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 – ‘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 – Origin by Jessica Khoury

Test-tube baby with bite!

Origin Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Adventure, Romance

No. of pages: 394

From Goodreads:

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home―and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin―a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

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The cover and blurb had me picking up this book and flicking through. The quest for immortality through science, all wrapped up in the existence of a teenage girl – yes please!

Pia is inquisitive and intelligent (a combination which is asking for trouble while kept in captivity if you ask me) and though I found it easy to relate to her, sometimes I felt she was too well adjusted. I wanted to see her test the boundaries a lot more – I think it would have illustrated the need for the extreme measures of her containment better other than secrecy.

Origin Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleEio was fascinating. Jessica Khoury managed to capture that innocence and naivety that isolated aboriginals have – even though they are fiercely intelligent in other ways (as Eio is). But I felt he also was a little too well adjusted (or domesticated) to having a camp – and Pia – close to his village. I had difficulty marrying the two cultures together properly with Pia’s narrative. Eio is that mix of a daring little boy and a courageous man, unafraid of the world outside, despite the rainforest having been his only home. I know it’s not related, but I kept getting flashes of Tim Allen’s movie ‘Jungle 2 Jungle’ while reading this.

Khoury has a decadent narrative style, she paints beautiful scenes of the jungle and night sky, which I felt suited this novel as it was all Pia knew; and she was finding the beauty in her surrounds (and being slowly introduced to new wonders around the camp). Even with that said, the first half of the book dragged on. In my opinion it was because it had a lot of scientific lexicon or Pia’s mental musings that contributed to weighing down the progression of the story… but I still really enjoyed it.

The story itself if intriguing, and the cast of scientists’ complex enough, but the pace, combined unsubstantiated actions or events left this feeling like a first draft.

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I have since discovered another two novels in the Corpus universe (though not sequels) which I am keen to add to my collection.

Overall feeling: yeah, but…

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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.