Book Review – ‘The First 7’ (#2 The Last 8) by Laura Pohl

A group of kids, the last survivors of the human race…

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 367

Clover Martinez and The Last Teenagers on Earth are busy exploring the galaxy after leaving earth behind…even if they can’t help but be a little homesick.

So when their ship receives a distress signal from their former planet, they hope against hope that it means other survivors. But as soon as they arrive, they realize something’s deeply wrong: strange crystal formations have popped up everywhere and there’s some sort of barrier keeping them from leaving.

Seeking the origin of the formations and the reason for the barrier, the group discovers a colony of survivors hidden in the mountains. But the survivors aren’t who they seem…

I enjoyed this more than the debut. I think with the ridiculous aliens out of the picture and the story starting out in space, it constructed a world deep in sci-fi, rather than a dystopian earth facing an alien threat, that slight shift in the tone of the narrative allowed me to shed preconceived notions and really get into the story.

The characters did feel a little more grown up – we still get moments of teenage melodrama, but it seems the war and travel in the stars have seasoned our group and I was less inclined to sigh or eye-roll. Still there is a tone with the presentation (description) of the aliens that we encounter in ‘The First 7’ that feels immature. I guess it will capture the minds of a younger audience (of whom it is intended.)

The First 7’ has a much stronger plot that its predecessor but there was the inclination to meander a little. The story is broken into three sections which didn’t necessarily transition as easily as they could have.

We see some great character arcs, and an aspect of humanity shone through brightest for me. Pohl even managed to surprise me with a few plot twists that I didn’t see coming. I’d love to see her write for a more mature audience, what I gather from her writing chops, it has limitless possibilities.

Again the greatest drawbacks were meandering plot and tone of the novel.

We see many of the hanging plot threads from the debut tied up in a rather unusual fashion. And Pohl is not afraid to serve out real-life consequences to her characters after facing apocalypse-level circumstances that you don’t see in a lot of YA. So I am unsure if teens reacting to mental coping mechanisms, combined with hormonal behaviour left the plot feeling that bit erratic: it is either a pretty accurate depiction, or a tone not befitting young adults placed in that situation… it’s hard to tell with them being changed with alien DNA – but it’s the same elements that had me humming and harring from ‘The Last 8’ as well.

I understand the title of ‘The First 7’ and its need to match the hook from the debut, but after completing the novel, I don’t see how it really fits. They mention it in the novel, but the justification felt tenuous at best.

The ending was sufficiently cinematic and while I enjoyed my time reading this duology, it’s probably one I’ll forget fairly quickly. I’d only recommend this for the younger end of the YA market. Adults and older young adults may find this a little juvenile.

Overall feeling: Okay, pretty good.

© 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 – ‘The Last 8’ (#1 The Last 8) by Laura Pohl

Alien Invasion meets The Breakfast Club.

Genre: Y/A, Science Fiction, LGBT

No. of pages: 357

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

The cover art for this title is what really grabbed my attention, then the blurb – an alien invasion! It’s not a secret I love sci-fi. ‘The Last 8’ is a solid YA read full of sass and intrigue.

I will say this book read young, the protagonist (Clover) and her merry band of fellow survivors, though many with high intelligence, acted like tweens. These characters are meant to be on the verge of adulthood, but if I didn’t know their age, by the way they acted, I would have guessed 12-13 years of age. This was the biggest drawback for me. I was constantly on the verge of eye-rolling or sighing. The kind of patience I had for my younger sibling when he was doing something stupid, but I had to let him be and learn to navigate the world in his own way.

Leading on from this, with the characters floundering a lot, being reactionary, the plot felt like it too meandered a bit. Like the teenagers attitude bled through. I love the concept and reveals in ‘The Last 8,’ but I just wish the tone would have been a touch more mature. (Granted, I’m am waaay too old to be the demographic for this novel.)

The premise of the aliens was an interesting one, though it read like something you would see in an animated Disney film, it was, almost… comedic. You’ll understand if you have read the book. You don’t really get a sense of the terror from the aliens, just the fear and isolation inflicted from the actual invasion.

