Book Review – ‘Hot Dog Girl’ by Jennifer Dugan

A cute coming out tale for the younger end of the YA demographic.

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 309

Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:

* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.

* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.

* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.

* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

A massively cute and summery tale.

To be honest it took a lot to get me into the flow of this novel. Mainly due to the tone of ‘Hot Dog Girl.’ It felt like it was geared towards the younger end of the YA market. The language, dialogue, and attitudes of the cast felt immature and I frequently got bored and put the book down while getting through the first two-thirds of the novel. In fact, I read another four books while getting over this hump. I also think some pacing issues added to this. It took so long to get to the point, or for interesting things to happen. Not to say this was badly written or structured poorly, it wasn’t. Once the story got its legs ‘Hot Dog Girl’ was truly endearing. I cried, I laughed, the last section of the story had me completely rapt.

The rest of the time it was like I had that frustrated patience you get when young children in your care are around and just babbling non-stop and you’re pretending that you are interested in whatever short-attention-span thing they are carrying on about, but internally you are just praying for the torture to end. That’s what the majority of ‘Hot Dog Girl’ was for me.

Lou as a protagonist is immature, not very self-aware, doesn’t listen, and schemes like a twelve year old girl to get her own way. Living in her head was a special place in hell for me. But it was lovely to see her grow and mature by the end of the novel… but not something I want to relive anytime soon.

Seeley, to counter Lou, was stoic, and to be honest I didn’t feel all that interesting. So too was the other love interest in this triangle: the diving pirate, Nick.

The only character of interest was antagonist Jessa, though she was painted as ‘miss perfect’ that can usually come off as a flat character, she managed to have layers and a bit of sass that kept me engaged with the story.

The plot did feel very simple, and as soon as the inciting incident kicked in, I predicted the ending very easily. Jennifer Duggan’s writing style is effortless, and I would love to read something else of hers without such an immature tone to see if I enjoy her books more. It is glaringly obvious I am not the target demographic for ‘Hot Dog Girl,’ but considering I usually enjoy other fare for this target market, I was surprised at my reaction to this story.

The bisexual and lesbian representation is adorable. It was a joy to read differing sexual orientations in an environment of love and acceptance, like it is commonplace; and how the characters sexual orientation is not the main character trait, but merely an aside… as it is in real life.

The romance is like fairy floss, which in the setting of an amusement park, felt apt. I just wish there was some more complexity for the plot, characters, a more mature tone fit for the age of the protagonist, and the inciting incident happened earlier in the novel to kick the pace of the novel from the first or second chapter.

Hot Dog Girl’ even with the issues I had over my reading experience has wormed its way into my heart. I’d recommend it to those who crave bisexual rep, love Sapphic romances, or those younger YA readers looking for a cute romance.

Overall feeling: sluggish summer entanglement!

© 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.

Picture vs. Page – Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name’ is the story of a crush. A love affair between Elio, a high schooler, and Oliver, a PhD student from the University that Elio’s father teaches at. There is a melancholic romantic tone in the novel’s writing style, which is duplicated expertly in the cinematography with sweeping vistas of the Italian countryside, and lengthy silences throughout the narrative.

The books narration has a beautiful cadence and reads like Elio’s journal, complete with inner musings, pontifications, daydreams and erotic fantasies. However I found it difficult to immerse myself into and speed-read the entire novel. The writing style did not sit well with me. It felt fanciful and full of itself… selfish. I found myself craving for more structure, more dialogue. For the film adaptation, with a slower pace too, but it worked a bit better because we get countryside and cinemaphotography to keep the viewer engaged.

Elio as a protagonist felt like a mix of intelligence, petulance, and aggressive/possessive hormone fuelled adolescence for the novel. However, the film version of Elio (played by Timothée Chalamet) feels a little more mature and less predatory – maybe because we are spared his inner monologue.

