#bookquotes

#BQ Famous by Casey Carlisle

A fun poke at the notion of instant fame the internet can give a person (willing or not) inspired by the real life situation of ‘Alex from Target.’

The characters grab their 15 minutes of fame and attempt to carve out a career of some sort… would you have the kahoonies to grab an opportunity like that, or does the thought of being thrust into the spotlight terrify you?

Book Review – ‘#famous’ by Jilly Gagnon

Just one post away from fame.

#famous Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Rachel Ettinger has flown under the radar for most of high school, exactly as planned. She’d rather focus on getting to New York City, where being the arty playwright is a bonus, not a drawback. Her googly-eyed crush on Kyle Bonham is embarrassing but unimportant. After all, there’s no way she’d ever end up with the King of Apple Prairie High, anyway.

Kyle does make a grease-splattered Burger Barn uniform look dreamy. But aside from flipping patties – and riding the tide of steady drama from his on-again, off-again girlfriend – everything about his life is fairly predictable.

So when Rachel’s jokey picture of Kyle winds up going viral, they’re both taken by surprise. Suddenly Kyle is insta-famous and everyone on the planet knows about Rachel’s silly crush… including Kyle.

Just as they think their lives couldn’t get any more complicated, their fifteen minutes of fame spirals out of control. And what starts out with an innocent photo becomes a whirlwind adventure full of fangirls, haters, and French-fry bouquets that forces them both to question whether fame – and love – is worth the price.

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This was just the cute contemporary I thought it was going to be – but had much more substance than I anticipated. ‘#famous’ deals with themes around social media, instant fame, bullying, and that awkward coming of age moment in life when your morals are tested, and embarrassment can come from just about anything. Parents, socio-economic status, fashion, your body, ooof the list goes on…

I felt this was an intelligent contemporary shedding light on issues that youth today face in the advent of social media and how strong a roll trolls, peers, and media fame impact on individuals, families, and the opportunities they can present to the right promotion-savvy person.

Told in alternating perspectives in each chapter between popular, gorgeous, star jock, Kyle; and artistic, fringe-dweller, Rachel. Jilly Gagnon gives some great character portraits for both the leads, they are both confident and insecure in varying degrees that was both endearing and believable.

#famous Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe main plot is predictable, but the storytelling is anything but. I loved Gagnon’s writing style, the comedic timing, the charismatic cast, and underlying themes. ‘#famous’ is definitely the first contemporary to surprise me in this manner in quite a while. The pacing is pretty good, mainly due to the shorter chapters and switching perspectives… and they don’t just tell the opposite side of the story on the same scene – they have their own separate arcs that twist and bump into each other. Their tones are completely different.

We get some great supporting characters and the family of both of our leads have a strong presence in the story. Though the story is simple, it has charm and interest and I would happily recommend this to anyone who loves a light contemporary.

Overall feeling: Sweet. Adorable

#famous Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

#famous 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 – ‘Been Here All Along’ by Sandy Hall

A contemporary love story that transverses gender… but lacks a little substance.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, LGBT

No. of pages: 214

From Goodreads:

Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head of the yearbook committee and having his choice of colleges. They do not include falling head over heels for his best friend and next-door neighbour, Kyle. It’s a distraction. It’s pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn’t know what to do . . .

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can’t quite figure out what he did wrong . . .

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This is an adorable cute contemporary. I enjoyed it immensely. A quick diverse read you can complete in a day.

Some points that count against this novel for me are around it’s lack of substance. We get representation of two male leads, one identifying as gay, the other bisexual, but they don’t really delve into how that changes them. The story is solely about their coming together after they realise how they feel about each other. It’s all very fairy-floss and lollipop land. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I indulge in a positive, happily ever after ending every now and then. Plus the tone and demographic of this novel I can see why Sandy Hall has written the novel this way… but skipping over so many aspects poignant to the characters development takes ‘Been Here All Along’ from brilliant and memorable, to sweet and totally forgettable.

We see this same treatment of introducing a storytelling element and then not going anywhere with it. Cyber bullying, Dyslexia, Poverty, Graduation, and College. They are all introduced, but nothing is done with them. All excellent obstacles to overcome and our main characters to grow through the experiences… but it’s left on the side of the road in favour of a cutesy sunset ending. I mean maybe if we got a little bit more of each of these affecting the cast strongly in some way the story would have been much more compelling. But these points are me being very critical and wanting more from the story.

It really is a deliciously innocent lgbtqia contemporary, more suitable for the younger end of the YA demographic.

I loved the fact that coming out, sexual preference, and a gay relationship was handled respectfully and without fear or hate. How friends and family were supportive. We don’t have enough of these types of stories.

We get a mix of perspectives: our protagonists Kyle and Gideon, best friends who develop a crush each other. Ruby, Kyle’s girlfriend. And Ezra, Gideon’s older brother back from living in L.A. and surfing for the past few years. There is a strong sense of family with all the characters. Plus, given the ‘vanilla’ Disney style to the story telling, expect it to be tropey and sugary as apple pie.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe two male leads, Gideon and Kyle don’t have much of an arc or development other than getting together. Ezra is really a complimentary character to help drive the plot forward. It’s Ruby who really shines when you take character development and growth into account.

