Book Review – ‘Bookish and the Beast’ (#3 Once Upon a Con) by Ashley Poston

Another hilarious addition to the CONtemprary twists of fairy tales.

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT

No. of pages: 320

Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.

On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.

When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.

But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.

This was an adorably cute, saccharine sweet tale inspired by ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for the Once Upon a Con series. If you love to indulge in the fantasy, then this title will tickle you pink. Being based on a tale as old as time expect to read a lot of tropes, but tropes done in a fun campy sort of way. The narrative definitely lends to a quick read with chapters alternating in perspective between love interests/protagonists Rosie and Vance. I took a little longer to read ‘Bookish and the Beast’ to have a short break every now and then because of the cuteness overload. Especially if you’re not in that mindset…

Rosie is a small town geeky type dealing with grief after the loss of her mother. She and her mother shared a love of the Starfield extended universe – the films, the television show, and the novels released under the franchise, and finds comfort amongst the collection her mother had amassed… but then they hit financial hardship and had to sell off all the collectibles to keep their head above water. So Rosie is clambering, feeling the loss, trying to shape an uncertain future after she graduates high school. I love how Rose is unapologetically a book nerd, and sci-fi geek, and have friends and family equally invested in these things. I really feel a modern twist on the wallflower trope. I loved her growth in learning how to feel deserving of things, and go out and grab them.

Vance in our bad boy. Aggressive attitude, rude, media fodder, and exiled to a small town mansion to decompress and let the string of bad press cool so he doesn’t destroy his acting career. He’s been burned by so-called friends many times when they cash in on his fame; he’s like a punching bag for social media. He’s sarcastic, sullen, and is always putting up a front. I seriously had a lot of eye-rolling in his chapters, but hey, it fit with the character and wasn’t without its comedic moments. In fact I laughed a surprising amount throughout ‘Bookish and the Beast.’ Vance has a great character arc in learning to let people in, be confident in himself instead of a persona he fronts in the public eye… and to stop punishing himself for his mistakes.

I love dogs, so the German Shepard Sansa was a great inclusion in the narrative and had me clucking at the pages every time he appeared.

I also like the topic of consent and how boys sometimes don’t really listen to girls, instead doing what they think girls want, and how this was approached through the character of Garrett.

We get a lot of pop culture references in ‘Bookish and the Beast’ that readers and Con enthusiasts alike will identify with. Though, this book does not indulge in the Con events like its predecessors.

As we are following a very over-represented tale in the media, it was so very easy to predict the story, but it was an entertaining modern twist. I loved Ashely Poston’s writing style, some of the phrases she uses are delightful and really stood out to me. My enjoyment for this series has definitely increased with reading ‘Bookish and the Beast.’ Though I would have liked a bit more complexity in this book to really push it over the edge.

Again we see some great representation of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum in a positive light that is a part of the characters – not their defining trait.

A pleasant ride through an old classic for anyone who loves retellings, cutesy contemporaries, and anything to do with nerd culture around conventions and reading. I’d recommend this, but make sure you read the two sequels as each book deals with other characters from the same universe and you may lose some context.

Overall feeling: hilarious contemporary tale!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Princess and the Fangirl’ (#2 Once Upon a Con) by Ashley Poston

A cutesy modern take on an old fairy tale…

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, LGBT+

No. of pages: 320

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: to save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off in the Starfield movie sequel. The problem is, Jessica Stone, the actress who plays Amara, desperately wants to leave the franchise behind.

When a case of mistaken identity at ExcelsiCon throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must team up and trade places to find the person responsible.

That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover the darker side of fandom — as well as unexpected romantic possibilities. Can these “princesses” find a way to rescue themselves from their own expectations and redefine what it means to live happily ever after?

I was really looking forward to where Ashley Poston was going to take the Once Upon a Con series with this sequel ‘The Princess and the Fangirl’ because her writing style is charming and adds a modern, diverse twist with the fairy tale re-telling trope.

Told in alternating perspectives between protagonists Imogen and Jess. Jess is an actress and star from the hit film ‘Starfield’ in which her character, Princess Amara sacrifices herself in the end. She is glad to be done with the franchise as she views it as a pop culture phenomenon and not serious acting to include in her portfolio, but no denying the movie has increased her exposure and opened doors to many new opportunities. The Convention is the last bit of publicity Jess is contracted to do before moving on to other possibilities. That is, if the twitter campaign #SaveAmara does not catch on and force the producers of the hit film to tie her down with a long-term contract… and a franchise she is coming to loathe.