I do love the way Laura Pohl can craft an atmosphere. Her characters and character development are pretty great too – but I think maybe the tone of the novel stopped this aspect of her writing from being truly outstanding.

We get a diverse cast, of both nationality and sexual orientation, and while I praise the representation, it was still used as a plot device, a reveal, rather than simply a part of the character. There are subtle differences in approaching this sensitive topic if you compare this to how sexual orientation is dealt with from #ownvoices authors. I can’t speak for Clover and her Spanish heritage because I have no personal experience in that sense, but the fact you could read her thoughts in Spanish was fantastic.

There was a bit of language that I’m on the fence about. I don’t mind swearing when it services the plot or character, I felt it did neither here, merely used to attempt to give ‘The Last 8’ some street cred.

There is an element of mental illness, grief, PTSD, anxiety and depression in the story as well, which given the tone of ‘The Last 8,’ I was surprised at how this was handled… with the swearing, sensitive topics, the tone really clashes with the subject matter.

I feel like there were parts missing from the story – which are done on purpose to keep the pace going, but I feel like there were a few developmental moments skipped in building character motivation, despair, and tension. This is part and part of the tone I mentioned earlier.

I enjoyed reading ‘The Last 8’ and am keen to see where the story goes in the final instalment to this duology ‘The First 7.’ We might see the tone change as the characters grow and overcome challenges, and because it sets up such a wonderful opportunity for world building, with what I’ve liked of Laura Pohl’s writing so far, she could really shine and bring home this series with a bang.

Overall feeling: fun, but a little let down.

© 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 – ‘Hot Dog Girl’ by Jennifer Dugan

A cute coming out tale for the younger end of the YA demographic.

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 309

Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:

* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.

* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.

* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.

* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

A massively cute and summery tale.

To be honest it took a lot to get me into the flow of this novel. Mainly due to the tone of ‘Hot Dog Girl.’ It felt like it was geared towards the younger end of the YA market. The language, dialogue, and attitudes of the cast felt immature and I frequently got bored and put the book down while getting through the first two-thirds of the novel. In fact, I read another four books while getting over this hump. I also think some pacing issues added to this. It took so long to get to the point, or for interesting things to happen. Not to say this was badly written or structured poorly, it wasn’t. Once the story got its legs ‘Hot Dog Girl’ was truly endearing. I cried, I laughed, the last section of the story had me completely rapt.

The rest of the time it was like I had that frustrated patience you get when young children in your care are around and just babbling non-stop and you’re pretending that you are interested in whatever short-attention-span thing they are carrying on about, but internally you are just praying for the torture to end. That’s what the majority of ‘Hot Dog Girl’ was for me.

Lou as a protagonist is immature, not very self-aware, doesn’t listen, and schemes like a twelve year old girl to get her own way. Living in her head was a special place in hell for me. But it was lovely to see her grow and mature by the end of the novel… but not something I want to relive anytime soon.

Seeley, to counter Lou, was stoic, and to be honest I didn’t feel all that interesting. So too was the other love interest in this triangle: the diving pirate, Nick.

The only character of interest was antagonist Jessa, though she was painted as ‘miss perfect’ that can usually come off as a flat character, she managed to have layers and a bit of sass that kept me engaged with the story.

The plot did feel very simple, and as soon as the inciting incident kicked in, I predicted the ending very easily. Jennifer Duggan’s writing style is effortless, and I would love to read something else of hers without such an immature tone to see if I enjoy her books more. It is glaringly obvious I am not the target demographic for ‘Hot Dog Girl,’ but considering I usually enjoy other fare for this target market, I was surprised at my reaction to this story.

The bisexual and lesbian representation is adorable. It was a joy to read differing sexual orientations in an environment of love and acceptance, like it is commonplace; and how the characters sexual orientation is not the main character trait, but merely an aside… as it is in real life.

