburb sliding across the windshield. We stared at each other with pale faces and a look that said everything – ‘what the frig was that?’

Driving lessons from my Mum had kicked in, I’d lifted my feet from the pedals and turned into the spin without thinking… Love you Mum!!

It could have been so much worse. We could have crashed and died. I think my handling of heavy machinery is also the reason that my partner never lets my mow the lawns, or pick up an axe… it will inevitably end in some weird mishap. Like the time I was digging a hole and broke a window; or the time I was using a belt sander and knocked down the neighbour’s fence. I have a knack for setting off a chain of events to disastrous results.

Consequently, 16 year old me never told my parents of my driving incident for fear of getting my driving privileges revoked. Because at that age, driving is EVERYTHING. It elevates your status and makes you cool. And in the 80’s wasn’t everything cool?

Today – I’m a much better driver. Really. I am. Though the atrociously permed hair is gone, my bestie and I still catch up and reminisce over our teen adventures in an outback town. Oh, remind me to tell you the one about how we were pulled on the side of the road so our friend could pee in the bushes and the cops showed up… that was fun.

Till the next trip down memory lane, Happy reading and get to writing that next best seller 🙂

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – Luna by Julie Anne Peters

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

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

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall feeling: Amazing story

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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.