Book Review – ‘Iceberg’ by Clive Cussler

A clusterf*#k of political incorrectness.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Action Adventure

No. of pages: 340

From Goodreads:

Frozen inside a million-ton mass of ice-the charred remains of a long missing luxury yacht, vanished en route to a secret White House rendezvous.  The only clue to the ship’s priceless-and missing-cargo: nine ornately carved rings and the horribly burned bodies of its crew. 

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I’ve been a fan of Cussler since my teen years, but this singular novel really tested my nerve. I can forgive a little machismo – it’s to be expected in this genre and series, but when Cussler has Dirk Pitt playing a stereotype of a gay man – even so far as to use the word faggot a number of times, I wanted to set the book on fire. It was in such poor taste to read these hate-filled slurs. It highlights all the issues of discrimination that the LGBTQIA+ community face.

Cussler used about every negative trope around this issue in ‘Iceberg’ with the protagonist Dirk Pit undercover as a homosexual artist, staring hungrily at men’s crotches like a sexual predator, acting submissive and weak, wearing over-the-top colourful clothing, and flowery speech. This goes on for half the novel. It is obvious that Cussler adopted this writing style for it to come off as comedic, but it just shows his insensitivity and ignorance.

To compound the issue there are continual cracks about crazy women and menopause, or someone on their period – that was also meant to be jocular. The female characters were irrational tittering things meant to look pretty and fetch coffee. Their only goal to land a good husband. They were diminished to a sexual object, nursemaid, or servant. It came off as highly offensive.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I just don’t understand. Was Clive Cussler on some sort of acid trip writing ‘Iceberg?’ I’ve read over 15 of his novels and never come across such blatant misogyny. Maybe I should stop making allowances for Cussler’s overused tropes and start calling him on them in my reviews… I read his novels for the emphasised adventure, the marine environment, and the espionage. ‘Iceberg’ was overshadowed with such a distasteful display of tropes and writing I am literally gobsmacked. Way to offend half your audience dude.

Looking at other aspects of ‘Iceberg,’ like pacing and plot, it wasn’t so bad, but by no means anywhere near his best. There was a plot twist at the end that I didn’t see coming, but that too left a horrid taste in my mouth. I enjoyed the surprise, but hated the premise it supported.

In all honesty I do not recommend this book to anyone. If fact Cussler should pull it from his catalogue entirely. I know I would be ashamed to have written a novel like this.

Overall feeling: Anger and nausea.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) 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.

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#BQ A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Casey Carlisle

A truly diverse sci-fi epic! Becky Chambers combines great world building and character development. Highly recommend.

Film vs Novel – Everything Everything

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I did purchase the novel when it was first released, but ended putting it to the side due to all the hype – I like to go into a read with a clear head so I can form my own opinions without any influence. The movie marketing began just as I was looking at starting the book (again), and so, back to the shelf to wait, until now, comfortably ready to read and compare the book to film with a clear conscience.

The film was cute. However it felt like the soul of the story had been edited out in comparison to the book. All those little symbolic references from the text, diminished or omitted completely in the movie adaptation. It left the characters feeling a little two dimensional and bland. However the cinematography was beautiful, but I wondered if it couldn’t feel ‘bigger’ – the daydream scenes were merged with text conversations and lost the reason of why they were there in the first place. It was a funny concept to marry meaning and the text message dialogue from the novel. I understand that Maddy tends to live in her imagination because it’s the only way she can explore the outdoors from inside her hermitically sealed home, but the tone wasn’t obvious enough and left the film feeling soft and ethereal, not grounded in reality. This, combined with the watering-down of more controversial elements of the narrative, like abuse, left me with some unease about the film.

The big screen version gave a beautiful nod to the novel with illustrations from the pages included at the end credits, however it only proved just how much they left out – how much of Maddy’s inner consternation was omitted. Even when watching the movie, I felt like all Maddy and Olly did was way too much staring…. there was so much silence. And while the actors (Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson) did a stellar performance with their subtext, it did not drive the story forward.

