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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© 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 – ‘The Porcupine of Truth’ by Bill Konigsberg

Hidden depths to socially aware road trip.

The Porcupine of Truth Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn’t really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who’s long held a secret regarding Carson’s grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson’s dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the “Porcupine of Truth” in all of their lives.

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I enjoyed ‘Openly Straight,’ so I picked this one off my shelves soon after, desperate for some more Bill Konigsberg goodness. ‘The Porcupine of Truth’ wasn’t quite what I expected, but still an engaging, brilliant read. There is a lot of wit and Dad jokes in this one which tickled my fancy. All the characters are flawed and are batted around their heads repeatedly with their failings – something I really liked about the tone of the novel.

There was a lot of philosophy of self, death, and God in this. I appreciated the raw honesty of the discussions, loved the points of view, but there were a few moments I was completely over the God stuff… but I understand the need for it to be in the story as our protagonist Carson continually searched for the answer to why?

The Porcupine of Truth Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI also loved Carson’s attitude towards homosexuality – he is faced with this question of acceptance in a variety of forms throughout the novel, and for a heterosexual white teen, he shows grace and maturity beyond his years, and beyond the scope of just about any other character in the novel. It was amazing to read. Juxtaposing this new generation growing up with tolerance and acceptance with that of an older, prejudiced one. And not just on sexuality, but on race, age, and class. It was such a succinct observation on society, as a subtext, that had me cheering.

However, with all the subtext and heavy emotional topics, I did feel it left the book feeling a bit bland. Only a bit. I kinda wanted Carson or Aisha to do something hilariously crazy and zany to balance it out. But this is realistic fiction at its best – a narrative of a person’s life on a journey, figuratively and spiritually, with an undercurrent of politics and social construct. It’s all heavy stuff laced with teen sarcasm and not-so-funny puns.

Carson is lovable in all aspects – a beautiful disaster. He’s socially clumsy and paddling to find some sort of rhythm. Searching for a place to belong. He encapsulates all that teen awkwardness and brings a vulnerable backstory that squeezed my heart.

Aisha had the same inner workings but with a more street-smart exterior. It was true genius to see her friendship with Carson progress.

I laughed plenty, and felt my throat tighten, very near shedding a tear, but not quite. Such a unique voice, though I did find the writing style slightly jarring at times. I don’t know if it was the swearing, the slightly-off jokes, or short abrupt sentences, at times it zapped out the magic to leave you facing the bleakness of it all. Great writing, but not the warm and fuzzy I was looking for.

A few things concerned me, like Carson overlooking death at a time when it should be hitting him the hardest – I only say that because I’ve been there and it’s a hard thing to come to grips with. It felt like he was using the good news of the moment to mask the pain he was going to face. Whether that was the author’s intent or not, it was something that stood out to me.

It’s a great book I’d recommend to those who love contemporaries, and books that leave you thinking…

Overall feeling: cutting and cutesy.

The Porcupine of Truth Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

 The Porcupine of Truth 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.

Top GLBT reads

Top GLBT Reads from 2016 Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

GLBTQIA+ is such a wide banner, and I get great enjoyment from reading diversity in this genre – but here’s the top five titles I read in 2016…

Tales From Foster High Book 1 Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleThis edition is a bind-up of the first three novellas, and while in appearance, it starts of stereotypical, it quickly deconstructs these tropes with the main characters. Our protagonist, Kyle, starts of as the invisible kid, the nerd that everyone overlooks, and his journey into the man he wants to be. This is a romance with some important issues that gay youth (and society) face. A little unrealistic at times, but adorable characters with an important message. I’m interested in exploring the rest of the series, but am having difficulty with availability, different versions of editions and bind-ups, and many only available in ebook.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 4 stars by Casey Carlisle

 

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

you-know-me-well-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisle This is by far my favourite book penned by David Levithan to date. I like his novels, they have interesting characters, a gay narrative, build great relationships and end in some poignant positive note. ‘You Know Me Well’ was all that and more.

We get a young teen coming of age, laced with edgy sarcastic humour. But this time the portrayal felt more realistic to me than in many of Levithan’s other titles. And just when I was sure the direction the book would take – it shot off on a tangent. I wasn’t expecting the big Pride fest either. A little cheesy, a little overdone gayness, but had an easy flow and captured my interest from the get go – I could barely put it down. Not that its compelling, rather more engaging and heart-warming. I connected with the protagonists, Mark and Kate more than I have with any of the cast in Levithan’s previous novels. And it was great to have a lesbian perspective. Most of his books have been dominated with a gay male perspective – it was great to see more than one gender represented.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 4 stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

If I Was Your Girl Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle The first thing that drew me to ‘If I Was Your Girl’ was the amazing cover art; and the second was when I found out it was a contemporary with a transgender protagonist. I’ve read a few other titles similar and enjoyed the concepts of identity and social anxiety – they make compelling stories.

