Book Review – ‘The Love Interest’ by Cale Dietrich

A great satire with heart.

The Love Interest Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 377

From Goodreads:

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

This book far exceeded my expectations. I’ve see blazing reviews and some flaming ones, and after reading the blurb, I was definitely interested, but didn’t have lofty predictions. Some parts of the book are cheesy, some ironic, but I didn’t expect the subtext of hopeless desperation through most of the novel. I was in tears more than once because of the helplessness that the characters faced, but still managed to have hope. It was heartbreaking.

The Love Interest’ does a great job of presenting stereotypes and tropes and throwing them into the harsh light of day to show that they really don’t exist. The characters have layers and motivations and aren’t simply the label that has been given to them.

The Love Interest Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgCaden is a fun protagonist. He is determined, a little stubborn, but compassionate. It was a great mix, and I was relieved that even with the fact that he is the protagonist – he also is not. That he is not ‘the chosen one’ or ‘the solo hero of the world.’ It takes a team – and you get a strong sense of that.

Dylan (‘Dyl’) kept surprising me… and for all the right reasons. I think he is my favourite character from this story. We never truly know his motivations because the novel is told only from Caden’s perspective, and this narrative adds delicious tension – as it does between all the cast – for each are pretending, hiding secrets, tenuous with trust. As hard as it was to peg Dylan, he also felt the most genuine.

Our female love interest, and target of the boy spies, Juliet fell a bit flat for me. She has skills and towards the second half of the book really shines; but during the first half felt more like a prop to tell Caden and Dyl’s story.

I think the only thing holding me back from giving this a perfect score is that I would have loved to see more complexity in the female characters, and maybe a bit more angst develop between the Caden and Dyl. But that’s me being picky, because I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Love Interest.’

There are a number of plot twists and events that I did not see coming. I was literally questioning “What?” out loud and re-reading the paragraph. It’s been a while since a book had done that to me, so I have to applaud Cale Dietrich in causing me alarm. Brilliant!

I think the reason behind such polarising reviews is because on the subtext of irony – on the surface it’s a love triangle, Dyl and Caden are gorgeous teens, parentless, and forced into becoming spies for a corporation – it’s very YA. But underlying that plot, the narrative flies in the face of all those tropes. Right up to the last page. It is amusing, touching and poignant.

Dietrich’s writing style is effortless, I read the book in one sitting, fully engaged the entire was through. I did have a slight pet peeve of the boys calling each other ‘man’ in their dialogue with frequency – like when girls get called ‘babe’ or ‘baby,’ it’s just something I find irritating. But that’s my personal problem and didn’t disrupt my enjoyment of ‘The Love Interest.’

The overall plot is, for the most part, easily predictable. However, Deitrich crafts angst beautifully, teasing you over and over again driving the story forward with a thrilling pace. I was also honestly surprised at the amount of action and James Bond styled gadgets. So while guessing the end was easy – the journey to get there is filled with surprises, laughter, tears, and hot bodies.

Although having a gay protagonist is not anything ground-breaking, it felt genius in this context. It was also dealt with in a respectful manner, and in a way anyone coming to terms with their sexuality should be treated. There was no fear or discrimination against their orientation, and it left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. I was really invested in the boys pairing up.

I was a little ‘iffy’ on the world building, and the relevancy for the organisation – and indeed the use of agents like Caden and Dyl. It is all so much overkill. But that too is a sarcastic pun at YA tropes. So you can either take it literally, of view it in the tone it is written, dripping with derision and satire.

Definitely giving ‘The Love Interest’ two thumbs up, and recommend this to all my friends. It’s a great adventure with tones of love and irony.

Overall feeling: tickled my fancy.

The Love Interest Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.gif

The Love Interest Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

critique-casey-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.

The Culture of ME

The Culture of ME Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

What is happening to the representation of girls in pop culture?