It felt uncomfortable the boy lusting after a man, Oliver, more than 7 years his senior. (This situation is legally statutory rape in our country.) Elio’s overtly flirtatious nature – and his intentions sometimes returned. A mix between grooming behaviour of a paedophile from Oliver and removing himself from the equation as to not be overcome by his desires. The teacher in me felt extremely uncomfortable. Elio and Oliver wouldn’t be sneaking around and trying to hide their actions if they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong.

Then in the novel, Oliver gives in to his desires and confirms to me of being the paedophile he is. Elio has regret, then turns into a tremendous flirt only to then go and have sex with Mariza… completely ruled by his lower region. What a floozy. This book is making me feel sick where everyone is throwing their cat around and ignoring the ramifications. For having such an inconsolable crush on Oliver, when Elio sleeps with Marzia on a whim and apparently likes it, wants to brag about it. No loyalty, no conviction. This increased my loss of respect for Elio. We get some detail in the film adaptation with this encounter, its clumsy and short (realistic) but what is it with Elio then chasing after Oliver straight after having sex with Marzia? (Esther Garrel) That’s effed up. Elio comes across as insensitive. Considering this is a romantic/erotic tale and the book gets explicit at times, the film is not as sexually charged as the book.

Oliver (played by Armie Hammer) makes the first move (pedo) in the film adaptation and Elio becomes sexually aggressive out of the blue. It did not feel like there was a build-up of tension or feeling between the two. Oliver is an idiot for instigating the encounter and then citing he couldn’t do any more so they had nothing to be ashamed of. Then it seems his mother gives him permission to start a relationship with a grown man… what tha?! Besides the nature of this story all the actors gave a beautiful and believable portrayal and I feel added further nuance to the story I did not get out of the novel.

Did they seriously watch each other pooh and marvel at it in the toilet bowl. *retching sounds* The other thing that had me throwing up in my mouth is of Oliver eating the peach that Elio had climaxed into. Some may see it as twistedly romantic in a symbolic way, but I couldn’t bet over the hygienic aspect of it. I am such a clean freak. I want to scream triggered! It’s hilarious in a meta perspective. The pooh scene is omitted in the film version of ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ and the peach scene is much more subtle (Oliver does not eat the peach though.) However there are a few scenes that jumped out at me that did not appear in the novel version: The dancing scene had me in stitches. Plus, Elio and his friends smoke a lot. Ew! But I guess it translates well for the time period this story is set in (1980’s) and the European town. Adding to that, we also see a lot of underage drinking.

There was an understated – delicate even – understanding of Elio’s father which I found endearing in the novel. However his hands-off approach leaves little to be desired. I would have preferred a father figure to help educate and guide Elio, instead of leaving his son to flounder around in the dark and figure things out by himself, and potentially placing him in dangerous situations. Elio’s father’s talk in the film adaptation makes you realise he treats Elio like an adult shows that his parents did not view their relationship as paedophilia. Father confesses he loved a man once too. Again, an excellent portrayal by Michael Stuhlbarg.

For the film he translation of the story Elio’s mum (Amira Casar) reads makes and important turning point in the story – giving Elio permission to talk about his feelings… and something I don’t remember occurring or standing out to me (maybe because I ended up skim-reading the book)

I can appreciate the romantic symbolism, the artistic eye, but the situation in the real world kinda makes me angry. It’s not about being gay, but about placing a boy in a sexually vulnerable situation where the parents do not seem to care, (in fact they encourage Elio to find his sexuality and explore) and an older man allegedly grooming a high school student – even if he wrestles with his conscience – grosses me out. If this were about two boys around the same age I would have liked it so much better. I feel the artistic tone of the writing covers up the reality of how inappropriate this relationship is. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ feels like a gay version of ‘Lolita.’

SPOILERS: Oliver got engaged?? This book/film is so messed up. The build-up for this relationship. The forbidden love of it all and then they both move on so quickly. It’s hard to believe they were in love – rather lust – because the events belie the tone of ‘Call Me By Your Name.’

