Book Review – ‘Moment of Truth’ (#3 Love, Life, and the List) by Kasie West

Quaint and lovely.

Genre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 320

At sixteen, Hadley Moore knows exactly who she is—a swimmer who will earn a scholarship to college. Totally worth all the hard work, even if her aching shoulders don’t agree. So when a guy dressed as Hollywood’s latest action hero, Heath Hall, crashes her swim meet, she isn’t amused. Instead, she’s determined to make sure he doesn’t bother her again. Only she’s not sure exactly who he is.

The swim meet isn’t the first event the imposter has interrupted, but a little digging turns up a surprising number of people who could be Heath Hall, including Hadley’s ex-boyfriend and her best friend’s crush. She soon finds herself getting caught up in the mysterious world of the fake Heath Hall.

As Hadley gets closer to uncovering the masked boy’s identity she also discovers some uncomfortable truths about herself—like she might resent the long shadow her late brother has cast over her family, that she isn’t as happy as she pretends to be with her life choices… and that she is falling for the last guy she ever thought she would like.

Moment of Truth’ is a lovely fast read rom-com that let me escape for a weekend from Kasie West. I was really sucked into the narrative and related to the underappreciated and overlooked protagonist Hadley Moore.

Still I miss the quirky characters and hijinks from the earlier novels she wrote in this genre, but nonetheless ‘Moment of Truth’ is addictive in its saccrine goodness. The mystery of who is the Heath Hall impersonator is a good one, but I sleuthed out the mystery very early on, so the reveal was lost on me… which left the climax somewhat deflated.

I’m starting to view Kasie West’s titles as pallet cleansers now, something to read in-between heavy, more interesting books; which is not what I want to happen. Her titles have been up and down in my ratings, but averaging a decline. I hope she taps into something new and ups the complexity in her writings otherwise I can see myself becoming bored with her future releases. I’m crossing my fingers. I have a feeling she was suffering a bit of a writing hump and has finally come out the other end.

I think I liked Hadley as a protagonist so much because she represents a lot of what I was like in high school. Focused, single-minded, and somewhat cut-off from the rest of the social scene in sacrifice for achieving her goals. Given this intense focus and limited interaction with her peers, Hadley could have been a boring, flat character, but we get to see her passion, her internal turmoil, and confusion when her goals are challenged. It was a great read.

The Heath Hall mystery was fun, but a little trite, and I liked Hadley’s need to expose the perpetrator as a revenge tactic other than just curiosity.

I wasn’t too sold on the romance, it felt supplementary to Hadely’s challenge of standing up to her parents and breaking the cycle of being overlooked and the compulsive behaviour from the loss of her older brother.

Kasie West’s writing style is effortless to read. You can zoom across the page and get enveloped the world she creates, and the pacing – thanks to the Heath Hall mystery drives the narrative efficiently.

I’d recommend this for those who love light contemporary romances, though definitely more for the younger end of the YA demographic.

Overall feeling: Expected cute reading

© Casey Carlisle 2021. 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 – ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss’ by Kasie West

Acting, school and boys – typical teen stuff. But sabotage – yikes!

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 384

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Lacey Barnes has dreamed of being an actress for as long as she can remember. So when she gets the opportunity to star in a movie alongside one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, she doesn’t hesitate to accept the part.

But Lacey quickly learns that life in the spotlight isn’t as picture perfect as she imagined. She’s having trouble bonding with her costars, her father has hired the definition of a choir boy, Donavan Lake, to tutor her, and somewhere along the way she’s lost her acting mojo. And just when it seems like things couldn’t get any worse, it looks like someone on set is deliberately trying to sabotage her.

As Lacey’s world spins out of control, it feels like the only person she can count on—whether it’s helping her try to unravel the mystery of who is out to get her or snap her out of her acting funk—is Donavan. But what she doesn’t count on is this straight-laced boy becoming another distraction.

With her entire future riding on this movie, Lacey knows she can’t afford to get sidetracked by a crush. But for the first time in her life Lacey wonders if it’s true that the best stories really do happen when you go off script.

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It looks like Kasie West is back on her winning formula. Another enjoyable escapist romance with ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss.’

Set in the same universe as ‘Love, Life, and the List’ we follow protagonist Lacey, and aspiring teen actor in her first big movie role as a zombie. Only she has a helicopter/hover father and schoolwork to contend with as well as her acting job. Enter the cute tutor Lacey’s father hires to ensure she at least gets a passing grade, because, you know this whole acting thing may just be a whim no matter how serious, and how long Lacey has taken on being an actor. Tutor Donavan is straight-laced and all business. The business of learning. Only adding to Lacey’s daily pressures. Then little things start to go wrong on set… nothing like piling on the stress.