The romance is like fairy floss, which in the setting of an amusement park, felt apt. I just wish there was some more complexity for the plot, characters, a more mature tone fit for the age of the protagonist, and the inciting incident happened earlier in the novel to kick the pace of the novel from the first or second chapter.

Hot Dog Girl’ even with the issues I had over my reading experience has wormed its way into my heart. I’d recommend it to those who crave bisexual rep, love Sapphic romances, or those younger YA readers looking for a cute romance.

Overall feeling: sluggish summer entanglement!

© 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 – ‘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 – ‘Not Your Backup’ (#3 Sidekick Squad) by C.B. Lee

Diversity, superheroes and an expert plot.

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 320

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Emma Robledo has a few more responsibilities than the usual high school senior, but then again, she and her friends have left school to lead a fractured Resistance movement against a corrupt Heroes League of Heroes. Emma is the only member of a supercharged team without powers, and she isn’t always taken seriously. A natural leader, Emma is determined to win this battle, and when that’s done, get back to school. As the Resistance moves to challenge the League, Emma realizes where her place is in this fight: at the front.

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I’ve been getting a real kick out of this series – the diverse cast, superheroes, espionage, and teen angst. ‘Not Your Backup’ did not hit all the same marks as its two prequels for me. The pacing felt slower and there were a lot of characters to follow, and given the amount of time passed since having read ‘Not Your Villain,’ it took me a minute to get back into the swing of the story.

I love how it picks up not long after the events in ‘Not Your Villain’ following Emma as a protagonist. The only one on the Sidekick Squad who does not possess meta-human abilities… though she does have a high IQ and has been dubbed Mastermind. I was a little tired of her ‘woe is me no-one takes me seriously because I’m a child and don’t have superpowers’ shtick. It was a great plot device but it felt like it dragged on for too long. I would have liked her to use it as an advantage – let people underestimate her and become more cloak and dagger.

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleEmma’s self-discovery around being asexual (ace/aro) was interesting and educational, as too the discussion of queerplatonic relationships.

Bells as the love interest is cute as all get out (the protagonist from ‘Not Your Villain.’) And you could see him revelling in all the character growth he’d made from that sequel.

Plot-wise ‘Not Your Backup’ is outstanding, we get seeding of clues and threads, many of the characters have their own arc (some of them off-page.) I think though, compared to the other two novels published so far, there was less action, less gadgets, less uncertainty in the people around them, which left most of the novel feeling bare and the pace lagging. The last section of the novel, leading up to the conclusion was back at what I expect from C.B. Lee. Great pacing, twists and turns aplenty, all ending in a big bang. Where ‘Not Your Sidekick’ and ‘Not Your Villain’ were introducing characters, ‘Not Your Backup’ followed these characters and started setting up plot points to be resolved in the finale ‘Not Your Hero’ which was initially set to be due out this June 2020, but I haven’t seen an update in a while, and with many titles getting pushed pack, we may not see this released until around Christmas or in 2021. So I guess ‘Not Your Backup’ has a bit of that old middle book syndrome playing out. Something of a necessity. And that’s not to say I was bored or anything, quite the contrary, I remained engaged throughout and love Lee’s writing style. It was just a little slower than I was used to.

Going in, I already knew there was a final book coming for this series, so the whole overturning of the Hero’s League of Heroes and dethroning the reigning council members was not going to be resolved in this instalment. And after being declared fugitives in the previous novel, the only thing I predicted was the Sidekick Squad getting back together and attempting guerrilla warfare tactics. Besides that, I had no idea what was around the corner, and C.B. Lee managed to throw in a few curve balls giving me a few WTF moments. Genius.

I am expecting an epic conclusion in the final novel and can’t wait for its release. And I’d definitely recommend this novel (and series) to lovers of superheroes, YA, and queer literature. It’s certainly a well-written fun romp through a genre that has outlasted many throughout our written history. Though ‘Not Your Backup’ cannot be read as a standalone – you definitely need to read the sequels to get a proper understanding of the characters and world building.

So C.B. Lee not only entertains me, but gives me snippets of queer culture education along the way in a superhero wrapping.