Where the book and film both left me feeling a little unsettled, the film was also sad in a kind of way, both in tone and storyline.

I will not recommend this. There was no lesson to learn from the characters – the whole book read like some teen boy’s father-figure sexual fantasy. I couldn’t get over the age difference, one of them being an underage boy to be able to appreciate the love story, or the coming of age aspect. I was uncomfortable the entire time. I won’t be reading the sequel ‘Find Me’ either – after reading reviews and how it deals with more fantasy gratification adultery, I’m sorry, I just can’t.

© 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 – ‘The Music of What Happens’ by Bill Konigsberg

One of the best contemporaries I’ve read this summer.

The Music of What Happens Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 338

From Goodreads:

Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn’t want to think about, ever.

Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His “wives” and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won’t like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he’s the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what’s considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they’re willing to risk — to get the thing they want the most.

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This is a quaint contemporary with two gay protagonists told in alternating perspectives, switching with each chapter. Max and Jordan each have their own issues to wrestle with, and ‘The Music of What Happens’ is a fantastic character driven story that had me hooked from the first page.

Max is a sporty ‘dude guy’ who on the surface seems to have it all going his way. Out to his closest circle of friends, he’s comfortable in his role as the smiling, friendly jock – that is until he gets to know Jordan after accepting a job to work in his food van. Later he begins to question why he puts up this smiling front, stand up to his father who may be exuding some toxic masculinity, and falling into a dangerous situation which will have long standing repercussions.

Jordan has a reactionary personality, but is the responsible one in the family ever since his father died three years ago. Jordan and his mother are still dealing with the loss. With the bank threatening to repossess their family home because of his mother’s gambling addiction, Jordan rolls up his sleeves and runs his father’s food truck in hope of making enough money to keep their house. But it’s difficult when you don’t know a thing about food trucks. It’s a steep learning curve – especially when being prepared is not a part of your personality. Jordan is pretty naive and innocent in terms of the wilder world, him and his two female best friends (his wives) live in their own little bubble. Meeting Max helps bring him out of his shell and learn to be a little more independent. Take a stand. It’s a good thing too because like the frequent dust storms that weather Mesa, Arizona, Jordan will need these new skills, and his friends, to make it through an oncoming storm of a different nature.

Having two well-rounded main characters, flaws and all, draw and grow from each other was a wonderful concept to slowly evolve on the pages of ‘The Music of What Happens.’ The best friends of both of our main characters are supportive, have their own small arcs, and it was a real testament to friendship. We also see parents have a fairly strong presence in the narrative, warts and all.

The Music of What Happens Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlilse

The Music of What Happens’ was instantly relatable for me. Having lost a parent, being a proud furbaby parent, and knowing what it’s like to have to get your head down and bum up and work your behind off for fear of losing your home… I saw so much of my youth in this novel. Not to mention the witty, catty banter of Jordan’s ‘wives’ is so much like my high school girlfriends. Revealing tragic family secrets – like coming out in a sense… this book has a lot going on, and it’s all handled with a gentle composure.

I’ve enjoyed Bill Konigsberg’s writing style in everything of his I’ve read. He always managed to make me cry, laugh and gasp in every novel. For a contemporary this is paced really well. I never had a moment of needing to rest or skim forward. Totally engaging. And I loved the inclusivity of the narrative with diverse backgrounds across the board.

Some trigger warnings around sexual assault, addiction, minor swearing, but it’s all dealt with in a delicate and responsible manner that does not have me concerned in letting the younger end of the YA demographic reading ‘The Music of What Happens.’

The plot is predictable in that I could see the two main characters ending up together – but in contemporaries these days, its never certain that they remain that way. Besides that, there are plot twists I did not see coming. Really. I was shocked. It was a delicious read.

On a side note – loving the cover art. I’m seeing a lot more of the hand-drawn artwork, like for a manga or comic.

Highly recommend this one for lovers of YA Contemporaries and LGBTQIA+ representation.

