Book Review – ‘The Princess and the Fangirl’ (#2 Once Upon a Con) by Ashley Poston

A cutesy modern take on an old fairy tale…

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT+

No. of pages: 320

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: to save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off in the Starfield movie sequel. The problem is, Jessica Stone, the actress who plays Amara, desperately wants to leave the franchise behind.

When a case of mistaken identity at ExcelsiCon throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must team up and trade places to find the person responsible.

That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover the darker side of fandom — as well as unexpected romantic possibilities. Can these “princesses” find a way to rescue themselves from their own expectations and redefine what it means to live happily ever after?

I was really looking forward to where Ashley Poston was going to take the Once Upon a Con series with this sequel ‘The Princess and the Fangirl’ because her writing style is charming and adds a modern, diverse twist with the fairy tale re-telling trope.

Told in alternating perspectives between protagonists Imogen and Jess. Jess is an actress and star from the hit film ‘Starfield’ in which her character, Princess Amara sacrifices herself in the end. She is glad to be done with the franchise as she views it as a pop culture phenomenon and not serious acting to include in her portfolio, but no denying the movie has increased her exposure and opened doors to many new opportunities. The Convention is the last bit of publicity Jess is contracted to do before moving on to other possibilities. That is, if the twitter campaign #SaveAmara does not catch on and force the producers of the hit film to tie her down with a long-term contract… and a franchise she is coming to loathe.

Imogen is a massive fan of ‘Starfield’ and dead ringer for the actress playing the role of Princess Amara. She is also behind the #SaveAmara campaign as she sees the character as a phenomenal role model for young women everywhere. Her two mums have been running a booth at the Conventions forever and their lives are drenched in everything pop culture.

So what follows is a parent trap-esque storyline (al-la The Prince and the Pauper) and hi-jinx of a conspiracy to expose a confidential script of the sequel to ‘Starfield,’ which if revealed could get Jess fired and eliminate any chance of her working in Hollywood ever again. Not to mention meeting Imogen’s friend who she is inexplicably attracted to – but one problem: she’s met her under the pretence of pretending to be Jess while she tries to track down the person leaking snapshots her script online. Meanwhile Imogen is all too happy to ply the role of Jess in hopes she can help grow the following to her #SaveAmara directive.

The Princess and the Fangirl’ is tropey and campy, but in the best way. I laughed out loud and even managed to shed a couple of tears in some more touching scenes. ‘The Princess and the Fangirl’ was an easy read I managed to speed through in a couple of sittings. Ashely Poston really manages to grasp the turmoils and anxiety of teen crushes, headstrong tantrums at parental figures, and rules trying to keep them in a box and on schedule. Be prepared for cookies galore of pop culture references. This is soaked in Con culture. It was delightful and nostalgic as well as entertaining.

At first, upon reading ‘Geekerella’ I was – okay, this is cute. But now I’m really starting to fall in love with Ashley Poston’s writing and the characters she creates. The pace strikes at a lighting speed, I really did not want to put the novel down. There is also wholesome innocence that shines through which is endearing. I think the issue with re-tellings is that it eliminates much of the possibility of creating surprise – we know how the story is going to end. While the mystery of the person behind leaking the ‘Starfield’ sequel script added some much needed mystery, I did not feel like ‘The Princess and the Fangirl’ was all that original. But that is the fault of the genre and nothing to do with the writing. Ashely Poston has written some interesting characters and their ‘voice’ was easily distinguishable between chapters – even though the chapter headings let you know which protagonist we were following.

I know I am not the target demographic for this novel, and as such, felt like there could have been more complexity, and the characters more dynamic – though to be fair, a book written like that would have ruined the aesthetic and charm of the story. It’s just my personal preference in stories I find engaging. ‘The Princess and the Fangirl’ is a fantastic follow-up to ‘Geekerella’ and I’ve already ordered sequel ‘Bookish and the Beast.’ Ashley Poston has slowly woven her way into my heart and made me a fan!

Overall feeling: Look to the stars! Aim! Ignite!

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘It Starts With L’ by Cassandra Fear

A book of promises that was unfortunately, broken.

It Starts With L Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: N/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 172

From Goodreads:

High school is tough, and Arielle knows this all too well. 

She’s slightly chubbier than most of the other girls and gets reminded of this every day. And the fact that she’s never had a boyfriend makes her prime meat for the bullying crowd. 

But then in walks Blake, the cute new boy who sweeps her off her feet and stands up to her bullies. Instant swoon. 

Now with a guy at her side, and the promise of a blooming love, Arielle realizes it’s easy to lose sight of what is important. Her best friend, Jess, is on a downward spiral toward disaster, and Arielle needs to find a way to help her. 