And as happens in most contemporaries, just as the protagonist makes some resolution on the main goal or journey, it ends. With all the other good bits just coming to a head…. How does Kyle deal with his dyslexia? How do the couple deal with the cyberbullying incident? Will the girl responsible be held accountable? Will Ruby be punished? Will she get to college? Will Gideon win the class elections… so many unanswered questions that were set up in the narrative. So grimacingly frustrating.

So while this was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon reading, I was really hoping for more gravitas to the story. This would be best recommended to those who love quick cute romances and younger YA readers. Connoisseurs of lgbtqia contemporaries may find this a little bland. ‘Been Here All Along’ was a great novel to introduce me to the writings of Sandy Hall, but I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to pick up another one of her titles.

Overall feeling: Cute. That’s all. Just cute.

Been Here All Along Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Been Here All Along 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 – ‘End of the Innocence’ (#4 Tales from Foster High) by John Goode

A drama filled gay contemporary we can all learn from.

End of Innocence (TFFH #4) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 300

From Goodreads:

Kyle Stilleno is no longer the invisible boy, and he doesn’t quite know how he feels about it. On one hand, he now has a great boyfriend, Brad Greymark, and a handful of new friends, and even a new job. On the other hand, no one screamed obscenities at him in public when he was invisible.

No one expected him to become a poster boy for gay rights, either—at least not until Kyle stepped out of the closet and into the limelight. But there are only a few months of high school left, and Kyle doubts he can make a difference.

With Christmas break drawing closer, Kyle and Brad are changing their lives to include each other. While the trials are far from over, they have their relationship to lean on. Others are not so lucky. One of their classmates needs their help—but Kyle and Brad’s relationship may be too new to survive the strain.

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After falling in love with the angsty bind-up or the first three books in this series, all the drama that the two protagonists Kyle and Brad face, I went out and purchased the rest of the books in this collection. I’m anticipating more challenges and a strong foundation to grow with this couple. I look forward to a collection of contemporary stories following a gay couple, as I’ve pretty much only read standalones. Usually series fall into the fantasy genre. I wanted real-life issues and a positive long-lasting relationship. And that is what Tales From Foster High has continued to deliver with this fourth instalment ‘End of the Innocence.’

I must admit, I was very disappointed with the first half of this book. The characters seemed to have gone backward and acting in unexpected ways. It was also blindingly obvious that the authors hand was guiding the story in the direction he wanted it to go. Nothing felt organic and I felt crushed.

End of the Innocence Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlilseThen in the last half things got better, Kyle and Brad got their old spark back, and I found some chemistry with the narrative. It still had a forced tone about it, like author was using the story to highlight a cause and opinions around it.

There was a lot of repetition of ‘I love you’s’ and ‘it gets better,’ which became mildly annoying. But the couple were endearingly clueless and cute at the same time. The continual switching of perspective between Kyle and Brad didn’t really add much – I felt it disarmed some great storytelling devices to build up tension and drive the story forward. As a reader I like to be kept guessing – having the answers laid out for me, of what was going on in each of their heads all the time deflated some of the angst I’ve come to expect from this series.

I like how it wasn’t all puppy dogs and rainbows. Mainly because it revolved around a cause – and this therein lies my difficulty with ‘End of the Innocence.’ On the one hand, it came off as preachy and totally did not fit the Kyle and Brad story so far. Characters out of context. But on the other, once I got over that hurdle and the story got going, it was bloody brilliant. There are some important things brought up in the narrative facing gay youth and I liked the way it’s introduced, discussed, and handled.

It brought up things like bullying and suicide, and how to approach these in a way other than violence – which was amazing to read. There is even a little more in the author’s note at the back of the book as to why these topics were discussed.

So while I commend this book for the issues it tackles, and applaud actually spelling out ways to combat it; I felt the story as a whole was a little disjointed. So far it is my least favourite of the series, but gives the best support for issues faced by some gay youth.

I’d only recommend this for those who strongly connect with the material, or fans of the series.

Overall feeling: mmmmokay…

End of the Innocence Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

End of the Innocence Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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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 – ‘Tales From Foster High’ by John Goode

Another teen coming out story – but I lurved it J.

Tales From Foster High Book 1 Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 219

From Goodreads:

Kyle Stilleno is the invisible student, toiling through high school in the middle of Nowhere, Texas. Brad Greymark is the baseball star of Foster High. When they bond over their mutual damage during a night of history tutoring, Kyle thinks maybe his life has changed for good. But the promise of fairy-tale love is a lie when you’re gay and falling for the most popular boy in school. A coming of age story in the same vein of John Hughes, Tales from Foster High shows an unflinching vision of the ups and downs of teenage love and what it is like to grow up gay.

