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.

Wrap up – Embassy Row Trilogy by Ally Carter

A contemporary with international political intrigue.

   Wrap Up - Embassy Row Trilogy Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

I was really keen to jump into this trilogy – at the time only the first book had been released and I was eager to read out of the dominating genres in YA – a murder mystery with an international setting felt like the right ticket. The Embassy Row trilogy felt like a mash-up of The Scooby Gang from ‘Scooby Doo’ and the movie ‘What A Girl Wants’ starring Amanda Bynes. Plus I’d read some cracker reviews from book blogger friends…

As much as I loved the concept, there are moments when I felt the story went a bit juvenile – unrealistic, overdramatic that I found tedious or even frustrating. But given the demographic, and the fact that it’s YA, it was to be expected. It was easy to overlook these hindrances and really enjoy the world Embassy Row presents.

Grace, our protagonist, a damaged heroine, thrown in the deep end of secret societies and political drama was an interesting character to read. She had all the necessary flightiness, drama and curiosity to engage the reader, but as the series progressed, some elements were repeated to death, and others had her looking like a flake, and even bipolar. I bit more research and cohesiveness would have seen Grace as a strong protagonist.

All Fall Down Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleHer friends on Embassy Row, which I dubbed of the ‘Super Crack Teen Spy Squad’ came and went from the narrative with each successive installment of this trilogy. So strong in the debut, but were reduced as mere plot points to move the story along in the consecutive two sequels. That was highly disappointing for me. There was such great chemistry and such interesting characters in this group, I would have liked to see them featured more prominently.

The flip-flopping with the love interest Alexei was the most frustrating part. It really established doubt in Grace herself instead of the motives of the mysterious Russian. The middle book of the trilogy needed the most work in editing to bring it to a much more palatable novel in my opinion, As it stood, I actually got a little pissed and the treatment of the cast.

The adults in this world all seemed to be James Bond characters. Members of secret society, spying on each other, manipulating each other, secret tunnels and meetings… It lost a sense of family that this series was missing to ground it in something solid. Consequently, the adults for all their nefarious activities felt a little two dimensional.

The basics of the storylines in each novel – the mystery – is crafted excellently. I loved the mechanics and storyline of all three novels. Ally Carter can weave a mean plot. It was just the delivery and immature tones that dragged the pace for me that lowered my ratings.

We get a spectacular ending – ‘Goonies’ style, though after a promising debut with ‘All Fall Down,’ both ‘See How They Run’ and ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ flatlined. Great mystery, fantastic twists and turns, but the wiring style was a little ‘meh’ and predictable.

Marvelous hook and concept, eye-catching cover art, and a quick easy reads. A fun trilogy I happily recommend – falls more into a guilty pleasure than an outstanding recommendation.

Wrap Up - Embassy Row Trilogy Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

All Fall Down’

See How They Run’ –

Take the Key and Lock Her Upcarter’ –


© 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 – ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ by Ally Carter

A perfect political mystery to kick off a CW tv series, or a Disney movie…

Take the Key and Lock Her Up Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery

No. of pages: 327

From Goodreads:

The princess is dead. Long live the princess.

Centuries ago, the royal family of Adria was killed…or so everyone thought.

Now Grace Blakely knows the truth: There was one survivor, and that survivor’s blood runs through her veins. This simple fact could cause a revolution—which is why some people will stop at nothing to keep it from coming to light.

There is only one way for Grace to save herself, save her family, and save the boy she loves. She must outmaneuver her foes, cut through the web of lies that has surrounded her for years, and go back to the source of all her troubles, despite the risk.

If she wins, she will inherit a throne.

And if she loses, she will inherit the fate of all the dead princesses who came before her. 


A trilogy that culminated in spectacular form! It still reminds me of ‘The Goonies,’ a bunch of teenagers pulling together against all odds, risking peril for their noble quest, ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ captured my youthful excitement with its drama, subterfuge and a European setting.

The narrative dragged a bit for me – continual repetition of clues, rehashing of the past, and Grace’s “episodes’ – all recounted in such efficacy that I ended up putting this book down numerous times because I just wasn’t that into it. But that’s the worst of it.

Take the Key and Lock Her Up Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI really liked Grace’s strength in this final installation of the Embassy Row trilogy. She was bad-ass. Though I found her continually slipping into PTSD mode : her episodes, were becoming tiring. I’d much rather see her come to terms with her demons earlier on in the piece. The whole wounded damsel thing was wearing thin. Especially when she was able to dismiss it and launch into terrifying situations in other moments. A little inconsistent from someone suffering the mental issues Grace was tackling.

The mystery side of things is expert level 10! I loved all of the plot twists, how facts were revealed, it is truly the best part of this series. Carter really knows how to plot and pace a story.