I found Amanda, our protagonist, to be strong but a little naive and a somewhat whiny – but it worked for her age and to set up her hearts desires. It was easy to relate to the fear and anxiety Amanda goes through and how it is always there, as it would be with anyone hiding a big secret. The treatment of questions about her old name, body parts and surgeries, and how they should never be asked just made sense. It’s intimate and personal and is passive-aggressive, if not a form of bullying to ask if you do not have a close relationship. But it is always one of the first questions out of people’s mouths when they discover someone is transgender. It actually taught me some deportment in handling this issue, and for that I am thankful. The last thing I want to do is come across as rude and mean in the face of someone who is going through a difficult journey.

The violence described in this book that Amanda lived through felt a bit much. I understand it is a real issue for transgender teens, but for me personally, was confronting and didn’t add much to the story. Although, its educating readers to real world fears people like Amanda face – it makes a blunt, horrific point which I find disgusting and devastating.

A great book about a girl’s emotional journey into adulthood.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 4 stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

The Art of Being Normal Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleWhat ‘The Art of Being Normal’ brought to the table was a level of realism that transgendered youth face depicted really well. Identity and coming out, along with a plethora of other aspects were handled gracefully within the narrative. It was such an enjoyable read for me.

Told with alternating P.O.V’s, it begins with David, the bullied outsider. I like how this character dealt with gender identity intelligently. Research. Though this is only the beginning of David’s journey. It should have been noted somewhere that not all trans know they were born in the wrong body at an early age – sometimes it’s an evolution from something not feeling quite right before arriving at the at conclusion of being transgendered (and involved diagnosis from a professional). I felt like it glazed over some important mechanics in the transgendered experience for the sake of story. Though David was a little frustrating for me at times, I was able to relate and enjoyed a different view of the world at large.

Our second narrator, Leo is an all-around good guy. I enjoyed his strength and found his stand-offishness true to character. However, I guessed the plot twist involving his story from the beginning. Kind of deflated my enjoyment a little. Loved Leo. His story, his mannerisms. And it was great to see a separation in narrative styles with the switching POV’s – Lisa Williamson did a fantastic job with each of their voices.

Begrudgingly I admit it lacked a personal engagement from me, something intangible about the characters of David and Leo held me back from truly believing in them. I also had an issue with how they were obliged to get along – it felt forced and artificial.

It’s all a very “nice’ depiction of a transgendered experience – and I use that term hesitantly – because some youth experience so much more darkness and hardship. But that is too serious for what is meant to be a supportive, uplifting, and positive story about trying to live your truth.

Proud to have ‘The Art of Being Normal’ in my library, it has been the most grounded story that has dealt with sexual identity in such a point-blank style to date. Refreshing.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 4 stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

wilful-machines-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisle In a sci-fi future at a boarding school (reminding me a little of Harry Potter) with robots and conspiracies – totally had me engrossed.

Lee, our “Walk-In” protagonist (well closeted gay teen,) coming to terms with living up to his family’s expectations, watched everywhere he goes by cameras or security, it’s no wonder he’s attempted suicide… but that’s all in the past. He’s just trying to get by. I was interested from the first page and read this book in one sitting. We see Lee’s character develop slowly throughout the storyline and I identified with his insecurities, having to live up to an image and the pressures of responsibility.

When a new student starts at Inverness Prep, Nico, the dreamboat all the girls swoon over – so does Lee. And luck would have it, Nico seems interested in Lee too. If only Lee weren’t a “Walk-in.” Nico is a little wacky, messy, and loves to sprout lines from Shakespeare, so it’s not like he fits into any model jock trope. I liked how their friendship develops and how each of their trust is tested in the story.

There is a fair amount of predictability for the novel, but I think it’s on purpose, because the main point of the novel isn’t what happens, but the questions it raises. I’d guessed the major plot points early on, but still got a lot of surprises along the way.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 4 and a half stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads from 2016 Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

not-your-sidekick-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisle There is a lot of fun to be had reading this book. ‘Not Your Sidekick’ is choc-full of superheroes, has a diverse cast, and some plot twists that come out of nowhere. Learning about a dystopian earth in the future suffering affects from a solar flare, and humans presenting powers (called meta-humans) run by the government as superheroes. That’s a pretty cool premise.

The first half of the book is a little slow, but still compelling. Mixed with a lot of humour and comic book styled tales, it didn’t bore me at any point. Lee’s writing style is witty and fresh, tapping into the psyche of a sullen confused teen expertly.

