Book Review – ‘The Friend Scheme’ by Cale Dietrich

The Sopranos with queer protagonists.

Genre: YA, Thriller, Contemporary, Romance, LGBTIA+

No. of pages: 346

High schooler Matt’s father is rich, powerful, and seemingly untouchable—a criminal with high hopes that his son will follow in his footsteps. Matt’s older brother Luke seems poised to do just that, with a bevy of hot girls in tow. But Matt has other ambitions—and attractions.

And attraction sometimes doesn’t allow for good judgement. Matt wouldn’t have guessed that when he makes a new friend, one who is also carrying a secret. The boys’ connection turns romantic, a first for both. Now Matt must decide if he can ever do the impossible and come clean about who he really is, and who he is meant to love.

The Friend Scheme’ brought all the angst and coming out vibes alive on the page. A mob family and a masculine and toxic environment don’t make the best place when Matt starts having feelings for another boy. But Matt is used to keeping secrets – but is it time to start revealing truths in order to get close to Jason… it’s a big decision and Matt with have to dig deep to find the courage if he wants to find love.

There was something about this though that kept me from being fully absorbed into the story; and it took me a while afterwards reflecting on the book to pinpoint what it was… Matt is a member of a criminal family, and this involves murder, a protection racket, and a war with competing family over controlling parts of the city (who deal in drugs). It was how Matt seems to have morals and does not want to be a part of this lifestyle, and yet the hard questions about the consequences, beliefs and integrity of these criminal actions aren’t really addressed. They are mostly in the background or ignored in favour of Matt dealing with his friendships. I felt Matt was so isolated from the reality of his families actions, from the real world that it kept something inside me squirming. I guess I was indignant and wanted him to scream from the rooftops about all the injustice. That by his actions he is complicit in all the corruption and illegal activity.

You can say that he is effectively innocent, and that he doesn’t know any different having grown up in that environment, but I just feel his character is painted in a way that is contra to that life. He was too passive. And in that vein ‘The Friend Scheme’ felt like it was a bit of a fantasy scenario for the sake of the romance.

Even love interest Jason is some too-perfect hunky guy that is chasing after Matt.

All of this does bring up some important themes about organised crime and how Matt is practically held hostage through loyalty, and maybe even the threat of death. There is also a lot of toxic masculinity woven into the family culture that prevented me from really getting into ‘The Friend Scheme,’ half the time I wanted to reach into the book and either throttle or swing an uppercut at the ignorant cast.

All of these things felt a bit triggering about the type of discrimination gay youth have faced.

There is some lovely character development for Matt, but as I mentioned, his role felt passive; this story was so focused on the romance that I felt like his character was done a bit of a disservice. He could have been given a greater opportunity for growth, forming stronger ideals in the face of the extreme challenges his family posed. Plus there was a bit of that privileged white man thing going on – and that privilege, the money they have, was all blackmailed from hard-working family businesses. It’s not easy to deduce that ‘The Friend Scheme’ really had me standing on the soapbox over so many injustices and ignored issues.

I will say that Cale Dietrich has such an endearing writing style, it shows vulnerability and really drags out the feels for the protagonist. I had several moments where my eyes filled with water or I got pins and needles. There are some great little plot twists that kept me engaged too. They weren’t completely a surprise, but definitely a delight.

I was a little conflicted about the attitude of sex around our protagonist. I like how it is sex-positive and safe in nature, but it didn’t feel like it was coming from a built up place of love and affection; more a casual lusty encounter – which for first times, and the angst that was built up didn’t quite ring true for me. Especially for such a romance-centric storyline.

This was a fun read, I would have liked to seen Cale Dietrich tackle some of the heavier issues presented in the narrative through Matts eyes, but other than that it reads like a cute wish-fulfilment scenario that I would happily recommend.