Imogen is a massive fan of ‘Starfield’ and dead ringer for the actress playing the role of Princess Amara. She is also behind the #SaveAmara campaign as she sees the character as a phenomenal role model for young women everywhere. Her two mums have been running a booth at the Conventions forever and their lives are drenched in everything pop culture.

So what follows is a parent trap-esque storyline (al-la The Prince and the Pauper) and hi-jinx of a conspiracy to expose a confidential script of the sequel to ‘Starfield,’ which if revealed could get Jess fired and eliminate any chance of her working in Hollywood ever again. Not to mention meeting Imogen’s friend who she is inexplicably attracted to – but one problem: she’s met her under the pretence of pretending to be Jess while she tries to track down the person leaking snapshots her script online. Meanwhile Imogen is all too happy to ply the role of Jess in hopes she can help grow the following to her #SaveAmara directive.

The Princess and the Fangirl’ is tropey and campy, but in the best way. I laughed out loud and even managed to shed a couple of tears in some more touching scenes. ‘The Princess and the Fangirl’ was an easy read I managed to speed through in a couple of sittings. Ashely Poston really manages to grasp the turmoils and anxiety of teen crushes, headstrong tantrums at parental figures, and rules trying to keep them in a box and on schedule. Be prepared for cookies galore of pop culture references. This is soaked in Con culture. It was delightful and nostalgic as well as entertaining.

At first, upon reading ‘Geekerella’ I was – okay, this is cute. But now I’m really starting to fall in love with Ashley Poston’s writing and the characters she creates. The pace strikes at a lighting speed, I really did not want to put the novel down. There is also wholesome innocence that shines through which is endearing. I think the issue with re-tellings is that it eliminates much of the possibility of creating surprise – we know how the story is going to end. While the mystery of the person behind leaking the ‘Starfield’ sequel script added some much needed mystery, I did not feel like ‘The Princess and the Fangirl’ was all that original. But that is the fault of the genre and nothing to do with the writing. Ashely Poston has written some interesting characters and their ‘voice’ was easily distinguishable between chapters – even though the chapter headings let you know which protagonist we were following.

I know I am not the target demographic for this novel, and as such, felt like there could have been more complexity, and the characters more dynamic – though to be fair, a book written like that would have ruined the aesthetic and charm of the story. It’s just my personal preference in stories I find engaging. ‘The Princess and the Fangirl’ is a fantastic follow-up to ‘Geekerella’ and I’ve already ordered sequel ‘Bookish and the Beast.’ Ashley Poston has slowly woven her way into my heart and made me a fan!

Overall feeling: Look to the stars! Aim! Ignite!

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Geekerella’ by Ashley Poston

A modern day, nerd-encrusted Cinderella re-telling that oozes cuteness.

Geekerella Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 320

From Goodreads:

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad’s old costume, Elle’s determined to win – unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons – before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake – until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

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Cheesy. Cute. Compelling. Contrite.

I love the geek-culture-Convention twist for this Cinderella retelling. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, because rehashing of this tale has been flogged like the proverbial dead horse. I had my moments of near eye-rolling because of the predictability and tropes associated with YA and fairy tales; but managed to get sucked in. I related to, and cared for our two main characters. Elle and Darian. Told in dual perspectives, alternating each chapter, something I usually detest, because it can repeat the same information, and let’s authors get lazy in plotting out a story. But the points of view are so different from each other, and for the most part in different locations, with separate motivations, I didn’t once find this format of a narrative a drawback.

My heart went out to Elle. I had a moment when, like in ‘Pretty Woman’ Julia Roberts’ character discovers turned up noses and sales staff refusing to let her shop. The feels when Elle has her hopes and dreams literally torn apart in front of her. Well done to Polston for capturing the feels and shaking them out of me. I swear I wanted to get physically violent with the antagonists several moments in this book.

Geekerella Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgDarian was a bit of a wimp, but an adorable one. I loved how he is the character that is body shamed and concerned about his diet, instead of a female lead. It really brings to the forefront the pressures of modern day media and the internet has on instant fame and scrutiny.

We also had a bit of a two-dimensional feeling to the secondary characters, yes they had a moment where we get a glimpse of complexity, but these characters are usually there to drive the plot forward and time is not waited on their backstory to keep the plot moving forward.