Overall feeling: Atmospheric

The Music of What Happens Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

The Music of What Happens Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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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.

Book Review – ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ by Maurene Goo

Food truck fighting.

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

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An adorable little contemporary. This book made me hungry with all its talk about food. At first I thought the characters were going to be annoying, but I ended up loving them with their individual charisma.

Yes, there are tropes and stereotypes in ‘The Way You Make Me Feel,’ but in a good way (well, for me.) The rebel, the nerd, the prissy one; but Maurene Goo does not shy away from quickly dismantling these stereotypes. This novel fell into my favourite wheelhouse of a light contemporary. Perfect for a lazy afternoon’s reading..

The humour was great in Goo’s writing style and had me laughing out loud, I even put the book down because I was laughing so hard, my eyes blurred up with tears. I can’t remember the last time a contemporary did that for me.

Great landscape and world building. I got a real feel for the LA climate and the food truck culture. Not to mention spattering of references to both Asian and Latino culture and language.

We get some great character arcs, and not your usual self-acceptance thing typical to this genre. We see a real transformation in our protagonist.

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleOur protagonist Clara is the big prankster – such a great hook – not the usual type of protagonist you get in this genre. I found her endearing from the get-go and loved reading her journey.

The frenemy/antagonist, Rose is the character I liked her the most. I know girls like this, heck, I was a girl like this. Striving to be perfect, scared of doing anything wrong or being perceived as colouring outside the lines. Stress, anxiety, all rolled up tightly and hidden away from all eyes as you prepare, study, and perform. It’s isolating and all-consuming. Leaving you constantly all-too-serious, uptight, and with a short fuse. A great place to start from and a fantastic character to counter Clara.

Hamlet, Clara’s love interest is a little straight-laced, and the most stereotypical of all the characters, but I had boy envy and was wishing for a Hamlet of my very own.

Have to say, I love the role of a present and involved parent. Adrain, Clara’a father is a tattooed hot D.I.L.F… ‘nuf said. But it was endearing how he cared for Clara, and juggled a small business with being an outstanding parent.

It is predictable, I pretty much guessed every plot point in advance – and even thought of one that never happened. But that is pretty much how it goes in most contemporaries I read. Its why I read them. The happy ending, the promise.

Definitely see what all the hype was all about and keen to check out a few more of Goo’s titles. A solid recommendation from me.

Overall feeling: Tickled my funny bone!

The Way You Make Me Feel Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Way You Make Me Feel 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.

Book Review – ‘Shug’ by Jenny Han

Realistic fiction at its best with Han’s easy-breezy style.

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

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

SHUG is clever and brave and true (on the inside, anyway). And she’s about to become your new best friend.

Annemarie Wilcox, or Shug as her family calls her, is beginning to think there’s nothing worse than being twelve. She’s too tall, too freckled, and way too flat-chested. Shug is sure that there’s not one good or amazing thing about her. And now she has to start junior high, where the friends she counts most dear aren’t acting so dear anymore — especially Mark, the boy she’s known her whole life through. Life is growing up all around her, and all Shug wants is for things to be like they used to be. How is a person supposed to prepare for what happens tomorrow when there’s just no figuring out today? 

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Shug’ is cute and thoroughly enjoyable. It is everything that I’ve come to expect from Jenny Han. A young protagonist dealing with the pressures of coming of age. Moments of flightiness, misunderstanding and heartbreak. It’s all here.

Shug Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgShug, an affectionate nickname for out protagonist, Annemarie, is teetering on the edge of childhood, about to take the first steps of maturity and claiming womanhood. Her perceptions of gender roles, of responsibility, are that mix of naive and clear black and white… but as in life, nothing really works that way. So Shug has to find a way to learn to deal with it all.

Her best male friend Mark, and BFF Elaine are facing issues of their own. As they start to grapple with independence and carve out the person they want to grow into, it inevitably leads to distance. Distance from Shug. Somehow they have to navigate this predicament and determine what it means for each of their relationships.