Overall feeling: *bats eyelashes*

© Casey Carlisle 2023. 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 – ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ by Riley Redgate

Love the themes and experiment in formatting but the delivery was lacking.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, LGBT

No. of pages: 343

From Goodreads:

Seven students. Seven (deadly) sins. One secret.

Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.


I really struggled with this novel, and it’s doubly disappointing because I really loved all her other title. The pacing as just so slow. I put the book down repeatedly due to lack of interest. It sort of picked up in the second half, but I still didn’t get that hook I was hoping for. I even felt the amazing writing style that I have come to expect had dimmed significantly.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe formatting of the novel also threw me off big time.

I loved the diverse cast, the concept of the seven deadly sins as a theme for each characters struggle. The characters were beautifully flawed and realistic, but I struggled to relate to, and care about any of them. I don’t understand how I was so detached? Maybe the fact we were dealing with so many big issues – slander, drug dealing, drug use, bullying, abuse of power, suggested statutory rape, divorce, abandonment, alcoholism, autism, gender identity, sexual orientation, and so on – it was a bit much to stomach from such a small group of high schoolers. The teacher in me arcs up and struggles to swallow the narrative. I guess it’s a good thing to have a strong reaction to the subject matter. Like I said, I loved the premise of ‘Seven Ways We Lie,’ the cast are amazing… but the uber-slow pacing just about did me in.

With run on sentences and dialogue in chapters I found difficult to read, and prose driven narration in others ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ is a great experiment in presenting tone in the layout of words. I can appreciate the attempt, but wasn’t sold on delivery.

I had given up on predicting the novel, I was just focusing on finishing it. Granted the last third is much more palatable, and that benchmark Redgate writing style started to shine through, but it was too little too late for me.

I hate to say it, but ‘Seven Ways We Lie’ was a big flop for me.

Maybe it was also because we follow so many perspectives?

Overall feeling: Oh no.

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Seven Ways We Lie Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle


© 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 – ‘Perihelion Summer’ by Greg Egan

Celestial bodies creating global panic.

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction,

No. of pages: 224

From Goodreads:

Taraxippus is coming: a black hole one tenth the mass of the sun is about to enter the solar system.

Matt and his friends are taking no chances. They board a mobile aquaculture rig, the Mandjet, self-sustaining in food, power and fresh water, and decide to sit out the encounter off-shore. As Taraxippus draws nearer, new observations throw the original predictions for its trajectory into doubt, and by the time it leaves the solar system, the conditions of life across the globe will be changed forever.


This is more for the hard science fiction fans. Greg Egan has a distinct sophistication about his writing style and does not shy away from in-depth science and technology or theories. I really appreciated this type of narration, I like getting into the nuts and bolts of things. One glaring aspect that really stood out to me was the lack of building a protagonist the reader can connect with. I had a lot of difficulty even caring what was going on with Matt until the last third of the novella. And given the short length of this book, that is not a good thing. Additionally, whether due to the length, or the writing style, we don’t get a lot of character development either. But that is about the worst I had in opinion for ‘Perihelion Summer.’

The concept – black holes travelling through our solar system, altering the status quo and what it means for life on Earth is pretty amazing. That’s what got me hooked to purchase this novel in the first place. While I love the technicality in tone, the more mature narration, it felt a little stale. Being scientific and including all the data/mythology for your story can be distancing and isolating for a reader. Consequently for the first half I just kept wandering when something was going to happen for the character. I mean we were facing a potential extinction level event, our protagonist Matt surviving the catastrophe on a floating fish farm, aiding refugees, and I was bored. I wanted a stronger emotional connection, some motivation wrapped up in passion. We didn’t get any of that until close to the end when Matt rushed to rescue his family. Quite frankly, this novella would have packed a bigger punch if it was half the length.

Our protagonist Matt is determined and intelligent, and apart from facing a number of challenges, I don’t think he really changed throughout the entirety of ‘Perihelion Summer.’ The moment the novel ends on shows a moment of beginning down that road – but that’s it. The end.