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This brought some unexpected feels from me. A couple of little story arcs to tug at my heartstrings. Other than that, ‘Tales from Foster High’ was an excellent tale of angst, coming out, and discovering the stuff that you are made of. Told in dual perspectives this bind-up edition of three novellas feels seamless as one big story.

Kyle is a brilliant portrayal of the invisible kid, just trying to make it through high school and get out of his home town. I also like how, even though he was portrayed as a nerd, he wasn’t stereotyped as covered with pimples, wearing glasses, skinny, and unattractive. It was great to see him through Brad’s eyes and know that beauty is subjective to the beholder.

Brad, although embodying the ‘all American jock’ trope, quickly started deconstructing those expectations with is actions in the first chapter. I admired his teetering between courage and fear.

Both of these characters go through a lot and come out the other side different people.

The parents were a little annoying. It felt a bit stereotyped, and even though they went through their own storylines as well, I felt their behaviour at the end nothing short of miraculous. And unrealistic. Though it added a great deal of impact and added to the romantic climax.

There are some sex scenes – which while a little titillating, served the tone of the novel from the male perspective. Their encounters were meaningful and not over written.

The bullying gets a little violent and had me questioning where the teachers and parents were through all of this. I know events like this are still a reality in some schools, and thankfully starting to decrease in numbers as acceptance grows, but the neglect of the school was downright criminal and thought they got off far too easily. Plus the rest of the students seemed to be a mass of people that just went with the flow instead of a realistic hot-pot of personalities and beliefs. In the real world someone would have made noise in some respect, either by getting parents, teachers or authorities involved.

So, a fun story, a little unrealistic, but highlighted a lovely romance and some hot-button struggles gay youth face in school – highlighting an education system that can become corrupt.

Eye opening and heart-warming. Something about coming out stories draws me in, and with ‘Tales From Foster High’ having a social conscious and dealing with important issues sheds light on aspects of growing up gay I may have otherwise never known about. But at the core of it, this novel has a beautiful growing relationship between two unsuspecting teens. This experience has me keen to purchase the rest of the books written in this collection – even though they are mostly only available in e-book format.

Overall feeling: Naw, aint that sweet.

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Tales From Foster High Book 1 Book Review Pic 03 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.

Book Review – Safe by Mark Richard Zubro

A cross between Veronica Mars and Donald Strachey.

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

No. of pages: 208

From Goodreads:

In an unsafe world, death and danger stalk gay teens, Roger Cook and Steve Koemer.

Roger Cook is in the middle of his senior year when Kyle Davis, the most picked on kid in his high school commits suicide. Roger agrees to write an article on Kyle for the school newspaper. As he gathers information, Roger realizes the dead boy was gay and may have been murdered. Gay himself, Roger wants to find out the truth, but this leads him to danger and the possibility of love. Roger opens himself to even greater risk while trying to make those around him safe.  

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A real case of don’t judge the book by its cover – I nearly dismissed this title because of the crappy PhotoShopped dust jacket, but I’m glad the blurb intrigued me enough to overlook that failing and settle in for a cozy afternoon reading.

The main thing that attracted me to ‘Safe’ was that the protagonist, Roger, is on the school newspaper. YA – check; a blogger, reviewer or school newspaper – check; and a GLBT theme – check!

An issue I had with the narrative was that there was something clinical about this novel. For a high school student struggling with his sexual identity, Roger seemed very together. At one moment he was purporting to never tell anyone about being gay, and then he blurts it out to someone with little emotion or anxiety… it felt very unrealistic to me. (I began to wonder if Roger wasn’t a little bipolar)

Additionally, I had major problems stemming from the background and emotional motivations of Roger, pertaining his sexual orientation and coming out. It’s obviously connected to the point above about the inconsistent tone of the narrative. But these were the worst aspects I had with ‘Safe’ and even these are more nit picking than irreconcilable flaws.

The relationships and character development is second to none, even though it felt all wrong for a High School setting – they all seemed so much more mature, like this should have taken place on a University Campus. Especially with Roger being so cool calm and collected in some of his keystone events in the coming out process and places we find him in. Though I can see why Mark Zubro included them, in trying to shed a light on the shadier aspects of homosexual culture.

I really appreciated the statement this novel made, I just wish Zubro had either moved the landscape to an older demographic, or omitted the more difficult parts of Rogers culture to something more common and appropriate to teens. Ignoring that, ‘Safe’ is very enjoyable – think Veronica Mars.

The mystery and sleuthing was paced so well, I really felt like I was there with Roger tracking down clues, following leads. Even though I had nothing much in common with Roger, Zubro had me caring about him and eager find out the truth about Kyle, not an easy task.

On issues of bullying and making new personal relationships in the throes of being outed in an educational setting, this novel really bangs it on the head. And I’m not ashamed to admit, it gave me strength to know that all types of people are bullied in some form or another and it’s how we rise above it that defines us.

I read the entire book in a day, average-ish rating, but leaves you with a warm hug…

Overall feeling: I barely put the book down.

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Safe Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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.