Overall feeling: Yee-haw!

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Not Your Backup (#3 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© 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 – ‘Her Royal Highness’ (#2 Royals) by Rachel Hawkins

Everything Adorable and Cute.

Her Royal Highness (#2 Royals) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 274

From Goodreads:

Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. And because Millie cannot stand the thought of confronting her ex every day, she decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Millie can’t believe her luck when she’s accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Everything about Scotland is different: the country is misty and green; the school is gorgeous, and the students think Americans are cute.

The only problem: Mille’s roommate Flora is a total princess.

She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can barely stand each other–Flora is both high-class and high-key–but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Even though Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, Millie knows the chances of happily ever afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairy tale . . . or is it?  

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I knew I would get an entertaining read, though I must admit ‘Royals’ (or ‘Prince Charming’ as it’s been newly re-packaged & published) wasn’t the usual fare I’m used to from Hawkins. But ‘Her Royal Highness’ managed to raise back up to the standard I’ve come to expect from her.

Protagonist Millie, a studious, slightly awkward and budding geologist identifying as bisexual gets ghosted by her girlfriend. Bumping into her later, reunited with her ex-boyfriend (and Millie’s best friend). It’s then Millie realises she has nothing holding her back and goes ahead with an application to a Scotland boarding school… where she gets an upstart of a roommate. Who just happens to be a royal.

Her Royal Highness (#2 Royals) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Such a cute premise for a story, and I ate it up. I would have liked to see a bit more complexity in the plot, it did feel a little simplistic, but I guess that it fits in with the demographic for ‘Her Royal Highness.’ This is very predictable, like every rom-com involving a prince or princess, but with a female/female romance. But that’s what you want from a romance… and ‘Her Royal Highness’ delivers.

We get snippets of Daisy and crew from the first novel in this series popping up towards the end, which gave me a smile.

It was fairly well paced and kept my interest and I completed this novel in two quick sittings.

I’d recommend this for the younger end of the YA demographic. It’s got all the squee moments of a Disney movie. A more mature reader may find this meagre, but it is a fun wish-fulfilment contemporary with diverse characters that has become a guilty pleasure read for me.

Overall feeling: Makes me want to hug a pillow.

Her Royal Highness (#2 Royals) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Her Royal Highness (#2 Royals) 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.

Mental illness in writing

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

It might be a point of difference, a plot point, but mental illness in YA and literature can help save lives through education and lifting the veil on depression and related conditions. Before the person suffering takes drastic measures of their own…

I have a (secondary) character in one of my WIPs who suffers from depression, it provides one of the main characters in the story with motivation and characteristics important to their arc. However, while taking a break from framing out the second half of the novel, I jumped on social media for a nosey and catch up with friends. Two things happened that have me questioning my mentally ill character… first, a teenage girl in my family circle dealing with her own mental illness and a ton of online bullying; and secondly, the suicide of an idol. Part of the contributing factors leading him to his death were the continual hate he was getting online – he never felt good enough.

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

It really hit home. I truly don’t fully understand what it is to be depressed enough to take your own life. I’m much too proactive and positive for that. It must be such a desperate and lonely place to be. And I wish others did not have to experience such a painful and debilitating emotion.

Professional psychologists attribute some of this to a chemical imbalance in the brain, as well as finding the coping mechanisms to train your thought patterns… it all sounds so clinical in the face of such a devastating state of mind.

I know there is no easy fix for something like this, but I always wonder why the two people mentioned above in particular don’t take some control of their exposure to the hate? Granted, they are the victims, and by right should not have to limit their activities. But why in the heck don’t they just delete all social media accounts? Or block the trolls? Online haters feel safe in anonymity; and the numbers and reach of these kind of people are incrementally greater online. Why not just switch off, unplug, and concentrate on you. On what you can control?