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

We get a cast of different races, refugees, pirates, raging seas. None of these are really fleshed out too much. Everything felt like a device to drive the central plot forward. I guess that is another aspect as to why the novella felt a little state: there weren’t enough fleshed out characters to support the story… more chances for the reader to make an emotional connection.

The concept and world building are excellent, the basics of storytelling structure and character development were not. Greg Egan’s forte is in short stories, so I guess expecting the full minutiae of novel writing was overambitious of me. ‘Perihelion Summer’ reads like a snap shot, the middle part of a novel. You get some resolution and feel like the story is finished, and it’s satisfying enough, but I just needed more.

The pacing is definitely off for the first half – it feels really slow. And again, given its length, ‘Perihelion Summer’ should of had a rip-roaring pace given the technical tone, content, and format. The last third especially was incredible and totally redeemed this novella in my eyes. I can see some serious writing chop there. I can’t really comment on predictability, there was no clear objective set at the start, it was more a recounting of a number of incidents from a heroes journey.

I think I could only recommend this to fans of shorter hard science fiction. If you don’t understand the basics of science, biology, physics, astrophysics, you may be constantly looking things up to make sense of casual sentences. The writing style is distinctly masculine, and sparse. It’s more a case of being a fan of Greg Egan, or loving this niche demographic. But ‘Perihelion Summer’ would be a good novella to dip you toe in the waters of hard sci-fi to see if it’s something you like before tackling a full-length novel.

Overall feeling: …*computing… computing…*

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Perihelion Summer Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle


© 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 – ‘The Night We Said Yes’ by Lauren Gibaldi

… but I think I’ll say no.

The Night We Said Yes Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 294

From Goodreads:

Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without any more distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she’s lived her entire life. 

But Matt—the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town—was never part of that plan.

And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying “yes” to every crazy, fun thing they could think of.

Then Matt abruptly left town, and he broke not only Ella’s heart but those of their best friends, too. So when he shows up a year later with a plan of his own—to relive the night that brought them together—Ella isn’t sure whether Matt’s worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future. 


I picked up ‘The Night We Said Yes’ solely due to the hype it had been receiving on the blogosphere, the gorgeous cover, and a catchy blurb…

Though honestly, by the halfway point I was bored. The reasons behind Matt (the love interest) moving away had me intrigued, and the dual narrative from the present, alternated with that from a year ago and added interest, but the characters came across as bland and silly. I was still waiting to be gripped by something.

The Night We Said Yes’ is a story about flawed characters. It’s well written, but on the whole, it’s a story that could be of any teenager… and that was just it… I felt like it was an anecdote from my past, or my friends past. There wasn’t anything extraordinary to grip me from this tale.

The teen drama was just so juvenile. The behaviour of the main characters was frustrating. And the storyline very, very simple. I wanted more complexity, more tension. The stakes for the protagonist, Ella, just didn’t seem that high. Maybe it was because I didn’t connect with the cast, or the plot.

It’s not a book I would bash for being poorly written or having sub-par construction – like I mentioned, its done well, but just not for me. It’s fairly short and easy to read in one sitting. I spread it over a few days, putting it down frequently due to boredom or annoyance. I think the younger end of the YA spectrum of readers would enjoy this more.

Overall this book felt a little – I hate to say it – bland. It is a cute contemporary, but there wasn’t anything about it that grabbed my attention, and I did not connect solidly with any of the characters or their predicament.

Overall feeling: ho-hum

The Night We Said Yes Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The Night We Said Yes Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle


© 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.

Wrap up – Flat-Out Trilogy by Jessica Park

From tear-jerking angst to cute romance.

Flat-Out Love Trilogy Wrap Up Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

This series was spread over two and a half years, mainly because the first novel dragged out all the feels and left me with a book hangover; the second did little to add to the story and left me with disappointment; and the third, though a great read, did not live up to the heights of the debut.

