Book Review – ‘Kalahari’ (#3 Corpus) by Jessica Khoury

Kalahari will test your mental strength and physical ability to survive in the harshest of climates.

Kalahari (Corpus #3) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure, Romance

No. of pages: 368

From Goodreads:

Deep in the Kalahari Desert, a Corpus lab protects a dangerous secret…
But what happens when that secret takes on a life of its own?

When an educational safari goes wrong, five teens find themselves stranded in the Kalahari Desert without a guide. It’s up to Sarah, the daughter of zoologists, to keep them alive and lead them to safety, calling on survival know-how from years of growing up in remote and exotic locales. Battling dehydration, starvation and the pangs of first love, she does her best to hold it together, even as their circumstances grow increasingly desperate.

But soon a terrifying encounter makes Sarah question everything she’s ever known about the natural world. A silver lion, as though made of mercury, makes a vicious, unprovoked attack on the group. After a narrow escape, they uncover the chilling truth behind the lion’s silver sheen: a highly contagious and deadly virus that threatens to ravage the entire area—and eliminate life as they know it.


I loved this book. Admittedly, my expectations were a little lower after reading ‘Origin’ – though that debut wasn’t bad, there were moments the pacing lagged. That was definitely not the case in ‘Kalahari.’ It was non-stop action from start to finish. It has been a while since I’ve been so wrapped in a story.

Kalahari’ is a companion novel to the other two in the Corpus collection – and you by no means have to read them in order. In fact I read Kalahari before reading ‘Vitro.’

The best way I can sum up this novel is a combination of the movies ‘The Breakfast Club’ meets Clive Cussler’s ‘Sahara.’

Kalahari (Corpus #3) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.pngOur protagonist, Sarah is one gutsy chick. Using all her survival skills, sheer grit and determination to drag a group of city kids through the desert… while being stalked by human and animal predators alike. She comes across as shy in social situations, which is understandable, since she is practically home schooled in the isolation amongst the South African desert – sorry, semi-desert; but is also confident and determined from years of living in remote places and dealing with all types of wildlife.

The only thing that reflected negatively for me was when Sarah started listening to a recording at the most inappropriate time… that’s as much as I’m going to say, because – spoilers. But when I read that, I was literally saying out loud “What the eff” in astonishment.

Khoury’s writing style improves progressively throughout this trilogy. Pace and tension are far superior in ‘Kalahari’ than in the debut (‘Origin.’) She also has a way of building the world and describing the landscape that is anything but delicious. You can get such a clear picture of Sarah’s surrounds you really feel like you are there. Seeing the improvement in Khoury’s skills only make me more excited to read some of her recent releases.

It was interesting to read the city-slicker group that Sarah guides through the desert and how they cope with suddenly being cut-off from all aid, under threat, and needing to push their body to the limits to survive. I felt it was a realistic interpretation of what could happen. Growing up in the Australian desert myself, and a love for nature and hiking, occasionally friends would tag along and be confronted how being in the middle of nowhere means you need to adopt an entirely different set of skills to survive.

I love science fiction that actually has some science in it. And though it’s dumbed down drastically, we get some of the science behind the story. As well as botanical and zoology references about the Kalahari environment. It really gives you a strong sense of the flora and fauna. Geek girl in me loves it! I read it in one sitting.

Overall feeling: Spectacular survival skills!

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Kalahari (Corpus #3) 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 – ‘Between the Lines’ (#1 Between the Lines) by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Promising, cute with a great concept, but a little underwhelming.

Between the Lines Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Romance

No. of pages: 353

From Goodreads:

Delilah is a bit of a loner who prefers spending her time in the school library with her head in a book—one book in particular. Between the Lines may be a fairy tale, but it feels real. Prince Oliver is brave, adventurous, and loving. He really speaks to Delilah.

And then one day Oliver actually speaks to her. Turns out, Oliver is more than a one-dimensional storybook prince. He’s a restless teen who feels trapped by his literary existence and hates that his entire life is predetermined. He’s sure there’s more for him out there in the real world, and Delilah might just be his key to freedom.


Wondering if this was miscategorised and instead middle grade? It lacked the complexity and intensity I’ve come to expect in YA. ‘Between the Lines’ is a very easy read – kind of plain in actual fact.