Jack, (one of Marks best friends) also faces the same conundrum, but as Shug grows to learn more about him, soon discovers he is nothing like she first assumed.

Shug’s parents are grappling with difficulties in their own relationship as well – and this throws her compass for safety spinning.

All of this leads to an engaging read about life, relationships and saying goodbye to a part of your childhood.

The narrative is deliciously innocent, while the tone of the novel more melancholy. So, combined with Han’s smooth writing style and a slow but gradual build with pacing, ‘Shug’ braces at that edge of adulthood expertly. The story did feel a little flat – but I liked the simplistic plot and easy to read style (though it is targeted to a young audience). A pleasant read for an afternoon.

Overall feeling: sweet and pleasant, like a deep breath of fresh mountain air…

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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 – We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

Summer has come to an end.

We'll Always Have Summer Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Comtemporary

No. of pages: 219

From Goodreads:

It’s been two years since Conrad told Belly to go with Jeremiah. She and Jeremiah have been inseparable ever since, even attending the same college– only, their relationship hasn’t exactly been the happily ever after Belly had hoped it would be. And when Jeremiah makes the worst mistake a boy can make, Belly is forced to question what she thought was true love. Does she really have a future with Jeremiah? Has she ever gotten over Conrad? It’s time for Belly to decide, once and for all, who has her heart forever. 

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The final instalment to the Summer trilogy – something I enjoyed and appreciated the way it all culminated, but not a series I was particularly in love with.

We really see Belly grow up. Literally and figuratively in this trilogy, and I am happy to discover the woman she turned into after the stubborn and naive girl in ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty.’ Her trait of burying her head in the sand, going boy crazy and disposition to storming about and a stubborn streak had be wanting to put the book down several times. Though the vivid landscape of the Summer House, the well written cast and realistic portrayal of life is what kept my interest. So while I may have had issues with the protagonist (and her love interest(s)), the overall story is beautiful. It’s about growing up, loss, and love.

Life is messy – and so is Belly’s story.

We'll Always Have Summer Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Another quick summer read, and even though it is angsty and deals with death, it is still light enough to enjoy on a banana lounge in the afternoon sun. Jenny Han’s writing style in supreme in its ability to lavish the surroundings but deliver characters and their dialogue in a matter-of-fact way. The story line is predictable in that, it concluded with only ending it could have really – I liked it.

Overall feeling: happy/sad… just like the end of summer vacation.

We'll Always Have Summer Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

We'll Always Have Summer Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

Book Review – If I Told You So by Timothy Woodward

Rebellious teens, idiotic dares, sassy best friends, gorgeous boys and lots of ice cream!

If I Told You So Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

The summer you turn sixteen is supposed to be unforgettable. It’s the stuff of John Hughes movies and classic songs, of heart-stopping kisses and sudden revelations. But life isn’t always like the movies. . .
For Sean Jackson, sixteen is off to an inauspicious start. His options: take a landscaping job in Georgia with his father, or stay in his small New Hampshire hometown, where the only place hiring is the local ice cream shop. Donning a pink t-shirt to scoop sundaes for tourists and seniors promises to be a colder, stickier version of hell. Still, he opts to stay home.

On his first day at work, Sean meets Becky, a wickedly funny New York transplant. The store manager, Jay, is eighteen, effortlessly cool, and according to Becky, “likes” Sean the way Sean’s starting to like him. But before he can clear a path to the world that’s waiting, Sean will have to deal with his overprotective mother, his sweet, popular girlfriend, Lisa, his absentee father, and all his own uncertainties and budding confusions. 

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When I was reading this, it felt like sitting around with a bunch of friends reminiscing about our summers in high school – it was realistic, intimate and heart-warming.

