Book Review – ‘Maybe This Time’ by Kasie West

Special events shine a spotlight on love.

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

No. of pages: 368

From Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall feeling: Halleluiah!

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Maybe This Time Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Squash, Stitches, and a Scared Doctor

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That one time I got into the squash championships, almost lost an eye and threatened my doctor.

Not only was I a big old nerd when I was in high school, but I was also a bit of a tomboy. And growing up in the ‘80’s, living in a small dustbowl of a town in the middle of the Australian desert, you need to make your own fun lest you go insane, turn to drink, or think it’s a great idea to build a house out of recycled tin cans. That, and my hyperactive constitution, my parents forced me into as many activities as they could because I’d probably burn down the house experimenting with my Chemistry Set. (Though I did burn down the neighbour’s car once – but that’s another story.)

So I was signed up for T-ball and swimming as a kid, but then graduated to horse riding and squash. The latter I got pretty good at, and while vying for the Town’s Junior Squash Championship, at a tied match point… I know this is the tense stuff of cinematic legend, and I am not embellishing… my partner was about to miss the ball and I’d become the victor! But as luck would have it, he decided to run backwards and leap into the air to spike the little black ball. However, in his back swing he managed to collect my eye.

My eye! Argh, I was scarred for life and probably blind. That effer! I’m meant to win this game. And you’re not meant to hit girls! Squash is a non-contact sport!

That’s exactly what ran through my head the seconds before the world went black and white noise filled my ears.

When the world came rushing back, my eyes wouldn’t open, but I could feel lots of warm stickiness running through my fingers. It’s still a bit fuzzy, even to this day about what happened. A lot of people were talking at me. Guiding me. A cold wet cloth pushed to my face. I was in the car one moment. And the next at the doctor’s surgery. Sometime in the car my face muscles had unclenched and I was able to open the unaffected eye.

There was a lot of blood. A hell of a lot of blood. I panicked, thinking I must be holding my eyeball in my skull. My skin must have been half ripped from my face. This is not a good place to be. I guess it looked bad enough to get to see a doctor immediately, which turned out to be a tiny, soft spoken Asian man. I’m no wilting flower, tall, fit, and vocal. This medical professional only came up to my armpit, but Mum assured me he was the best doctor to help. I was terrified. I mean, my eye!

Squash, Stitches and a Scared Doctor Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleThe worst part was the Doctor told I’d need stitches. And I am more needle-phobic than the regular person. But practically crushing Mum’s fingers in a death grip, I had to suck it up and suffer through the procedure. Only, at the worst possible moment I opened my eye to see a giant needle coming straight toward my eye. Having it so close, it looked like a nuclear missile with a metal pike about to slam into my head. And I don’t care how okay you are with needles, wave something in front of your vision, and anyone would flinch. My reaction was to push the doctor across the room screaming “Touch me with that thing and I’ll deck you.” I was such the well-bred young lady.

I don’t know how she did it – maybe some Mamma Bear determination – but Mum calmed and encouraged the skittish doctor, and despite being half my size, splayed her body over me and pinned me to the operating chair, directing the doctor to “Just do it.” A completely different take on the Nike catch phrase.

I survived. My eye hadn’t fallen out. But I did lose the squash game. Junior Champ Runner-up. And a lovely scar that took seven stitches to mend. Nearly invisible in the crease of my eye. A gnarly black eye, that when I returned to school caused my partner to get harassed no end. *grins evilly*

When the eye completely healed I’m not sure if I was relieved at how invisible the scar was, or disappointed that physical proof of my ordeal was so miniscule. The guy who won the Junior Championship never spoke to me again. In fact, he avoided me like the plague. And after that my parents stopped trying to force me into activities. I returned to my nerdy ways and avoided needles with even more vehemence.

I don’t know what happened to the kind Asian Doctor, maybe I rattled him so much he quit the Practice and moved to a place where young girls didn’t threaten to bash him into a bloody pulp. Or my photo is on the wall behind the receptionist’s desk with the words ‘Banned For Life’ in big red letters. I never got to thank him. I waited a week longer than necessary to get the stitches removed – because you know – terrified. But in the end a portly nurse in a pale blue uniform removed them by distracting me in conversation, saying she was just cleaning the area before starting… and the next moment – all done.

And that’s the story of how this geek-jock lost the Alice Springs Junior Squash Championships sometime in the ‘80’s and managed to get a doctor cowering in a corner.

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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 – ‘The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love’ by Sarvenaz Tash

Fanboys, fretting and fabulousness.

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Archie and Veronica. Althena and Noth.…Graham and Roxy?
Graham met his best friend, Roxy, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.

But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.

When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be…even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones. 

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Maybe because it was all about geek culture. Or that it’s been a while since I’ve read a contemporary. Maybe it was about falling in love with your best friend. Or maybe because it was all about some fun, complex characters… ‘The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love’ is everything I want in a contemporary in fell in instant lust with this story.