The concept and story is attractive and engaging, but it lacked pace and depth. Figuring this to be my first Jodie Picoult novel, and a YA one at that – especially after all my friends keep telling me she is a must read author – that ‘Between the Lines’ would be a winning combination.

Instead, I found it repetitive in parts, though I liked that the journey wasn’t easy for the characters to get what they wanted. But I wasn’t totally satisfied with the ending.

It is a saccharine sweet tale on all fronts. Though, the original fairy tale excerpts had a very Harry Potter/Simon Snow tone with exaggerated, obscure events and a hint of sarcasm. I think I enjoyed those elements more than the main story. A dragon with braces, feminist mermaids, and a dog who was a boy in love with a princess – totally amazeballs.

I found Deliliah our protagonist not only a girl after my own heart being an outsider and booklover; but on the other hand she felt a little desperate and whiny. Though I have to admit, it falls in the realistic expectations of what you get from a fifteen year old girl, so I really can’t fault Picoult and Van Leer’s depiction of Deliliah.

Between the Lines Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThe other POV was told from Oliver’s perspective. The fictional love interest. I liked his unique perspective on our world, and the mechanisms of his own. How letters and words make up the physical forms of the world and characters in the book. How Oliver marvelled at a cell phone, a computer, and even a hair dryer. He was so much more interesting to me than Deliliah.

A cute addition to this book were the illustrations dispersed throughout – whether silhouetted characters in the margins, of the full page colour depictions of Oliver and his world.

The pacing felt slow. This should be an easy novel to fly through, and I was able to consume large chunks of this book in a single sitting, however, I broke it up over a week because my interest began to wane at how the narrative dragged out the storyline. I think it needed more tension, or a story arc or two to add some complexity and drive the plot forward more forcefully.

Picoult and Van Leer’s writing style is pretty breezy, there was a distinct difference between the original fairy tale, Oliver and Deliliah which was impressive, though Deliliahh’s voice felt bland in comparison to the other two writing styles – I wonder if both authors had input on all perspectives, or only wrote a character each?

I don’t really feel like I’d recommend this to my friends. Though it’s fun, and a great concept, the dragging pace and a tone more fitting for a tween market left me with a so-so attitude towards this title. However I will read the sequel ‘Off The Page’ just to quench my curiosity about where these characters could go next. I just hope the writing is a bit tighter to keep my interest.

Overall reaction: *yawn* ooh, cool!

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© 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 – ‘Ashely Bell’ by Dean Koontz

A creepy cat and mouse chase with a surprise twist.

Ashely Bell Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror

No. of pages: 560

From Goodreads:

At twenty-two, Bibi Blair’s doctors tell her that she’s dying. Two days later, she’s impossibly cured. Fierce, funny, dauntless, she becomes obsessed with the idea that she was spared because she is meant to save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell. This proves to be a dangerous idea. Searching for Ashley Bell, ricocheting through a southern California landscape that proves strange and malevolent in the extreme, Bibi is plunged into a world of crime and conspiracy, following a trail of mysteries that become more sinister and tangled with every twisting turn. 


I’m endeavouring to read more from my favourite authors I discovered in high school: Stephen King, Clive Cussler and Dean Koontz. There is a massive back catalogue of novels I need to catch up on. So in-between my regular genre reads, I pick up new and old titles from these three. Last time I indulged in an old release from the late 1970’s, so this time a newer publication, ‘Ashley Bell’ was on the cards for me.

My sister, also a Kootz fan did mention that is wasn’t as good as she expected though, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

With a narrative that changes in perspective from Bibi to her boyfriend Pax, was at first jarring. I was thinking, what the hell? How does this have any relevance to the story… but after persisting, we find out why.

Ashely Bell Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgBibi was a great protagonist. She was understated, but gusty. I liked how we weren’t dealt a whole lot of sassiness or witty one liners that is common with these types of heroines. Bookish by nature, she remained true to that type. Quite. Stalwart. Intelligent.

Koontz’s writing style is shocking and confronting after a diet of so much popular YA. His sentence structure and descriptive tone is so rich it’s like switching from an old cathode ray tv to a 3D cinematic experience. As a writer I’m green-with-lime-polkadots kind of envy.