I jumped into ‘Flat-Out Love’ when it had just been released and there was plenty of hype. At that time I had not read a novel dealing with grief and loss or mental disorders. The romance was unique for me as well. My reading habits were steeped in Adventure, Science Fiction and Horror; so this contemporary felt like something amazing and new, opening up a world in a new genre. As you can imagine I gave it a rave review, grabbed by the witty facebook status updates and Julie’s angst over Finn and Matt.

I immediately jumped online and ordered a copy of ‘Flat-Out Matt’ hoping for more Park goodness… it was in the era where ‘Midnight Sun’ from ‘Twilight’ Author Stephanie Meyer got leaked, and many authors were starting to release books of the same plotline, but from a different character’s perspective. After such a great high, I got a big dip. There wasn’t a lot of new content, no new insights, it was basically a recap of ‘Flat-Out Love.’

It took me another two years before I picked up the last title in this series from Park, the middle book had scared me off. But ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ managed to redeem the author somewhat in my eyes, although it was missing the wit and irony I had loved so much in the debut – and it took a little while to start liking the main character. There was also a watering down of angst and issues dealt with in ‘Flat-Out Love.’ It was in a word: charming. The great thing about it is that you get a jump six years into the future and get a snapshot of how things turned out from the first book.

Overall Park’s writing is great. It has a lyrical sophistication that will engross you. It suffers somewhat with long inner monologues, and sometimes, repetition of particular phrases. But all are engaging and she can really set a great pace, building to a climax that is emotionally messy and satisfying at the same time. ‘Flat-Out Love’ is clearly the best by a mile, and I would only recommend the other books in the series to hardcore fans. They all have elements of Christmas, the loss of a loved one, and learning to live with mental blocks/disorders.

I want to say the characters are kind of quirky – but not in a cute way – in a damaged way. Jessica Park has lost her shine for me as nothing has lived up to the first novel, which I highly recommend (you can skip the rest). I might be tempted to try some of her newer releases ‘Clear’ and the ‘Left Drowning’ series, but they aren’t anything I’m rushing out to purchase. With a great writing style, complex characters Park has a lot going for her writing, so maybe I’ll cave and read some more next year. Watch this space.


For individual reviews click on the links below:

Flat-Out Love’ –

Flat-Out Matt’ –

Flat-Out Celeste’

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.

Book Review – ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ by Jessica Park

Sometimes it takes trying to be someone else to find yourself.

Flat Out Celeste Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation.

But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe.

Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him.

Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love.  

Page border by Casey Carlisle

I read the previous novels in this series, ‘Flat-Out Love’ and ‘Flat-Out Matt’ around two years ago, and ultimately lost my momentum with this collection from Jessica Park. The debut was draining – in a good way – all the feels from Julie’s story left me in a book coma for a few days. Then ‘Flat-Out Matt’ re-visited that dark place, as well as adding a touch of bland with a repetitive storyline we got in ‘Flat-Out Love’ this time told in Matt’s perspective. So I needed a break away from Julie and Matt’s world… and the narrative seemed to think so too, because ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ picks up years later. Celeste has grown up and is about to enter college. Don’t expect to get a lot of Julie and Matt in this novel, though we do get some more of their story. As the title suggests, we find out how Celeste has grown since Julie impacted on the Watkins family’s lives, and the challenges she now faces when more of her safety zone has to be left behind as she embarks on a tertiary education away from family and home.

flat-out-celeste-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleInitially some grammatical errors that should have been fixed within the first chapter immediately tarnished my excitement. And Celeste was cute when she was younger with her literal way of speaking. But now older, her speech pattern felt fake and a bit annoying. Especially with her naivety – she’s supposed to be intelligent, and being ignorant of a few things felt unrealistic and included as a hook or comedic device. I did not find it amusing.