I was conducting a foray into the upcoming trends in pop culture because I like the content I’m writing about in my YA novels to connect and resonate with their audience. Which is a bit of an oxymoron in this case, because from what I was exposed to, books are the last thing on this demographic’s mind. Yes, this is a bit of a generalisation, but when I caught shows like Promposal and My Sweet Sixteen on MTV, I was disgusted with the amount of gratuitous wealth, and the focus of the stories being young girls who basically labelled themselves as princesses and idols with little moral substance. Even some of the upcoming Youtubers fall into this privileged background, their channels are either revolved around themselves, or what their money can buy. I’m all about self-confidence and self-empowerment – but much of this came off as selfish.

The Culture of ME Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle.gif

It had me extremely worried about the future of the human race, the ecology of the planet, and as much as I write books for myself and to create something I would like to read – will there really be a market for my babies once they are ready to hit the shelves?

Every time the star of the episode or webcast opened his/her mouth, all I could hear coming out is “Me, me, me, me, me, me. Look at me.” I was hoping that I would witness some act of kindness towards their friends, some sacrifice they would make for someone less fortunate… I guess the writer in me is used to protagonists having to struggle through hardship to obtain a goal, where these lifestyle and reality shows are only encouraging a culture of mirror gazing and low self-worth. Youtube videos are turning into infomercials, rants and whines, and more I’m beautiful, I’m a star. Worship me.

The Culture of ME Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Maybe I’m just seeing the bottom end of the bell curve. The ignorance of youth. The vapid and soulless content. With technology and trends today, we see a lot of low-budget quality hitting our screens. And with immature content creators having a narrow view of the world, who are yet to find themselves, should we really be letting them broadcast this experimentation to the wider public? At least there is a lot more to choose from now, and I can speak up against all that I find abhorrent with the click of my finger in search of something more entertaining, or more educational, or more uplifting. Because pop culture can be fun! It can be hilarious and entertaining.

I could sound like some bitter old person standing out front of a house screeching and the neighbourhood children to “Get off my lawn!” After witnessing some of the low-brow productions, I’d love to launch a campaign that says, “Get some substance.” But that’s just me having a rant. Everyone is free to grow and experience the world, freedom of speech. Let’s hope some of them get exposure to wider issues and not being able to get a helicopter drop them off at the party is the biggest drama on the planet.

I realise that much of the content I’m talking about is marketed towards the 12-18 age bracket, or produced by kids of the same age on laptops and iphones. They have yet to gain perspective outside of their bedroom walls and clique at school. They have a diet of glossy magazines, talent reality shows, and famous Youtubers bringing in the big dollars. Is it any wonder that they think such notoriety is easily obtained? The hours (or years) of hard work and commitment behind the scenes has been left out of the narrative. So too has the fact that those who this next generation are trying to emulate are one in a million, trail blazers, and have built a business off of what they see. It takes smarts, support, and a lot of effort to get there. Networking. Educating themselves… well you get the picture.

So when I see the amount of money being thrown about on vanity, I can’t help but wonder if they could donate to the homeless, start their own business and offer employment to someone supporting a family, or even at least to stop and think about something else other than themselves. Though I must admit, these types of girls portrayed on the screen are the perfect antagonists. So maybe I should stop the criticism and use their traits for villains and bullies in my writing. In the ‘80’s we saw very stereotyped characters dominate pop culture, and while now there is a lot more complexity and diversity out there, we are starting to see a new wave of two-dimensional characters emerge in our media. Mass Market goods.

The Culture of ME Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleLuckily, many of the young adults I’ve chatted to about this trend view it as idiotic comedy, much in the vein of Jackass, mindless viewing ready to be picked apart and ridiculed. Why applaud this critical viewing, I wonder if is not supporting a culture of “reading” or “throwing shade” because it populates a negativity. Bring back the Spice Girls I say, I want fun, bright colours, a bit of cheekiness and lots of girl power.

 

 

uppercase-lowercase-banner-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.