Again this is a cute contemporary, a quick read, as West has established as her brand. It didn’t quite have the quirky field of characters as her earlier works, but ‘Fame, Fate and then First Kiss’ still managed to captivate my attention and keep me engaged until the end. Lacey is cute and sassy but with a mostly level head. I almost wanted her to be a bit more headstrong to create some more tension. Or at least something so she wasn’t so… vanilla. So to with her love interest Donavan. He was very much a perfect wish-fulfilment type of guy. I’m used to a bit more character from West’s leading men.

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Contrasting that we have some of Lacey’s co-stars who are very sure of themselves (or very full of themselves) which added some colour to the mix.

I did love the small mystery plot line as well; it helped keep the pace and tension right to the end, rather than this being an angst-fest. So a slightly different tone to West’s usual fare, but a welcome change. Though, please bring back those interesting characters…

There is not necessarily a lot of character development, rather more of a burgeoning understanding and better lines of communication being established. So while the plot is mostly predictable (small mystery aside) and because of the ‘vanilla’ characters and less angsty storyline, the pay-off wasn’t as great as I was hoping. Though still entertaining and definitely a step in the right direction after a lull in late 2018 to early 2019.

I liked the connection to Abby  and Cooper and am looking forward to the final book set in this universe ‘Moment of Truth’ to be released in March 2020.

A solid entry into my guilty pleasure collection, though I wanted a bit more complexity of plot and a dash more interest in the cast. Recommend to lovers of teen YA romances, it was a pleasant way to wile an afternoon on the lounge with a hot cup of tea.

Overall feeling: *sips tea*

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© 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 – ‘Maybe This Time’ by Kasie West

Special events shine a spotlight on love.

Maybe This Time Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 368

From Goodreads:

One year. Nine events. Nine chances to . . . fall in love?

Weddings. Funerals. Barbecues. New Year’s Eve parties. Name the occasion, and Sophie Evans will be there. Well, she has to be there. Sophie works for the local florist, so she can be found at every big event in her small hometown, arranging bouquets and managing family dramas.

Enter Andrew Hart. The son of the fancy new chef in town, Andrew is suddenly required to attend all the same events as Sophie. Entitled, arrogant, preppy Andrew. Sophie just wants to get her job done and finish up her sketches so she can apply to design school. But every time she turns around, there is Andrew, getting in her way and making her life more complicated. Until one day she wonders if maybe complicated isn’t so bad after all . . .

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It feels like Kasie West has returned to her former writing form with ‘Maybe This Time.’ The last three or four novels I’ve read from her seemed to be lacking is some spark, but it was back proud and true with this release, and I couldn’t be more happy.

It did feel like a slow burn for me, and the pacing reflected that, but her writing style, interesting characters, and chunks of the novel centred around holiday events kept me engaged as a reader. I would have liked ‘Maybe This Time’ to have a faster pace just so the whole misunderstanding trope wasn’t as drawn out. But the character arcs were cute and ended the story with a satisfactory *ding*

Sophie is an adorable character as a protagonist. She is totally wrapped up in her fashion designing and has a clear path set out for her future. It acts not only as an escape from her small town life and family issues, but as her ticket to New York City and following her dream. All of her notions and attitudes get challenged – even the prospect of her imagined city life… it was a fun read.

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Micah, the best friend is a planner, orgainser, that girl that is always prepared for anything – and it was nice to see representation of a diverse character.

Our love interest, Andrew, is the typical hate-to-love trope, but it was done well, and I liked his sarcastic preppy charm, and the fact that he was the fish out of water.

I still think the narrative could have been tightened up a bit more, and the cast given a bit more time to shine; but all in all I haven’t enjoyed a title like this from Kasie West in a good long while. I’m hoping the trend continues as I eye off ‘Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss.’

We get themes of what family means, the role we attribute to people versus who they really are, high school graduation all wrapped up in this collection of celebrations as seen through the eyes of practical and sensible teens.

Cute cover, lovable story, and a return to my favour. Definitely recommend.

Overall feeling: Halleluiah!

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Maybe This Time Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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.

#bookporn

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It’s been a minute since I’ve indulged in some sappy YA contemporary romance. Kasie West is always a good read, though some of her titles recently haven’t been as well rated by me… lets see how these two latest releases stack up. Time for a icy homemade lemonade, a banana lounge in the sun, and cuddle from my furbaby

Book Review – ‘Listen to Your Heart’ by Kasie West

Worrying West fare….

Listen To Your Heart Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend … until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

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Another cute tome from Kasie West. While I like light romance-centric contemporaries which I can digest in a day, I feel like West’s writing is suffering as the last number of her novels have had my excitement wanning. The witty comical banter, the quirky characters, the angst; all these elements seem to be dialled down or completely absent. Now her books read like a direct to tv film for the Hallmark Channel. Predictable, cute, but overall, forgettable.