If I Told You So’ really captures those moments of first love – or first contact and physical closeness. The innocence and naivety wrestling with hormonal forces beyond control. The urgency. And the finality of actions and words. This felt a little like it could be anyone’s adolescent coming out story. It had an easy appealing feel with a positive message even though it is about the difficult process of exploring sexual identity.

Sean Jackson is relatable and genuine, he is refreshingly honest and leaves judgements at home. I liked him from the get-go, determined to blaze a trail of his own away from his Fathers plans of manual labour in the family business. The parentals are always trying to instil lessons of a work ethic and learning the value of the dollar, and it’s so much more fun addressing that on your own terms – even if it is at a campy ice cream parlour or a MacDonalds franchise.

Becky is also witty and straight-to-the-point as his new best friend. We all need someone to call us on our shiz… Plus she was there to give Sean a gentle shove when he needed one. And let’s not forget Jay, the manager at the ice cream parlour that Sean becomes so enamoured with. The way their friendship develops felt so real, and Jay does a great job as the patient mentor (at work and in coming out). Such a wonderful cast of endearing characters, painting them at face value until they prove themselves something different.

It is brilliantly light-hearted, with a jovial narrative that really pulls you into the coastal small town. I was easily lost in this pleasant read, devouring it in one sitting. Great for a lazy day at the park or beach.

It was fairly predictable, but in a good way – you are jostling for a happy ending from the start as the characters are all so loveable. If you like sweet contemporaries that leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, then this one is for you.

Overall feeling: Such sugary goodness I can’t stop…

If I Told You So Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

If I Told You So Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

Book Review – It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

A strong sense of adolescent drama through a picturesque summer…

 It's Not Summer Without You Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 288

From Goodreads:

It used to be that Belly counted the days until summer, until she was back at Cousins Beach with Conrad and Jeremiah. But not this year. Not after Susannah got sick again and Conrad stopped caring. Everything that was right and good has fallen apart, leaving Belly wishing summer would never come.
But when Jeremiah calls saying Conrad has disappeared, Belly knows what she must do to make things right again. And it can only happen back at the beach house, the three of them together, the way things used to be. If this summer really and truly is the last summer, it should end the way it started–at Cousins Beach. 

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I did not enjoy this as much as the first, however it was a great sequel.

Mixed with melancholia, for me personally and for the Summer franchise. Having lost my own mother recently, and experienced my own battle with cancer, the tone of this book resonated strongly with me. The need to hold onto, even if you have to battle hard and risk losing everything else, certain reminders of the love that you have lost. It’s all consuming.

Belly’s love life was annoying – and I’m still not entirely convinced I like it. Not only has her age lent a certain immaturity to the story, but the fact she was a little flippant left me thinking of her as shallow and without strength of character. She was very reactionary and did not give anyone around her cause to accept she was in charge of her own destiny. Maybe it’s my age showing, but behaviour life that, especially in female protagonists rubs me the wrong way.

It does, however, lend to great drama and angst – which we get plenty of.

And just as much as Belly frustrated me, so did Conrad. He really fails to communicate, or get involved in his family despite what he is feeling. It is such a typical masculine trait. This is not a criticism on the novel, but rather, on Conrad himself. His stoicism amped up the drama in this beautiful Summer House setting.

I’ve never read a book with such annoying characters that I enjoyed so much – it is quite a feat – Thanks a bunch Miss Han.

It's Not Summer Without You Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Jenny Han was able to create such a wonderful ambiance with ‘It’s Not Summer Without You.’ As she did in the debut, ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty,’ you can smell the coconut oil and salty afternoon breezes through the narrative without lengthy exposition. Again another quick and easy read that projects all the feels and offers up a few surprises.

I found myself craving for some depth and maturity from this story, but great escapism bringing me back to my teen years…

Overall feeling: ugly but interesting = cute.

It's Not Summer Without You Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

It's Not Summer Without You Book Review Pic 04 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 – The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

I can almost smell the ocean and the suntan oil….

 The Summer I Turned Pretty Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 276

From Goodreads:

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer–they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one terrible and wonderful summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along. 