Albinos and all their stuff

What’s the most common question I get asked as a writer?

How do you remember all this stuff?

Albinoes and their stuff Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpg

It’s usually in awe at the wall of folders I have from my works in progress. I keep a folder on my desktop of ideas for novels, characters, scenes… but when I get something more developed, a rough plot, a cast, a more definite outline… along with pages of writing, either the beginning, or a few key scenes – it gets a ring binder and a place on my shelf. I keep all my notes in there, I design a cover and spine. That way my idea feels real. And when it comes time to do some writing on said project, I can pull out the folder and everything I need is contained within.

And when you have over 40 titles on the shelf you find people staring at them wide eyes and asking you – how do you remember all this stuff? How do you keep the characters straight in your head and not mix the books up?

My answer is always very simple. I remember all my friends, and family. I know where they live, I have an idea of their wants and desires, what they look like, their little personality traits and favourite sayings… so it’s just like that. The books and characters within are the same as friends and family. In fact, I probably spend more time with my fictional family, because they live in my head more prominently, I go on adventures with them. We have conversations. They might change or grow up even before I put words on paper.

The human brain has such a capacity for learning and remembering, why does it always seem like a shocking feat to remember the books I’m writing – or even the books I’ve read?

I guess for someone who is not in the habit of writing books, or reading a lot for that matter, easy recollection of fictional facts seems almost like science fiction. Like you are some sort of genius. So when they get over the realisation that I’m not hiding away in a dark room with over a dozen cats writing erotic fiction for my own fancy, and actually see the scope and effort I put in, something grinds and crunches in their heads that I must be the re-incarnation of Albert Einstein himself.

How does their brain take the leap from some mousey, unattractive shut-in with sexually deviant tendencies to a crazy haired genius after entering my office? Surely there is a somewhat more modest middle ground?

Albinoes and their stuff Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle.jpgI think writers are much like albino animals – rarely seen in the wild, perceived as odd, weird, or magical, but on the whole, (apart from the propensity to get sunburn) no different to the regular coloured masses. I’m beginning to learn that the general public’s assumptions of what a writer is, is so vastly different to what I actually do. It’s up there with astronaut or vascular surgeon – it sounds impressive but we don’t know the ins and outs of what they actually do every day. (Not that being a writer is as important as an astronaut or a vascular surgeon – just that they are job titles not many know details about) I’m frequently launching into the mechanics of writhing and the publishing world for friends and family. Their notions that I sit at my computer for a few weeks, churn out a novel and then send if off into the ether to be transformed into a book on the shelves of stores is completely naive.

I spend a lot of time writing, and with the characters, worlds, and story acrs that I write; so why wouldn’t I know them by heart? If I was in any other occupation, wouldn’t I know all the intricacies of that job too?

So, I guess I have to embrace being some albino animal as well – though it’s not too much of a stretch having pale skin, red hair and freckles – where people come and stare in stack-jawed intensity when they discover what it is I really do on occasion. But on the most part, I just get on with it.

Though I always get surprised at some of the frequently asked questions – I mean, if they thought about it, even only fleetingly, the answer is so obvious I may as well slap them in the face with a rubber chicken…

In fact, I may do just that.

Albinoes and their stuff Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

 

uppercase-lowercase-banner-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.

Trigger Warnings for me as a reader

Trigger warnings Pic 10 by Casey Carlisle

Things that make me want to vomit, scream or pitch a novel out the window…

I tend to shy away from content I know that will freak me out or cause mental anguish – I read to be entertained, to escape and sometimes to learn. It’s only on rare occasions I read to be challenged.