The rest of the Scooby Gang that featured so prominently in the first book, their relevance, and presence has slowly dwindled with each installment. To the point where I wasn’t really believing their friendship by the conclusion of ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up.’ Grace manages to push people away and get so tied up in her predicament, she comes across as being a friend only when she needs their help for something. And don’t get me started on her brother Jamie – he felt like a prop, rather than a key person to the storyline and her motivation.

The same can be said for the love interest, Alexei, I got so invested in them over the second book (‘See How They Run’) of the trilogy, but didn’t feel the magic here.

I liked the twists and turns, but ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up’ felt like some of the antagonists were practically cartoonish. The novel, and series, feels more like a Saturday cartoon serial than realistic YA fiction. It lacked a certain maturity in the writing style. I think it could have been streamlined and something extra injected into the narrative to give it some oomph without isolating its demographic.

It was fun, and I enjoyed ‘Take the Key and Lock Her Up,‘ but as you can gather from my review there is a tone of disappointment. It’s like the complexity and character development has been decreasing with each instalment. I really wanted things to go out in a mammoth climax. And while it was spectacular as far as plot goes, I did not connect so much with the characters this time. I didn’t get that buzz when I finished the last page like I normally do.

I won’t say it was predictable – because what I assumed was going to happen, totally didn’t. I really think if I had been able to get emotionally invested in the cast more, I would have given this a full five stars/kisses because the writing is marvelous, the story outstanding… it was just slightly juvenile… (which *cough* is totally is marketed demographic, so maybe I should just leave the room)

Definitely recommend this for younger YA audiences who love a mystery, lost princesses, action, and a bit of political intrigue.

Overall feeling: Bring me more popcorn!

Take the Key and Lock Her Up Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Take the Key and Lock Her Up Book Review Pic 04 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.


Book Review – ‘All Fall Down’ by Ally Carter

On edge with PTSD and thrown into an international political nightmare – Grace is only able to keep her head above water… and it makes for a great read.

All Fall Down Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Mystery

No. of pages: 310

From Goodreads:

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

  1. She is not crazy.
  2. Her mother was murdered.
  3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.


I did not know what to expect going in to ‘All Fall Down,’ and I went in blind… what a pleasant surprise! International politics and a murder mystery never looked so good.

Some aspects to this storyline had me just about rolling my eyes – apparent “spy-like skills” some of the characters conveniently possessed. A higher degree of difficulty could have really added some authenticity to the narrative instead of the ease by which some of the teens countered their investigation. The formation of a ‘Scooby Gang’ felt a little cheesy. And finally, how the grown-ups kept things from our protagonist, Grace, for her own good. Can you think of a book where that has ever worked, like, ever?

Yes, those aspects lowered my rating a little, but only because it is thrown under the genre of realistic fiction. I did like the formation of a crack bunch of self-appointed teen spies with abilities and technology they had “borrowed” from their diplomat parents. It was all very exciting and took me back to the days of watching ‘The Famous Five’ on television.

All Fall Down Book Review Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleGrace annoyed me at first, her sarcasm, her frequent flashbacks and ‘episodes.’ Mainly because none of it made a whole lot of sense. But as we get to know her, more things clicked into place. She has a lot of witty lines that had me laughing out loud. Maybe her bipolar fluctuation between daring, adventurous, and fragile to mentally unstable prevented me from connecting with her in the beginning. But by the conclusion of ‘All Fall Down’ I was eager to read more of her story.

Can I mention the cliff-hanger the book ended on! Ay Currumba! Ally Carter you tease me so.

All of the ‘Super Crack Teen Spy Squad’ as I call them, are likeable, even Grace’s crush Alexei, though there seems to be a lot more to his story. I’m guessing in the following books we’ll discover more. Rosie, Noah and Megan are all the crew I want as my best friends, they have Grace’s back even when she behaves in a way that she shouldn’t deserve it… and vice versa. The Embassy Row kids stick together.

As for the mystery of who killed Grace’s mother – well, I’m usually pretty good at sleuthing out the answer well in advance in these types of books, but to be honest, didn’t see this one coming at all. Carter’s narrative style has a way of moving the story forward without dropping obvious clues, but enough to throw suspicion on lots of other characters. I was guessing right up to the reveal.

I was first attracted to this series because of fellow reviewers, and the colourful cover. Plus Carter seems to have a pretty great catalogue of titles. I’m really glad I decided to give this a go. It has tones of movies like ‘The First Daughter,’ ‘The Prince and Me,’ ‘What a Girl Wants,’ and ‘Chasing Liberty,’ with a murder mystery thrown in. Fun reading and I’d recommend it to those who want a light YA read with an angsty heroine, political intrigue and a mystery to solve.

Overall feeling: Not bad at all.

All Fall Down Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

All Fall Down Book Review Pic 04 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.