Unfortunately, Arielle discovers not everything in life is simple. Sometimes things happen, tragedy strikes, and it leaves you with wounds that might never heal.

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I actually feel a bit lost for words… ‘It Starts With L’ didn’t feel like a novel, more like an extended journal entry. It is a journey of self-discovery through a series of events, but I feel like we don’t get resolution to the challenges set up at the start of the book.

It Starts With L Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleIt is realistic and has a wonderful portrayal of family. Arielle feels like the clueless teen I was in high school. Half the time going with the flow, the other feeling out directions to take life in. The relationship thing felt a tad overdramatic; and yet the writing fell flat for me. It was a case of an interesting story but a subdued writing style. For such a short novel I lost interest frequently and found myself skimming forward.

Blake as a love interest is the embodiment of flip-flopping teen men. Hard to understand, hot and cold, loveable and infuriating. I would have loved to have seen his storyline resolved more fully.

There are a few curve balls towards the end that I did not see coming, and really redeemed Cassandra Fear’s writing for me. I was feeling the story was pretty uninteresting up until that point. Then my heart strings were tugged.

But overall, ‘It Starts With L’ l felt unfinished. The writing style not quite realized. There is some real talent here, but it failed to impress upon completion. The ending had me disappointed and I had difficulty in relating to the protagonist.

Unfortunately I don’t think I’d recommend this to anyone.

Overall reaction: Had hopes, but hopes weren’t met.

It Starts With L Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

It Starts With L 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 – ‘Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity’ by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

A road trip of two teens facing their fears…

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 272

From Goodreads:

The last time Jess saw her father, she was a boy named Jeremy. Now she’s a high school graduate, soon to be on her way to art school. But first, Jess has some unfinished business with her dad. So she’s driving halfway across the country to his wedding. He happens to be marrying her mom’s ex-best friend. It’s not like Jess wasn’t invited; she was. She just told them she wasn’t coming. Surprise!

Luckily, Jess isn’t making this trip alone. Her best friend, Christophe—nicknamed Chunk—is joining her. Chunk has always been there for Jess, and he’s been especially supportive of her transition, which has recently been jump-started with hormone therapy.

Along the way from California to Chicago, Jess and Chunk will visit roadside attractions, make a new friend or two, and learn a few things about themselves—and each other—that call their true feelings about their relationship into question. 

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I was looking forward to ‘Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity,’ it promised interesting characters and a journey filled with crazy events. What I got was cute, cheesy, and sometimes a little frustrating.

I liked the narrative style – it was about people, and not the body issues they struggled with (Jess struggled with her gender and Chunk with his weight.) I liked how it illustrated how not everyone gets it. And how any one person is more than one thing and has faults of their own… how the sum total of many things makes us up as individuals.

I did find our protagonist Jess a bit selfish. How she was all about her transition. But I know people who have lived through that process, and it sums up their mental space for that period of time. They’ve been on this journey for so long it consumes them. Not to say they are bad people or narrow-minded. They are simply protecting themselves, anchoring to their core to allow growth once they’ve found that safe place within. But I would have like to have seen her step outside issues other than her gender expression. Nut her story is an important one, and I liked how she interacted with the outside world and started to test boundaries.

Chunk could have been a little more expressive and assertive. He was so compassionate, it felt crippling. I was praying to see him a little more confronting and add some tension to the story, force Jess to think with a bigger perspective. He just such a big adorable teddy bear.

Jess and Chunk were both likeable, and engaging to read, but I wanted more dimension and intensity. It would have lifted the tone from pleasant to impactful.

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It was a great story illuminating issues trans people face, and showing representations of sexuality. It was also wonderful at depicting the fear and doubt that non-hetero-normative people live with for their entire lives. But the other side of this is that these issues weren’t really delivered in a realistic way other than a stream of thought. Jess was sheltered and detached from the community, and from taking part in all the activities of the road trip. I get that she was afraid and protecting herself, but not having the issues she faced connected to the reader in some real life experiences, or those of other characters, diminished the importance of these somewhat.

But this book is a marvellous tool in offering a starting point for dialogue about so many issues of the human condition, and how we treat each other.

I loved the nerdy and sci-fi references – nice touch and appealed to my inner geek. It was also great to read about diverse characters that had real world problems.

I’m ambivalent on the ending – while I enjoyed it, I think that there was more character growth and a lot more issues they needed to work out to reach that point. It felt rushed. Otherwise, wonderfully dramatic and managed to drag out all the feels..

Overall feeling: not too shabby.

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

#bookquotes

BQ Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Casey Carlisle

Who doesn’t love a good road trip tale? A fun light read with a transgender protagonist, a bit of romance, and some poignant observations on social norms and identity. #diversity. I won’t say it blew me away, but I enjoy all the things that can go wrong when your driving across country with your best friend. A nostalgic read for me 😉