I managed to devour this book in a day, one single sitting. Polston’s writing style is fairly breezy, but scatters in some nerdy SAT words, just to confirm the genre and market that embodies the soul behind the story. It was the perfect piece of escapism, littered with enough from the original tale of Cinderella to be relevant, but oozing with diverse characters and nerd pop culture.

There were a few plot points I would have liked to see resolved better.

There is a tone of overcoming loss that is heavy in ‘Geekerella.’ That one person doesn’t swoop in to save you from it all and make it go away. You save yourself and find someone who helps you see a brighter future to share…

Overall feeling: a delightful surprise to read

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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 – ‘Twilight : The Graphic Novel Part 2’ by Stephenie Meyer & Young Kim

The hues of Twilight dance and glimmer in another great installment to the franchise.

Twilight Graphic Novel Part 2 Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, Romance

No. of pages: 240

From Goodreads:

Having uncovered the dark secret of her enigmatic classmate, Edward Cullen, Bella Swan embraces her feelings for him, trusting Edward to keep her safe despite the risks. When a rival clan of vampires makes its way into Forks, though, the danger to Bella has never been more real. Will she make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the people dearest to her? 

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Loving the artwork and new incarnation on the book that jumpstarted my reading and writing enthusiasm, I enjoyed ‘Twilight The Graphic Novel Volume 2’ more than the first volume.

My favourite scenes include the backstory of The Cullens (Carlisle and Edward) – the flashback was illustrated incredibly well. Also, I practically devoured the final fight scene and the parts of the original manuscript that were used, the reveal was done fantastically.

Twilight Graphic Novel Part 2 Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgThe use of colour in the fashbacks was a masterful touch, as to was the blur effect when Bella went under sedation. It is wonderful to explore ‘Twilight’ again in illustrated form.

Colour in the final scene felt a little washed out – I guess it was symbolising “twilight” but I wanted to be dazzled like I was in the meadow scene from Volume 1. This felt a little lack lustre for the climax of the story. Additionally, the tone this version of ‘Twilight’ ended on was a little cheesy.

But Volume 2 definitely captured more of the essence of ‘Twilight’ that was missing from Volume 1. We get the comedy and sarcasm, as well as some of the darker moments – and that was something I was praying for… thank heavens to betsy ;p

Again another fantastic addition to any twi-hard collection.

Overall feeling: Magical memories

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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.

Book Review – Life and Death – Twilight re-imagined by Stephenie Meyer

Get some glitter on your skin and sink your teeth into ‘Life and Death.’

Life and Death Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Fantasy, Romance

No. of pages: 442

From Goodreads:

When Beaufort Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edythe Cullen, his life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With her porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edythe is both irresistible and enigmatic.

What Beau doesn’t realise is the closer he gets to her, the more he is putting himself and those around him at risk. And, it might be too late to turn back… 

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I immediately dropped everything to read this as soon as it arrived in the mail from pre-ordering – being such a twi-hard, how could I not.

I’ve read comments of others complaining why Stephanie Meyer released this instead of a sequel to ‘The Host,’ or ‘Midnight Sun’ – and if you read the forward, you’ll get your answers – this was basically a re-edit of ‘Twilight,’ not an entirely new book.

I enjoyed this novel, it still gave me all the excitement from reading ‘Twilight’ in the first place, but without actually re-reading it. The gender swap is fun, the names comical and glimpses in what Stephenie wanted to do if she’d had a chance to edit ‘Twilight’ one more time before its release.

I still got that angsty tension between Beau and Edythe. Granted it didn’t feel as intense as with Bella and Edward, but still elicited all the feels I love getting from her books.

The ending was fun too – a nice surprise for Twilight fans. Although it felt a little rushed and a bit too much information was crammed into the final 1-2 chapters. I think if Stephenie had more time she could have done it justice – initially it was only going to be a snippet, but in turning out a new novel (even if it is a re-edited version) is amazing and I’ll take what I can get. I love the way her mind works.

You can certainly see how gender does not come into play all that much in the overall story – and I love how Steph has made that point after all the criticisms over Bella being such a damsel in distress.

A great addition to the Twilight franchise.

I started seeing Bella and Edward in Beau and Edythe, but by the end of the novel, Beau and Edythe had separated themselves as alternative entities.

I was liking the gender-swapped versions of some of the characters better than their originals and it was fun imagining how these re-imagined characters would fair in the rest of the Twilight Saga storyline. Highly recommended.

The fandom is already starting to come up with art on what Beau and Edythe look like… both funny and interesting so far. Check it out at #Twilight10Art.

Overall feeling: bliss

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© 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.