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

Fanboys, fretting and fabulousness.

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

No. of pages: 256

From Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall feeling: This was simply wonderful.

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Beauty Queens’ by Libba Bray

Sarcasm all wrapped up in a pretty pink bow.

Beauty Queens Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Adventure

No. of pages: 396

From Goodreads:

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

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At first I thought ‘Beauty Queens’ was going to be a steaming pile of bat guano given the over exaggerated aspect of the narrative with immature and shallow characters, but then it got sarcastic, funny and ironic… and then a little weird.

Beauty Queens’ is unlike anything else I’ve read before, some parts, and bits of the dialogue were like eating glass because of the low-brow idiocy, and others shine with brilliant satire – though one would not work without the other… it’s campy & sarcastic. It’s also dramatic, enthusiastic, hyperactive, and flamboyant.

Following a collection of teenaged vapid beauty pageant contestants in a reality television show who survive their airplane crashing on a tropical island – some of the girls continue in pageant mode, while others break out of character and form survival skills on an unforgiving island.

Each character is unique and brings a lot to the table as far a diversity and comedy. Libba Bray includes a transsexual and lesbian character in her cast of unlikely marooned teens. Later, the addition of a group of boys – from a pirate television show, which is produced by the same team that mastheads the pageant: The Company.

It was a little difficult to get into at first because it has such a unique narrative style, after which I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek, over the top antics of ‘Beauty Queens.’ This is all about hi-jinx! Don’t expect anything serious from this novel, except for a big case of sparkly ponies, eye-rolling, and snorting.

We have ‘ads’ interspersed in between chapters as well, like a word from our sponsor – The Company (again) that added a fun touch.

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At first I thought it was going to feel immature, like it was pitched to a young tween market, but then with some of the references and content, I discovered that it wasn’t taking itself seriously at all. It was like a drag queen had taken over the stage and was entertaining me with vicious quips, reading the audience, and strutting her stuff while downing a VB. It’s obtuse and entertaining

I may have rated it higher if it allowed me to connect with any of the characters, or had some realism in it to help me care. Instead it was like a really long episode of a teen SNL cast. And on a side note – there is a hilarious epilogue that is the icing on the cake.

I loved the funny, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. But I am really looking forward to picking up another title by Libba Bray…

Overall feeling: sugar sweet, like vomiting confetti

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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 – ‘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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Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.