After a few chapters in, the magic started coming back again. I began to like Celeste and got invested in her experiment to become a different, more likeable person. It has some light comical moments that did not rely on her lexicon. She transformed into an endearing character, if not a little insecure and lost.

We meet Justin, a goofy and adorable love interest with run-on sentences that reminds me of a few of my past boyfriends; so it wasn’t hard to instantly adore him. Around the middle of the book Justin starts calling Celeste the Snow Goddess, and I just about threw up in my mouth. His trying to be cheesy-romantic came off as tacky. But that was the only stand out moment that I experienced, the rest of the time he was nerd-girl-porn for me. Justin embodies patience, maturity, and clearly doesn’t like labels. He’s comfortable with who he is, and I just wish I could have a Justin all of my own in real life. *sigh*

Some parts of the book got a little waffly with rambling dialogue (which are character traits of both the leads, but after a while became slightly tiresome.) I felt we got a bit of a spoony ending – but it suited the characters and tone of the novel, so no complaints. Though, after the gut-wrenching climax of the predecessors in this franchise, I was expecting more. Overall ‘Flat-Out Celeste’ was enjoyable, more so than I expected. A great follow-up to end the trilogy that encapsulated some of the original charm with a softer tone. Recommended if you like a light contemporary with quirky characters.

Overall feeling: Sweet.

Flat Out Celeste Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.gif

Flat Out Celeste Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

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.

Book Review – Anything Could Happen by Wil Walton

Authentic as hell.

Anything Could Happen Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 288

From Goodreads:

When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen.

Tretch lives in a very small town where everybody’s in everybody else’s business. Which makes it hard for him to be in love with his straight best friend. For his part, Matt is completely oblivious to the way Tretch feels – and Tretch can’t tell whether that makes it better or worse.

The problem with living a lie is that the lie can slowly become your life. For Tretch, the problem isn’t just with Matt. His family has no idea who he really is and what he’s really thinking. The girl at the local bookstore has no clue how off-base her crush on him is. And the guy at school who’s a thorn in Tretch’s side doesn’t realize how close to the truth he’s hitting.

Tretch has spent a lot of time dancing alone in his room, but now he’s got to step outside his comfort zone and into the wider world. Because like love, a true self can rarely be contained. 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

An awkward tale that is so sweet. It rings true to how we can all feel a little out of step as we battle through high school and adolescence. Even though this is a contemporary romance, I felt it had more to do with finding a happy place with who you are – accepting yourself – rather than finally getting the girl or guy; or a coming out story. Even though it’s all of those things, the undercurrent with Anything Could Happen is like a resounding boom. I loved it. It’s upbeat, quirky, and written to a familiar soundtrack. Halcyon (by Ellie Goulding) is featured prominently, and you can hear the lyrics singing up at you from the pages.

Anything Could Happen Pic 04 by Casey CarlisleWith an easy to read narrative, this is one of my favourite GLBT books at the moment. I’ve read half a dozen in this genre in the past month to experience a protagonist apart from young heroines – and it’s been fun. Walton’s book is a positive story, much like a warm hug, but oozing realism. A totally authentic account of Tretch’s journey. I particularly loved how he danced without abandon in his room… so cute!

The cast (notably Tretch’s family) are beautiful and very prominent in the story line and not in the periphery like in much of YA. And while there were some surprises around their story, the plot is a little predictable. But in a good way.

I’d definitely recommend this book for an afternoons reading in the sun – something to leave a smile on your face.

Overall feeling: I’m happy to be me!

Anything Could Happen Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Anything Could Happen Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2015. 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 – Flat Out Matt

Flat Out Matt Book Review by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

Matt is a junior at MIT. He’s geeky, he’s witty, he’s brilliant.

And he’s also very, very stupid.

When beautiful, cool, insightful Julie moves in with Matt’s family, why (oh why!) does he pretend to be his absent brother Finn for her alleged benefit?