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI understand asking that of today’s youth would be like removing a limb – but wouldn’t you rather value your mental health than put up with idiots and haters? It has become such a huge problem that we are dealing with since the growth of online communities. Depression, anxiety, and bullies are a dangerous mix – it can lead to suicide, substance abuse, or fatal retaliation. Thankfully there are ways to deal. Help lines, organisations, peer counselors, teachers, parents, friends, doctors, mental health professionals. While life online has exposed people to more hate, it has also connected us to real help. Plus, we can control what we are exposed to with security settings, blocking profiles, reporting abusers to moderators. It’s not a hopeless situation. And seeking help online isn’t as difficult as reaching out in person. There is no shame or embarrassment.

I feel like including characters in my writing, and reading about them in fiction, can help educate people about this issue in an informal and personal way. I may not fully understand the things that go through someone’s head suffering depression, but with some research maybe I can help a reader feel like they are not alone, show them ways to handle these strong feelings, and seek out the help they need? Some of the novels I’ve read have certainly educated me in handling grief, bullying, depression, and anxiety. It’s also shed light on other mental illnesses and disabilities and how individuals cope with them in their lives, like bipolar, schizophrenia, being on the autism spectrum. When I was a child, things like this were taboo. Never mentioned. But what I see today is that dealing with mental illness doesn’t have to be struggled through alone. People can overcome the difficulties. And it’s more common than you think.

Mental Illness in Writing Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

It hurts my heart to see such a dark side of humanity laid bare when I think of those driven to take their own lives from bullying and hate. We don’t need to do that to each other. And to anyone surrounded by shadows and clouds, feeling worthless and alone – don’t believe those feelings. Don’t give in. You are a special, unique individual. A part of what makes this universe tick. Even though these words are coming from a complete stranger through a screen of some kind – you are loved.

 

And there is help.

 

Please call for help.

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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 – ‘Not Your Villain’ (#2 Sidekick Squad) by C.B. Lee

A sequel that super excels in all areas.

Not Your Villain (#2 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 307

From Goodreads:

Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?

Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.

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Not Your Villain’ was a fun read. A great superhero adventure with a social conscience.

I am definitely going to re-read this entire series once it has completed its release. With a diverse cast and a unique, almost Star Trek mentality on the human condition, I was engrossed from start to finish.

Where the debut ‘Not Your Sidekick’ followed Jess, in this sequel we are treated to another member of the gang…

Not Your Villain (#2 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Our protagonist, Bells was written beautifully, a trans (F-M) protagonist was treated as a human being, never was his identification as being male brought into question. It was simply accepted and we got on with the story. I think the viewpoint on acceptance and diversity is what adds layers to the story that we don’t see enough of in YA. In reality, gender, gender identity, and sexuality should not be issues for difference, as neither should be the colour of our skin, nationality, able-bodiedness, metal agility, or how much money we earn. C.B. Lee manages to create an environment where all these prejudices are eliminated and gets on with a quirky, amazing superhero story.

The cast is dynamic, and so too is the future dystopian world where resources are scarce.

Lee’s writing style and humour shine brightly, and even with each of the characters being funny and sassy, they each have their uniqueness and all come together to form their own superhero group that rocks.

Not Your Villain (#2 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The novels so far read more like origin stories, so the plot points we get about the universe – the roles of heroes and villains, the control of the Collective, are introduced, explored slightly, and then left for further development in a later novel. So I was immediately wanting to read ‘Not Your Backup’ (this time following squad member Emma) upon finishing, because there is just so much juicy aspects left to solve.

We get a lot of character study and development in each novel, but ‘Not Your Villain’ managed to increase the complexity and stakes from the debut. We are starting to see more interaction with the cast of characters, and uncover differing factions fighting for dominance over the region.

Because of the writing style, sassy characters and punchy subject matter, I flew through this book. But because it’s largely about how Bells handles his identity, and relates to the world at large as a superhero in training, and the main over arcing plot is still continuing through for the next instalment, I can’t comment too strongly on predictability, because most of the plot points remain unsolved. Though, I found this novel refreshing and brilliant and can’t recommend it enough.

Overall feeling: I totally geeked out!!

Not Your Villain (#2 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Not Your Villain (#2 Sidekick Squad) Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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