So some of the trigger warnings that I’ve found which send a book plummeting in my ratings include:

Trigger warnings Pic 11 by Casey CarlisleI know I’m a bit of a prude. That’s just how I am. And I don’t mind a bit of titillation – and there are times I pick up an erotic title for a bit of a change to my normal reading habits. But I like my erogenous encounters to mean something, to have a point to make within the plot. Pages and pages of banging bodies in different positions with no story is porn. Flashy, pointless and unsatisfying. It gets the same reaction I have with watching porn – I feel violated, objectified, and my skin feels itchy and dirty. If there is no emotional connection to the characters and plot it just feels wrong. For me. If that is something that you enjoy reading, I say wave that flag from the highest mountain… but it’s a big no-no for me. I’ll squirm, eye-roll and eventually put the book down. When did I turn into an old Nun?

Trigger warnings Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

Trigger warnings Pic 12 by Casey Carlisle– if the ‘hook’ on the back cover does not hint at some emotional connection to the main character, or at least a point of interest, I’m not going to buy it. Nine out of ten times it has proven right that a terrible blurb has meant the story was lacking in some way.

Trigger warnings Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Trigger warnings Pic 13 by Casey CarlisleI’m no atheist or anything, but when I’m reading a book, I don’t want to feel like the author is shoving his or her spiritual beliefs down my throat. With fantasy books, we get magic systems, mythology and never do those aspects of the narrative feel like they are imposing on me as a reader. But for some reason when it comes to religion, many of the novels I read are so heavy with worship and forced opinion, I can feel the vomit gurgling in the back of my throat. It’s a sensitive topic to talk about, but I feel a fictional story should be balanced and not overshadowed by the authors personal beliefs. I feel a great author will not isolate their audience.

Trigger warnings Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Trigger warnings Pic 14 by Casey CarlisleSometimes they work if the author is great, but on the most part, I’ll skim over, or simply refuse to finish if it is littered with unoriginal content. The main reason for reading about characters is to walk in their shoes, experience something new… so it needs to be inspired and not a regurgitation of many books that have already been published. A number of books deal with stereotypes and tropes in a tongue-in-cheek way, completely aware of these devices, and that can be fun. Others submerge themselves into the genre but include a twist or great dialogue, which usually fit into the guilty pleasure category. But cookie-cutter writing is about as palatable as eating a brown paper bag.

Trigger warnings Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Trigger warnings Pic 15 by Casey CarlisleThis one is hard to judge until you’ve already made it a ways into your novel, but having protagonists constantly making silly decisions – just to fit into the plot are a sure fire way to have me throwing the book across the room. Nothing worse than being aware of the authors guiding hand – or having a delusional main character that can’t think for themselves. Some may find it endearing or even cute, I feel like I want to push them in front of a bus.

Trigger warnings Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

Trigger warnings Pic 16 by Casey CarlisleYou can usually gauge this from the blurb, or by reading a few pages and a light skim. I’ve read some books that have great writing, but the whole novel ended up being a number of scenes attached together through a flimsy line of narrative. I need a discernible beginning, middle and end. I need to know what the protagonist is risking for the pay-off at the end of the novel – and a well written climax! There is a fine line between a great concept and fitting it into a story format…

Trigger warnings Pic 06 by Casey Carlisle

Trigger warnings Pic 17 by Casey Carlisle– they are a selling point! If you don’t go to the trouble of designing an attractive cover I’m going to think you don’t value your writing, and therefore, skip your title in favour of another. Also covers with models in a half-naked display are a big turn off, I’m going to think your book is one big naked sex romp… see first point above. Plus who wants to be on the tram flashing about sexy body parts on the cover – people will think you’re a sex fiend! Some other book covers look like they’ve been put together by a fifth grader with ‘Paint.’ With so many easy to use tools available, PhotoShop, and a bit of imagination there is no excuse not to have an attractive cover that fits to your genre and target audience. You spent a lot of time writing a book, so take some time to get the cover right. There are so many cover artists for hire out there too. When I see stock photos and crappy covers now, I take it as a personal insult. Boo to you!