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I love Nick Robinson as an actor, but on screen he looked older, tired, and the elements of the book – like the parkour were ignored, when Maddy commented in the film ‘You’re standing so still’ it had no context and felt superfluous. The severity of Olly’s relationship with his Father is alluded to, but lacked the prominence as it did in the novel. You really get a feel for what Olly is suffering through, and Maddy’s desperation to help him in the novel. It is raw, visceral and dangerous. The film simply shows a bit of shoving… I mean, it felt like such a weak trigger to propel Maddy into risking her life.

Olly’s sister plays a different role in the novel to the film, and because of the sanitised, laconic version of ‘Everything, Everything’ on the big screen, she was such a different creature in tone.

A scene not in the book – the visual delight the oceans of the world and Olly’s note was probably the best, and certainly the most memorable. If only that type of interpretation had been maintained throughout and the pacing kept up, I would have had a completely different opinion of the film. To prove a point, the first kiss – on the 4th of July was a big letdown in the film; the lighting effects came across as obviously fake and detracted from the mood of the scene.

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Aspects like this ‘scene treatment,’ lack of a characters narrative to set up the relationships and actions, and pacing overall turned the film into a disappointment for me. Though it was cute. Cute for a 12 year old, and too fluffed up for its intended YA demographic. And those who loved the book may feel that much of the better parts of the novel had been cut.

Where the film felt slow, empty, and left me with a sense of unanswered questions. The book, even though containing many inaccuracies, at least had more of a dynamic and plenty of character motivation and interest.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. 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 – ‘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.

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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

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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 – ‘Vitro’ (#2 Corpus) by Jessica Khoury

A great adventure that questions the morality of scientific exploration.

Vitro (Corpus #2) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure, Romance

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw.

Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. She enlists hunky charter pilot Jim Julien to take her there. But once on the island, Sophie and Jim encounter more than they bargained for, including a charming, brilliant Vitro named Nicholas and an innocent, newly awoken one named Lux.

In a race for their lives, Sophie and Jim are about to discover what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.

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I initially read the first novel of this collection over two years ago, and while I enjoyed ‘Origin,’ it felt like there was something missing. ‘Vitro’ and the third book in this trilogy ‘Kalahari’ are not sequels, but rather companion novels, it is easy to see a marked improvement in Khoury’s storytelling skills with each installment. None of these novels need to be read in order either, they are all strong standalones set in the same universe.

Vitro’ marks a great adventure from Jessica Khoury. One thing with her books is that they are thoroughly researched. The landscape is so picturesque and oozes from the page, so too does the science – though fictitious, there are enough of the basics honed in science fact to give a sense of believability. You really feel like you’re there along with the protagonist. Just brilliant.

Vitro (Corpus #2) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgSophie was a great main character. I liked her do or die attitude. She doubted herself very little even though she struggled with emotional demons and desired a place to belong. I wrestled more with the story towards the end – so much happened that I couldn’t as easily connect with Sophie or her choices. But still a great journey to read along with.

Sophie’s love interest, Jim was my hero. Literally my new fictional boyfriend crush. He was like a zombie – Khoury threw everything at this guy and he just kept getting back up! Loved it. I almost wished there was a spin off adventure series for Jim. I’ve read that this trilogy is the end for the corpus series – but really there are infinite possibilities to revisit and write more. I’m a big believer in never say never…

The pacing was better than ‘Origin,’ there were just a few moments where the narrative felt waffly, either in exposition or dialogue. But it was easy to skim past and get to the good stuff.

Something about the concept of this book that was morbidly fascinating. It didn’t sit well with me… I guess because of its implications. I squirmed a bit. It also felt a little unfinished, or not fully realised as the concepts in ‘Origin.’ There also seemed to be a lot of layers of story with ‘Vitro’ too. I loved the complexity, but it came close to feeling messy. I think the subtext of the book is what left me most uncomfortable‎. The different shades of humanity we see coming out in the different characters and how it ask us some big questions.

Again Khoury’s writing style and explicit description of landscape was thoroughly engaging. If she wrote travel books I’d never have to leave home.

Definitely an engaging read that I’d recommend to lovers of adventure with a science fiction twist. I had no hesitation in purchasing the final book in this collection ‘Kalahari,’ the review for that one is to come later this month.

Overall feeling: FMTFO! (freak me the firetruck out!)