I must admit, I bought this on the recommendation of another book blogger. It sounded cute and interesting – and while it proved to be just that, I wasn’t compelled to start reading it as soon as it arrived in the mail. I picked it up after completing a previous disappointing title and was hinkering for a quick, happy contemporary.

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love’ really surprised me. It was instalove in real life. And I mean that in a good way… It was like a re-telling of something that happened to me going through those awkward years in high school.

The cast of characters are anything but adorable. I wanted them all to be my best of friends. Our protagonist, Graham and his bestie, Roxanna worked together tirelessly creating their own comic book, swooned over fan fic and lived in Znation.com chatrooms (a fansite for their favourite comic series.) That aside, they had a collection of great friends and performed well at school. There was no bullying culture, no heavy load of pressure, and even the teen angst was at a tolerable level (even if I like some teen angst.) All of this let the characters personalities shine and gave the narrative written from Graham’s point of view a breezy quality. It really lets you inside his head and the discover the world of NYCC (New York Comic Con) through his experiences. Talk about geeking out.

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The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love’ also had a subtle way of deconstructing its characters and preconceived ideas, as it does about the world the cast experiences NYCC. This is probably one of the stealthier aspects to the novel, where other symbolism may stand up front and centre, and blatantly pondered over by Graham.

I would have liked to have gotten some more wit or humour. It is discussed at several points in the story how funny Graham and Roxy are in their joint comic creation. And there are amusing points in the novel too, but I was hoping for more of their humour to spill in the narrative, and not some elusive skill we never got to experience. That, and I also wanted to have the emotional dilemmas turned up a notch. The framework was there, but Graham’s reaction felt a little tranquilized. (Maybe it’s a guy thing?) But these small points are what drew me back from awarding a perfect rating.

Female representation here is wonderful. They all have soft edges, but also dominant and fearless, where others are innocent or even uncertain. There was so much to be thankful for where stereotypes had been avoided. I think that’s is why I’ve rated this book so highly.

Aggressively recommend this book – it’s fun and not all too long, has an uplifting story and chock-full of nerdy goodness.

Overall feeling: This was simply wonderful.

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© 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.

Casey and the Introverts.

Sounds like a cool band name, when in fact it describes my experience working an IT firm.

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I had the great opportunity to temp at a world leading IT firm, a friendly and nurturing environment, social, and possessing an environmental consciousness and brilliant resources. Another first for me, and I dove in head first ready for the challenge. The job role itself was easy, but it was the ‘nerd culture’ that caught me unexpectedly… and I count myself as a big nerd!

In the first month, barely anyone looked up from their computer screens to make eye contact on an open-plan floor of around 200 workstations. If I approached, it was the soft tones that had me leaning in to ask ‘Sorry, can you repeat that?’ Most everyone was timid and focused on their monitor display. My personality is very social, all smiles and laughs, I like to wear bold colours and big earrings, and you will always find me in high heels. With bright red hair and a height of 5’8” I was designed to stick out – so I embrace it. Trying to hide or blend in only results in standing out even more: I end up looking awkward and uncomfortable.

In these beginning weeks the chief method of contact was IM, even though they were sitting two desks away. My co-workers, fiercely shy, and not something I am used to dealing with en masse. Was this towering ginger really that imposing?  I was perplexed at their refusal to approach my desk and ask me face to face. I’d occasionally do a mirror check to ensure there wasn’t anything stuck in my teeth that was scaring everyone away.

Like High School everyone was dressed in the same uniform – trousers, business shirts and v-neck sweaters with nary a hair product in sight. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not passing judgment on their appearance, but from working in creative fields for so long, this it was quite a juxtaposition. My co-workers were astoundingly intelligent and once I had broken the ice and gotten to know them all – also hilarious…I just needed time to get to know them, and for them to acclimate to my loud personality.

ImageA running joke on our floor was that my presence was like that of the character Lucy Liu portrayed in Charlies Angels infiltrating a computer company: a mash up of dominatrix and efficiency expert. Its funny how other people see you; I was worried I kept interrupting important work with my menial administration requests.

I love temping, meeting new people, and experiencing different industries. The social dynamics in each workplace always surprises me: there is always something new, something exciting. But I have discovered that since the days wandering the halls of my Secondary College, the fully-fledged nerd status has waned. I’m going to have to turn in my membership card and be content to use a guest pass every now and then.

By the end of my stay at this workplace I’d celebrated Star Wars day; and learnt to yowl like Chewbacca; partook in cosplay; and discussed the pros and cons of integrating your home network to make your abode a sort of smart house. I miss working there; it had me hinkering for the days teaching Year 11 and 12’s.

It is great to see that nerd power is still alive and kicking… and slowly leading the world into a new era of technology.

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© 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.