I’m hoping West starts to stretch her story-telling skills, because the first few novels of hers that I had read started on a trajectory that was headed for greatness. Rom-coms with style and kitsch. Those were the stories I indulged in and could see on the big screen of theatres.

Kate as the protagonist for ‘Listen to Your Heart’ is an adorable clueless teen. A bit too vanilla. No streak of rebelliousness or daring, no style, just an obedient workhorse teen from a big family. And there’s nothing wrong with that… just that there’s nothing particularly interesting about that either. To be honest, I had to flip through the book again to refresh my memory of her name after completing it the day before… that’s how memorable she was. Her character arc consisted of uncovering some misunderstandings and obtaining some courage to explore the world outside of her Lakeside community.

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Her best friend Alana, had a bit of sass to her, and was the most interesting character from the novel. She was competitive, manipulative, and daring – now there’s a character I want to read more about. But even her execution by West was somewhat lacklustre.

Love interests Diego and Frank were on the same scale as Kate and Alana. Where Diego was fairly vanilla and uninteresting and Frank gave attitude and a stuck-up rebellious streak, I found myself wishing for more tension or some event to add something more to the plot.

One of the redeeming features of ‘Listen to Your Heart’ is the slow burn, understated narrative style. It’s as relaxed as the summer locale of the Lake. It really made me feel like I was on holiday – but again, I wanted more substance. The role of family – that of Kate’s extended family, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins – is integrated well into the storyline. It had that feeling akin to Jenny Han’s writing with a sense of love, duty, and safety all rolled up into the home-life that is hard to replicate. Though it still needs a bit of work to have that resounding utz of Han’s writing.

I think I’d only recommend this to West fans – there are better quaint contemporaries that pack a punch out there.

Overall feeling: A quick easy read that is saccharine sweet, but ultimately lacking substance.

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Listen To Your Heart Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. 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 – ‘Love, Life and the List’ by Kasie West

An idea to broaden one’s horizons for the sake of art – great idea, flat delivery.

Love, Life and the List Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Abby Turner’s summer isn’t going the way she’d planned. She has a not-so-secret but definitely unrequited crush on her best friend, Cooper. She hasn’t been able to manage her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. And now she’s been rejected from an art show because her work “has no heart.” So when she gets another opportunity to show her paintings Abby isn’t going to take any chances.

Which is where the list comes in.

Abby gives herself one month to do ten things, ranging from face a fear (#3) to learn a stranger’s story (#5) to fall in love (#8). She knows that if she can complete the list she’ll become the kind of artist she’s always dreamed of being. But as the deadline approaches, Abby realizes that getting through the list isn’t as straightforward as it seems… and that maybe—just maybe—she can’t change her art if she isn’t first willing to change herself.

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Another cutesy addition to my collection of Kasie West novels. But this one feels average in its place of West novel rankings. ‘Love, Life and the List’ lacked complexity, and quite frankly, failed to drag out any of the feels. Where some of her novels feel like a blockbuster rom-com, ‘Love, Life, and the List’ felt like a made-for-tv movie on the Hallmark channel. Not that it is any way a bad thing, just that it felt like it lacked layers and sophistication. I wasn’t even feeling the angst. For some, this might be the death knell for a book. But we still get West’s ever-present positivity and sunshine. Cuteness overload. It’s vanilla, very vanilla. Which is great for an afternoons escapism when you don’t necessarily want to be dragged over the coals of hurt and pain to get some character development, and where you know you’re going to get happy smiles at the end.

Our protagonist Abby felt a little flaky, though I love how she decided to challenge herself with ‘the list.’ Notably, her achievements weren’t character defining, but merely experiences to help broaden her worldly view.

The chemistry between love interest Cooper was already existing – like an old married couple – so there wasn’t a lot to expand on. So consequently the vibes between these two felt a little flat. And also because the ‘G’ rating of this book don’t expect any twixt of your nethers, or engorging love scenes. This is very Disney.

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But the concept is intriguing… like a bucket list for personal growth. Testing out things you know to be true. And West does write an interesting complementary cast. Addy’s mother was a great addition to the story struggling with anxiety, and the all-knowing-but-hip grandfather was endearing. He reminded me of ‘Pop’s’ from ‘The Goldbergs’ in a way.

So while I enjoyed this book, and had a pleasant afternoon whiling in its pages – for the most part it’s forgettable. I think if there were some bigger challenges to test Addy personally and emotionally, and a more dynamic storyline with an arc or two thrown it, it would’ve ticked all the boxes for me.

I still enjoy West’s writing style, it is so easy to fly through, and just descriptive enough to let your imagination fly.