If the mention of super heroes hasn’t tipped you off – I’ll tell it to you straight. Expect campy goodness. Cheese and moments that are way over the top. It comes part and parcel with this genre.

Our protagonist, Jessica Tran, an Asian bisexual high school student, with just the right mix of confusion, vulnerability and sarcasm to keep me glued to the page. I did find however, due to a few things in the storyline, she can come across as a little dumb at moments – which doesn’t work well with the fact she performs well at school and her new job. I think the author needs to revise that plot point so Jessica doesn’t appear so stupid. Her anxiety over approaching her crush was spot on – I felt all the angst right along there with her. The addition to a great relationship with her parents (also meta-humans) and two best friends, was refreshing. There was no “poor me I’ve suffered so much“ going on with Jessica. She was just a regular insecure teen trying to find her place in the world.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 3 and a half stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA James Crawford has been fearless when writing this trilogy, not fading away from carnage and devastation, and his writing has gotten better with each installment. With the final book prolific in the grandiose battle and wrapped up the trilogy expertly. This guy really knows how to write a climactic ending.

I did get a little disappointed with having precedence set up with ‘Caleo’ and ‘Jack’ being each from their perspectives respectively, to ‘Nolan’ told in multiple perspective. And I didn’t get to live inside Nolan’s head for as long as I wanted to. We got snippets of his backstory, but did not get to dwell in the present, fathom out motivations and feelings with him as we did the other main characters in the preludes. So I felt a little cheated.

I admit having some issues with the writing style and plot in each of the books, but is marathoned you’ll get a much better experience. A fun addition to my library.

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 3 and a half stars by Casey Carlisle

Top GLBT Reads for 2016 Rainbow Banner by Casey Carlisle

I’m finding a lot to relate to in this genre. The diversity is growing in terms of sexuality and gender identity in new releases starting to add new narratives in the market. It taps into that outsider and minority feeling we all get at some point in our lives – which is why these titles, and movie like the X-Men franchise are so popular. I look forward to discovering some more great GLBTQIA+ titles this year.

Happy reading!

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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.

Dealing with Girl Hate in Literature and Real Life

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An observation pulled from some of my favorite novels, and experiences from my own life, shows there seems to be a lot of girl hate. Bullying. Insecurity. And there seems to be little justification behind the sudden backlash of slurs. Some chalk it up to puberty or jealousy. But it has continued through all aspects of my life, and in many genres of books. I thought I comment on some of the more prominent forms that I’ve experienced.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-08-by-casey-carlisleEven if someone is dealing-with-girlhate-pic-03-by-casey-carlislestruggling with their size, it doesn’t diminish them as a person. In Victorian times having a little extra padding meant you came from wealth because you could afford food. Now it seems packing a few extra pounds is displeasing to the eye. Makes you unattractive. All this PhotoShop re-touching and refusal of fashion designers to manufacture larger sizes, or even display their couture on models over a size 0. Have we became so hateful towards female biology? It is a natural state for girls to carry more body fat as they get older. It has nothing to do with being unhealthy or unattractive, it’s a natural cycle of hormones and metabolism. I read this kind of hate and bullying in books too, though I’m glad that we are starting to see a movement against this stereotype (on television too) Main characters who aren’t rail-thin are starting to pop up in the mainstream. I hope this trend continues and helps to stamp out body shaming, we should be sisters in arms, not tearing each other down with fickle, narcissistic attacks.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-09-by-casey-carlisle dealing-with-girlhate-pic-04-by-casey-carlisleAnd may other reasons. But when did having an opinion, indulging in free speech, make someone so awful? World leaders, innovators, business owners, have all struggled with nasty slurs because they stick to their guns. I actually find it attractive, if someone is resolute in their beliefs. Mental strength and intelligence breeds a fertile environment for growth. These days we see female characters embracing the term. Proud to wear the mantle of bitch. Because it portrays power. It’s not quite free of a negative image, but it’s starting to evolve into something like #girlboss instead of some foul mouth wench with nothing but negative comments spewing from her mouth.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-10-by-casey-carlisledealing-with-girlhate-pic-05-by-casey-carlisleOr maybe she is not afraid of her own sexuality. And the sad thing is, being called a virgin can be just as derogatory. We really can’t win… Slut shaming seems to be more present in YA than other genres, girls use it to jostle for power in their peer groups, to be the alpha chick who is not to be trifled with or she’ll tear you down. There is still such a stigma with sex through the teen years, and I really wish it could be approached responsibility rather than reinforcing negative views on sex and sexuality. The trend is starting to get addressed on the television screens, but I’ve yet to read much about it in the novels from my shelves. Yes, bullying is attacked in some, but slut shaming tends to be a character trait or a storytelling device. This leads on to another element I’ve personally experienced:

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-11-by-casey-carlisledealing-with-girlhate-pic-06-by-casey-carlisleI’m five foot eight inches, so sit on the tall end of the scale, and have been called tranny or drag queen by girls in clubs as I’m walking by, or behind my back. Since when is being tall a failing – these slim models gracing our magazines are the same height – it’s just another juvenile hate-filled slur women use to make them feel good about themselves. I tend to see this trend reversed in literature. Girls are described as Amazonian, and strong, warrior-like. Someone to aspire to. This certainly does not translate to real life. I may get a rare “You’ve got lovely long legs” almost hinting that I use them to ensnare men like some black widow spider. Getting called ‘tranny’ is a big pet hate of mine, it’s doubly offensive. It’s said with the intention to make you feel less than a natural born woman, clumsy and unnatural. Which I find preposterous! I know some transgendered women and they are gorgeous, successful, intelligent, and talented women. It’s wonderful to see many book titles being released starring diverse characters on identity and sexuality. They are diffusing these kind of prejudices and hopefully will get rid of this kind of discrimination and bullying for good.

There are so many other aspects bullies latch on to, or make up, to lash out with words. You have short hair, you must be a lesbian. You like sports, or never wear dresses… You wear glasses, or have braces – metal head. Don’t get me started on being called a ginger or bluey because I have red hair. It’s pitiful to be at the blunt end of girl hate. And bullies will always find something. I’m glad to see it getting reduced in my reading choices. Readers are becoming more intelligent, more discerning in their purchase decisions when at the checkout. So it is forcing authors to develop interesting, complex and diverse characters. Tackle more politically aware subject matter and have a social conscience. Granted, it won’t stomp out bad behavior, but it is shining a light on it and forcing nasty characters to explain themselves… and that’s something I really like.

dealing-with-girlhate-pic-12-by-casey-carlisleSheesh! A dealing-with-girlhate-pic-07-by-casey-carlislegenuinely gorgeous girl can be reduced to her physical appearance. I’ve heard it said with malice many times in real life. Signalling that the target has the mental capacity of an ape – or that she uses sexuality to get what she wants. She can’t also be a kind and loving person, or a rocket scientist. No. She can’t possible have it all. There is nothing to tear her down with so let’s make perfection a failing… oh please! Women are put on pedestal frequently in books, and having all these attributes is praised, idolized even. But we see plenty of girl hate in real life. But this can also be a negative, because it reduces the character to a two-dimensional caricature.

Women, girls, PEOPLE, are complex creatures. We have motivations, hidden depths. Why do we assume so little at first glance? Why look for the hate? Why not start looking or the amazing?

I’m beginning to find novels coming out with some fantastic female friendships, especially in YA. It’s showing the full range of a character and not reducing a female to a trope or stereotype. It gives me hope that we’ll be able to reduce the amount of girl hate out there. Nasty trolls posting awful comments online, bullying, it feeds girls insecurities and can lead to feeling shame unnecessarily, fearing for your personal safety, depression, behaviors like cutting and even suicide. So let’s put a stop to girl hate and become sisters instead.

Personally, looking back over my life, I’ve been on both sides of the fence in many of these types of behavior. But thankfully, through my experiences and reading habits, I’m identifying potentially harmful behavior and words, and grow into a better version of myself.

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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 – ‘Not Your Sidekick’ (#1 Sidekick Squad) by C.B. Lee

Comic book heroes that leap from the page.

Not Your Sidekick Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 262

From Goodreads:

Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether. 

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There is a lot of fun to be had reading this book. ‘Not Your Sidekick’ is choc-full of superheroes, has a diverse cast, and some plot twists that come out of nowhere. Learning about a dystopian earth in the future suffering affects from a solar flare, and humans presenting powers (called meta-humans) run by the government as superheroes. That’s a pretty cool premise.

The first half of the book is a little slow, but still compelling. Mixed with a lot of humour and comic book styled tales, it didn’t bore me at any point. Lee’s writing style is witty and fresh, tapping into the psyche of a sullen confused teen expertly.