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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 – ‘Inhuman’ (#1 Fetch) by Kat Falls

A great addition to the dystopian genre.

Inhuman Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Adventure

No. of pages: 378

From Goodreads:

In a world ravaged by mutation, a teenage girl must travel into the forbidden Savage Zone to recover lost artifacts or her father’s life is forfeit.

America has been ravaged by a war that has left the eastern half of the country riddled with mutation. Many of the people there exhibit varying degrees of animal traits. Even the plantlife has gone feral.

Crossing from west to east is supposed to be forbidden, but sometimes it’s necessary. Some enter the Savage Zone to provide humanitarian relief. Sixteen-year-old Lane’s father goes there to retrieve lost artifacts—he is a Fetch. It’s a dangerous life, but rewarding—until he’s caught.

Desperate to save her father, Lane agrees to complete his latest job. That means leaving behind her life of comfort and risking life and limb—and her very DNA—in the Savage Zone. But she’s not alone. In order to complete her objective, Lane strikes a deal with handsome, roguish Rafe. In exchange for his help as a guide, Lane is supposed to sneak him back west. But though Rafe doesn’t exhibit any signs of “manimal” mutation, he’s hardly civilized . . . and he may not be trustworthy. 

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Another amazing adventure from Kat Falls! I enjoyed this book immensely, although dealing with Dr. Moreau type mutations, there were colours of zombies and vampires – a spreading virus, changed by a bite, causes rage and violence… I loved it!

Inhuman Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle.jpgKat’s descriptions of the bleak dystopian world, and the mutated creatures within was marvellous. I was entertained throughout and gripped from start to finish. It didn’t have as much wonder and intricate plot as her previously released Darklife duology, this was more of a quest story with less twists and turns. So I felt the book overall was slightly less surprising.

The pace is fairly constant as the characters face one problem after another. And despite Falls’ great description, the narrative felt a touch flat in places. I guess because I’m comparing it to the Darklife books, and my enthusiastic joy over all things marine, ‘Inhuman’ did not quite meet the complexity and unpredictability of that series. Sure there were a few plot twists I didn’t see coming, but not to the scale of ‘Darklife’ – but having said that, I may have to eat my words in the follow-up ‘Undaunted’ (which I’m praying will finally get released this year.)

Lane (Delaney) started off as naive and full of potential, but it was only under stress and danger that she truly began to shine. I like how she never escaped consequences from her decisions either. Though, when it came to romantic entanglements she was a bit wishy washy. But given that her focus was on her Father and staying alive, I can forgive that minor frustration – she gave it the attention it deserved.

Maybe-love-interest, Rafe is such a smartarse – for some reason he reminded me of Pacy off ‘Dawson’s Creek:’ smart-mouthed but resourceful, always hanging in there. I got a little confused, one moment he’s a brother figure, then a love interest… not sure how I felt about it all. Though despite his abrasive bravado, he remains loyal to his ‘family’ right to the end. A very attractive quality.

Potential love interest, Everson surprised me a little, plot reveals, parts of his nature. We really find out who he is and what he’s willing to sacrifice for the greater good. I was attracted to his back story, his manners, and sense of adventure. I was really shipping him and Lane.

It is definitely an easy read, gripping, but I think I wanted a few bigger curve balls thrown at Lane. The surprises we do get are great, but something had me wishing for something grander. I’d still recommend it though. A fun dystopian adventure.

The cover art clearly depicts the world that Lane has grown up in – the dystopian feel with the rotting 21st Century buildings, and a massive wall to keep out the infected. The sepia hues really attracted my eye. The font is modestly large, lending to a feeling that you are speeding through the pages. A great package for an engaging read.

Overall feeling: Run of the mill, but entertaining.

Inhuman Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Inhuman Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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.

Wrap up – Embassy Row Trilogy by Ally Carter

A contemporary with international political intrigue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrap Up - Embassy Row Trilogy Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

All Fall Down’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/book-review-all-fall-down-by-ally-carter/

See How They Run’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/book-review-see-how-they-run-by-ally-carter/

Take the Key and Lock Her Upcarter’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/07/09/book-review-take-the-key-and-lock-her-up-by-ally-carter/

 

© 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.