This is the start of a trilogy of companion novels, so it may have felt flat because of setting up all the characters in this universe (but it didn’t really feel like that) so we’ll see what characters take the torch in the next few novels and how they stack up against ‘Love, Life, and the List.’

Only recommend for hard core West fans, and younger readers with a thing for contemporary romances.

Overall feeling: cute, but flat.

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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 – ‘Lucky in Love’ by Kasie West

Another cutesy hit from Kasie.

Lucky in Love Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 337

From Goodreads:

Can’t buy me love…

Maddie’s not impulsive. She’s all about hard work and planning ahead. But one night, on a whim, she buys a lottery ticket. And then, to her astonishment—

She wins!

In a flash, Maddie’s life is unrecognizable. No more stressing about college scholarships. Suddenly, she’s talking about renting a yacht. And being in the spotlight at school is fun…until rumors start flying, and random people ask her for loans. Now Maddie isn’t sure who she can trust.

Except for Seth Nguyen, her funny, charming coworker at the local zoo. Seth doesn’t seem aware of Maddie’s big news. And, for some reason, she doesn’t want to tell him. But what will happen if he learns her secret?

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I went into this book with mixed feelings… on the one hand – I love Kasie West novels! They are always a light romcom, quick easy reads. Immediate satisfaction and a candy coated escape. In the other… Reading ‘By Your Side’ left a lack-luster feeling with her writing with the premise of the novel resting on treacherous ground. But ‘Lucky in Love’ proved to be another West-styled novel worthy of a sunny afternoon lounging in the sun.

I will say that it is the first book that had me frustrated for most of its entirety – but for some good reasons. The characters are flawed. The protagonist Maddie is a little naïve and too trusting causing her to make some shaky decisions. So while I wanted to scream at the book for Maddie to wake the hell up, it had me engaged and mostly invested in her story. It was a fine line between disinterest because she was acting like a flake, and hoping she would wake up… and seeing how she would handle the situation.

Perseverance is the key. I really enjoyed the journey ‘Lucky in Love’ takes us. We get a dysfunctional family, struggling with finances and life, best friends and new friends clashing, an adorable love interest, and the perfect setting – a zoo! Who doesn’t love the zoo? And Maddie’s obsession with the anteater is endearing.

While I got very annoyed at some of the decisions Maddie was taking after her big lotto win, I appreciated the world she was flung into, how she navigated this new landscape. And let’s face it – she’s a teenage millionaire – who wouldn’t go a little nuts? I would be terrified to have that kind of responsibility, and I love the emotional rollercoaster Maddie went on dealing with her windfall. It can certainly open new doors, test old relationships, and bring out the best, and worst in people.

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Maddie’s parents did feel a little superfluous. I enjoyed their story arc, but they never felt like they were necessarily parenting her. My first reaction would have been to educate Maddie and get her in to see a financial professional before the money even hit her account. But that’s me – too sensible for my own good sometimes. So I had a little gripe with these authority figures: I wanted more, well authority.

Maddie’s brother, Beau reminded me of every teenage boy I ever wanted to kick up the butt. While endearing, he still managed to draw out those frustrated feeling that we get from boys at times – like they are from a different planet, and what the hell were they thinking? But it was nice to see the sibling dynamic work, and it was the one saving grace for Beau in my eyes.

Elise and Blair, Maddies best friends felt like her voice of reason; compared to her new friend, Trina, who seemed to be the serpent offering the apple in the Garden of Eden. I have to say, I love how West used these characters in the story. It’s really worth getting to the end of the book to find out what happens.

And finally, Seth, or Zoo Seth. Co-worker at the zoo. Dorky, penny collecting for luck boyfriend material Seth. I instantly liked him and felt he had that air of a true old fashioned gentleman. I feel if he wasn’t present in this story it would have been a disaster. It was like he was the lynchpin for the plot to rotate around. A fixed point for Maddie to return to when her life was spiralling out of control. Because he loves control.

Yes it is all drama-filled and spoony. But that is exactly what West’s novels are. Gorgeously fluffy romances meant for entertainment and a contented sigh at the end.

The writing style and pacing are easy and engaging, I managed to consume the novel in half a day. And I’d definitely recommend this to lovers of romance, YA and West-o-philes.

The cover art sticks with the tradition of her previous novels – two young models in a cheesy pose, love hearts abound, and an element taken from somewhere in the story (a carousel.) It certainly harks exactly what is between the pages, a cutesy romance not to be taken too seriously, but to enjoy and indulge.

Looking forward to her next few releases ‘Love, Life and the List,’ ‘Listen to Your Heart,’ and ‘The Sun, the Moon, and the Truth.’

Overall feeling: all the fluffy things!

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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.