It seems harmless enough until her short-term stay becomes permanent. And until it snowballs into heart-squeezing insanity. And until he falls in love with Julie, and Julie falls in love with Finn.

But … Matt is the right one for her. If only he can make Julie see it. Without telling her the truth, without shattering them all. Particularly his fragile sister Celeste, who may need Julie the most.

You saw Matt through Julie’s eyes in Flat-Out Love. Now go deeper into Matt’s world in this Flat-Out Matt novella. Live his side of the story, break when his heart breaks, and fall for the unlikely hero all over again.

Take an emotional skydive for two prequel chapters and seven Flat-Out Love chapters retold from his perspective, and then land with a brand-new steamy finale chapter from Julie.

Page border by Casey Carlisle

After enjoying ‘Flat Out Love’ so much, I went into this with high expectations, only to find it is more of a companion/outtake/behind the scenes type of publication. It still had that quick wit and invoked the passion felt in its predecessor, but lacked the continuity of a story, jumping forward in chunks of time. There was also too much repetition. Experiencing events through Matt’s eyes did not uncover anything drastically new, or put an interesting spin on events.

Jessica Parks writing is flawless and I completely love her style, I just didn’t get into this so much. There is more adult content in this edition (unlike ‘Flat Out Love’) which does not detract from the story – in my opinion, it reflects Matt’s maturity and redeemed the book.

Although highly predictable I wish it could have explored more of the family’s issues and/or history and reveal more about their lives. Or even a new character introduced into the mix that Julie never got to meet. I was left feeling a little unfulfilled at the end of the story, but got a warm hug in re-connecting with one of my favourite literary couples.

I’d only recommend this to hard core fans of the first book in the series – it’s definitely not a stand alone.

Flat Out Matt Book Review Pic 2 by Casey Carlisle

  Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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 – Flat Out Love

Flat Out Love Book Cover by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it. When Julie’s off-campus housing falls through, her mother’s old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side… and the social skills of a spoon of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is  a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes.

And there’s that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That’s because Finn is travelling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, emails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie’s suddenly lonesome soul.

To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that… well… doesn’t quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.



Such a great summer read! Quick, extremely witty and mixes emails, facebook updates and the inner musing of the main character, Julie, to create a story that is delicate and compassionate.

Flat Out Love’ had a great pace and there was always something to captivate your attention, be it the mystery Julie was trying to uncover, hilarious one liners, or the awkward situations she found herself in the middle of. It’s a testament to rolling with the punches all the while keeping a sense of humour about you (because the alternative is to get stressed out – or even worse…)

Jessica Park is a pleasure to read, her style is uplifting even dealing with the darkest moments. I pretty much predicted the ending of the book after the first quarter, but it did not detract from the reading experience, because is was more about how the ending happened, not that it happened.



One of the best aspects of Park’s story is that she allowed the characters to unfold in their own time, letting the reader slowly get to know them – much like we do in real life. There was an issue I felt overlooked, in that Julie never questioned what was going on hard enough; but that has more to do with my bull-at-a-gate personality than the writing, and it was plausible, given that Julie was an introvert and not wanting to rock the boat with the tenuous atmosphere.

Matt and Finn are equally funny in their own particular styles, and found myself looking forward to status updates – they were sheer gold! It was hard not to fall in love with either. While their little sister Celeste was a hoot, again in her own way, much like the straight man in a television sit com, calling it like it is. She was intelligent and screaming out to be loved, there was no hope but instantly gravitating towards her adorableness.



Flat Out Love’ left me feeling great. A simple, brilliantly told story. There is much more depth to it than I first thought, Jessica Park really understands the psyche and her characters motivation. I’m adding the companion novel ‘Flat Out Matt’ to my reading list in hopes of more of Jessica-goodness. Highly recommend this for a light and fun read, or maybe as a break in between heavier novels.


Flat Out Love Book Review by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle    © Casey Carlisle 2014. 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.