There is some jumping back and forth in the time line – something that always annoys me. I remember hoping it wouldn’t continue throughout the entire novel when I was around seventy pages in. Not sure what is going on, where the storyline is going, the way this book was presented at the start was disorientating. It was hard to make any predictions. The short chapters aided in the pacing, each dropping a hint or clue to Bibi’s journey, so I was never tempted to skim ahead.

I guess there were a few things that I did not find so enthralling – but it was more due to the unravelling of the plot and it moving in a direction I did not want it to go. But I will say that I hadn’t worked out what was going on until the last 100 pages. I was kept thinking, analysing, guessing. The pacing was much better through the last number of chapters. It was still interesting, but the tension seemed to lessen with the plot twist.

I’m not sure I like the ending – I appreciate the concept, and love how it connected with the narrative and all the clues, but I didn’t get that big elation at the reveal. But I wasn’t completely deflated either. It was more like – okay cool. But did I really need 560 pages to get to here?

I could feel shades of his other works in ‘Ashley Bell,’ though I didn’t feel like it was something regurgitated or reworked, but more nostalgic – and it worked on another level once you reach the end and look back.

Overall feeling: pretty good… then… okay.

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© 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 – ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean’ (#3 To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before) by Jenny Han

The challenges we face when high school comes to an end.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 336

From Goodreads:

Lara Jean is having the best senior year. And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.

Life couldn’t be more perfect!

At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks…until she gets some unexpected news.

Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?


This was such a cute book! It did however, feel like a slight departure from the previous two novels. Mainly because ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ and ‘P.S. I Still Love You’ dealt with finding love, and the tone of ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean’ was much more melancholy. Not only because it is the end of the trilogy, but also because Lara Jean is at the point in her life where she is leaving for college, her father is re-marrying, and so she is saying goodbye to her childhood, her home, her family. Given Lara Jeans, quiet nature and love of all things antique, change is hard for her – and thus we get a tale of how she deals with so much adjustment and growth out of a place where she felt safe and loved.

It also gives a lot of hope about the future that these changes initiate.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgLara Jean herself was still a cute naïve square with a homemakers flare. She kind of embodies everything I’m not. I related to the challenges she was facing with family, college, and her boyfriend Peter. But all the other girlie stuff left the book feeling a bit dry. I realised Lara Jean’s character hasn’t changed so much. I enjoyed how we didn’t get as much frou-frou (subjectively) as we did in the previous two books; and here dealing with upcoming nuptials, her nervous baking, and hand-making presents as farewell gifts to her friends… it got a little boring for me and dragged down the pace.

I found Lara’s love interest Peter, lovingly adorable, but also annoying with his quiet internalised tantrums. I had to keep reminding myself that he is still a teenager. For some reason I didn’t connect as strongly with him in ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean’ as I did in the previous books.

Kitty, Lara Jeans younger sister was more mature here, but still had a few moments of her annoying and abrasive stubbornness – but it wouldn’t be Kitty if we didn’t have that. And I did not feel like throttling her at any given moment, so you really get a sense of how she is growing up. Plus the sister relationships and bonding of the Song girls was amazing to read. I’ve not had such a strong connection to family and identify from any other book that I’ve read so far. Han is a master at creating believable sister bonds and relaying a family unit.

I shed a few tears in several parts, Han’s writing still manages to touch me where it matters, so even with the issues I had with the story, I can still resolutely say that I adore ‘Always and Forever, Lara Jean.’

It was a massive guessing game as to how this would all end. And I was still unsure even right up to the end, so I can’t say it was all that predictable. With Lara Jean constantly changing her mind and weighing up her options, I was never really sure in which direction she would go. And it’s clear she had no idea either – and that made for wonderful tension right up to the very end.

Though not as strong as the first two novels, its tone is completely different, but I’d still recommend it. Plus fans of Han and Lara Jean will not be able to resist knowing what is in store for the middle Song girl in the future…

Overall feeling: Naaawh

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© 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.



Just a sample of some of the fantasy collection I have waiting in my TBR – the thing is, this is the genre I read the least amount of, but seem to have amassed the largest number of books… hrmm. Let’s hope I can crank up my imagination and start whittling away some of these titles.

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.


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.

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© 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.