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I picked up this trilogy straight after reading the ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ duology, hoping for more Jenny Han goodness. I’m not sure if I liked it or if it was just okay… I think only because I wanted more to happen in this book.

On the one hand, Susannah’s journey is truly touching (and I can relate to it personally) and really drags out the feels.

Belly herself is such a little girl – in the sense that she is young, and totally naive. A little girl crush on the Conrad boys… is that enough of a hook for a novel? It didn’t quite grab me. However, it was a relief to see Belly struggle and forced to grow up a bit. The time to start putting away childish things… and by the end I liked Belly a little better.

Cam was annoying, Jeramiah, slightly less. There was that big brother thing going on that boys do – the teasing, the fighting, the ignoring. So true to character and left me feeling annoyed and insulted. I wanted awareness to come early in the novel – it felt like the story took too long to build to something between these characters.

Plenty of passive aggressive behaviour, teen angst, and presumptions to keep me satisfied. Spot on for the YA market.

You get a real sense of summer holidays, the beach, the relaxing warm breeze, sun baking, swimming in the pool, carefree days. I could practically feel the sun on my skin.

The narrative was a little scattered – mainly because Belly gets a little scattered; but that aside, Han’s writing style is effortless, just like the setting of the Summer House. A beautifully engaging story of love, life and growing up.

Overall feeling: kittens and lollypops!

The Summer I Turned Pretty Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

The Summer I Turned Pretty Book Review Pic 04 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.

When is a lemon not a lemon?

lemon wars 05My childhood home had a multitude of citrus trees around our pool, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and mandarins. It’s no wonder we were always outside swimming in the Centralian heat, desert temperatures perfect for aquatic adventures and food within arm’s reach. The neighbourhood kids would come over and we’d all be bombing into the water and playing Marco Polo. Quite often some of the fruit would make its way into the pool, and, as you do when you are a child, you’d throw it out of the water… usually directed at someone standing along its edge.

And so was born the Great Age of the Lemon Wars!

Lemon Wars 01

Before my parents came home from work, we’d chuck all evidence over the back fence. I was sure to get any play privileges revoked with the back yard littered with yellow bombs. Though, as luck would have it, our neighbours took unkindly to our dumping of copious fruit over the fence and proceeded to toss them back over – and whola! It’s raining lemons.

Lemon Wars on Steroids!

I’m positive it was not our neighbour’s intention for us to enjoy the barrage of flying citrus. We danced and giggled dodging projectiles and pitching them back over to continue the game. It goes without saying we were not popular with those who dwelled over the back fence. But nonetheless they provided us with hours of entertainment in the summer months.

I don’t think ever met these tumultuous neighbours in the ten years I lived there, or even bothered to learn their names. They were just ‘the enemy.’ It’s funny how childhood perception is so limited… It never occurred to us that what we were doing was wrong, that is could land my parents into trouble. We lived in a fantasy world of exploding mortars and mermaids and sharks, living off the land on an alien planet.

I must thank those unnamed people who dwelled over my back fence, you fed my imagination, kept me entertained and were a constant companion through gangly limbs, braces and sunny weekends. (Who knows maybe you actually enjoyed throwing lemons backward and forward?)

But as in all wars, there are causalities… It’s all fun and games until someone gets pelted in the face with a lemon – and leaves in tears. Which happened to be my best friend. She had reached that age when you start to discover boys – and instead of standing guard, was ogling the boy from down the street diving into the pool and did not see the incoming projectile. It was of the slightly over-ripe variety. A little mushy. So when it connected with her cheek it exploded in magnanimous glory, covering her entire head in sticky goo. We thought it was awesome, my friend not so much. She was totally humiliated in front of the boy she liked and stormed out in a trail of language to put a truck driver to shame.

And that caused a cease-fire. At least until the next weekend…

Make love not lemon wars… or at least, if you have to, make lemonade.

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Casey's Childhood 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.