Trigger warnings Pic 07 by Casey Carlisle

Trigger warnings Pic 18 by Casey CarlisleIf a character is living in their head all the time in ponderance, it often comes across as boring or whiny. It’s also a bit of a case of telling instead of showing. I like characters who act on their convictions and interpret them through the scene. Long lamentations also bog down the pacing of the novel – and continual navel gazing is not an attractive quality. I come across this from time to time, protagonists getting on their soapbox, all hidden in the stream of consciousness of their mind. All I can say is they probably look like those first person video game characters when they glitch and continually run into a wall. No fun for anyone.

Trigger warnings Pic 08 by Casey Carlisle

Trigger warnings Pic 19 by Casey CarlisleIf you are going to go to the point of describing facts, objects, or scenarios in your story, make sure you’ve researched them thoroughly – I’ve read too many novels where the scene is so unrealistic that it has pulled me from the narrative…. Ultimately leaving me with the thought that the author couldn’t be bothered taking the time to present a realistic story. Insulting. Sheesh, Google it, crack a reference book, it’s not that hard.

Trigger warnings Pic 09 by Casey Carlisle

There are many more, but these have been the generally issues over the past year of reading. And I think I’ve ranted on long enough. But it is all in fun, and my personal preferences. It is still a great accomplishment to actually publish a novel so I commend anyone who has spilled out half their brain to create a world on paper…

Happy reading.

uppercase-lowercase-banner-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.

She’ll Never Marry

Shell never marry 01

I found it interesting when having conversations with friends how they think there is something wrong with the solo female life adventurer… like they are broken, or have been hurt in love and trust sparingly.

It’s never addressed with a positive attitude.

But there are subtle hints in how people act, underlying meanings under what they say.

What is this obsession with having to be coupled to be deemed a success in life? Especially for women. Is it this primitive biological imperative to pass on our genes that is to blame?

I have known many strong independent women who, especially later in life, have been content and happy single. They weren’t cold hearted or had difficult personalities or disfigured in any way.

She'll never marry pic 04The more I thought about it, the more it made me feel uncomfortable that a mere relationship defines our identity. We don’t need to marry, or have children. There are other types of ‘ships that fulfil our lives: like companionship and friendship.

Are there many of these female solo crusaders in our literature that are shown in a positive light? To be honest, I am struggling to think of a single one off the top of my head.

Is it really that undesirable?

I get love is amazing, especially finding that one person who compliments you and finally clicks the world into a rosy perspective. But so is a meaningful friendship, a soulmate, a kindred spirit. It doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic.

She'll never marry pic 03We do see some of these relationships in novels from a young protagonist – because, the underlying tone is that they are still yet to meet their significant other. But older characters are painted as widowers, sad and lonely and like there is something missing (not to mention the crone in the woods, or the crazy cat lady at the end of the street). What happened to that elderly woman who is out exploring life, traveling, meeting new friends and sharing her vast knowledge… I want that woman as a lead!

I’ve found some GLBTQ+ novels touch on this topic, the best friend becoming a lifetime companion. And I appreciate that this genre of literature is ground breaking in exploring different types of relationships, but sometimes I get the feeling that the author is making the point that just because a character has identified as GLBTQ+ that the only significant relationship is one of friendship/companionship. Not that there is anything wrong with that – but why is the expectation so different? Such a double edged sword.

She'll never marry pic 02I don’t want to turn this article into a rant – there are so many factors in society which impact on this simple statement. But it was just an observation that has jumped out at me recently because of attitudes of friends and family, coupled with gazing over my book shelf and not finding a title that helps reinforce that growing old single is a positive thing.

It goes to show that my book buying habits are just as much to blame as anything.

It doesn’t have to be feminist, ageist or any ‘ist… I just wish there was a bigger representation of strong, fun loving, older female role models in popular fiction.

With an aging population, and women outliving men, isn’t it blindingly obvious that in the real world we are inundated with marvellous female role models – I think it’s time we give them some of the spotlight.

What fiction books have you read with an older single female protagonist? List any below…

UPPERCASE lowercase banner 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.