If the mention of super heroes hasn’t tipped you off – I’ll tell it to you straight. Expect campy goodness. Cheese and moments that are way over the top. It comes part and parcel with this genre.

not-your-sidekick-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleOur protagonist, Jessica Tran, an Asian bisexual high school student, with just the right mix of confusion, vulnerability and sarcasm to keep me glued to the page. I did find however, due to a few things in the storyline, she can come across as a little dumb at moments – which doesn’t work well with the fact she performs well at school and her new job. I think the author needs to revise that plot point so Jessica doesn’t appear so stupid. Her anxiety over approaching her crush was spot on – I felt all the angst right along there with her. The addition to a great relationship with her parents (also meta-humans) and two best friends, was refreshing. There was no “poor me I’ve suffered so much“ going on with Jessica. She was just a regular insecure teen trying to find her place in the world.

I wanted a bit more of Jessica’s friends, Emma and Bells in the first half. For such a great relationship and how they clicked together (and their humour) I found myself wishing for more of the trio. We hardly get to know a lot about them. Here’s hoping more is uncovered in the sequel/s.

Abby was an interesting character – the supposed ‘golden girl’ in Jessica’s eyes, but at the same time being completely mysterious and aloof. That is a difficult combination to pull off. I guess I would’ve like to see a bit more conflict, have this perception Jess has of her to be challenged more. I like a transformation story arc. As this relationship was the pin that the plot revolved around, it was nice and easy… which is fine, but me likes tension in my main characters. 😉

Lee also manages to deconstruct some tropes in this novel – and rightly so, she is tackling some newish ground with her bisexual main character. It’s not widely prominent in YA and adds a freshness to the storytelling. Her perspective and switching up of stereotypical characters adds that zing that I couldn’t get enough of. It was so pleasant not to be fed those same old types of characters that dominate the YA market.

There are so many undertones in this book which are truly marvellous – but I feel it would do a disservice to discuss them in full in a review, because the book is meant to be a light-hearted, fun read. So I’ll let you garner from the book your own versions of social awareness and hidden messages.

While some aspects of the story line are so predicable it’s painful (one in particular was dragged out so long it became annoying,) others took me completely by surprise. And in a good way. It adds a lot of complexity by the end of the novel and leaves you hanging out for the next instalment. At this stage the second book ‘Not You Villain’ has a release date of 2017; let’s hope it’s in the first half of the year otherwise I may develop an ulcer… or a stalking habit… yet Miss Lee I might hunt you down and annoy the crap out of you until ‘Not Your Villain’ hits the shelves (in the nicest way possible, of course.)

Not your Sidekick’ is engaging, light hearted and has hidden depths. Definitely recommend for the aspect of diversity and the fun ride that goes a long with them.

Overall feeling: Wee!

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

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

#bookporn

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Rainbow reads I purchased in October. Some steamy, some contemporary. Can’t wait to start ‘Not Your Sidekick’ – think I’ll start with that one first.

Diversity! Gay male protagonist. Bisexual protagonist. Lesbian Protagonist.

Book Review – ‘You Know Me Well’ by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

A contrary contemporary.

You Know Me Well Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.  

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This is by far my favourite book penned by David Levithan to date. I like his novels, they have interesting characters, a gay narrative, build great relationships and end in some poignant positive note. ‘You Know Me Well’ was all that and more. I will be investigating some of Nina LaCour’s titles as well and see if they stack up.

We get a young teen coming of age, laced with edgy sarcastic humour. But this time the portrayal felt more realistic to me than in many of Levithan’s other titles. And just when I was sure the direction the book would take – it shot off on a tangent. I wasn’t expecting the big Pride fest either. A little cheesy, a little overdone gayness, but had an easy flow and captured my interest from the get go – I could barely put it down. Not that its compelling, rather more engaging and heart-warming. I connected with Mark and Kate more than I have with any of the cast in Levithan’s previous novels. And it was great to have a lesbian perspective. Most of his books have been dominated with a gay male perspective – it was great to see more than one gender represented.

you-know-me-well-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleMark is an all American boy in love with his best friend. I like how he finds his sense of adventure, but never knows his destination. Kate was interesting, sensitive, yet with a strong sense of who she was. She just needed the confidence to say it out loud. To go for what she wants. And their relationship was beautiful. Instead of instalove, it took the shape of instafriends… and I have experienced that single moment of attraction to someone who has become a life-long friend. I understand the connection and feeling, and haven’t seen it represented so succinctly in a book before.

We also get a great supportive cast, each with their own path.

Honestly, it was touching to read a depiction of a friendship between gay and lesbian teens – it’s not something I see represented a lot in literature – or in real life. In the GLBT community there seems to be a segregation and cliques. It’s more common to see a gay man and his female best friend in this genre.

Overall fantastic tension and angst – almost palpable. And a sensible (happy) ending. This kind of light-hearted, pleasant read is what keeps me coming back to YA contemporary when I need a lift and an afternoon in the sunroom reading.

Overall feeling: Friendship hug!

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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

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