Book Review – Shatter Me

Shatter Me Book CoverFrom Goodreads:

I have a curse
I have a gift

I am a monster
I’m more than human

My touch is lethal
My touch is power

I am their weapon
I will fight back

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

This book has been the hardest one to finish this year so far. Which was totally unexpected given the reviews from fellow BookTubers and friends. The main reason behind my difficulty in progress through the novel was due to the fact that I could not relate to Juliette, the protagonist. That, and the occasional crossed out words of her retracted inner thoughts. They were distracting and pulled me from the story.

Now the premise of the book was great, held copious amounts of promise, but the way in which Juliette dealt with her dilemma had me squirming. She came across as erratic, weak and slightly out of touch with reality. Which is understandable given the predicament she found herself in, but lacked the realism… and ultimately lead to a superficial feeling in the developing character arc when she began too find her confidence and strength.

The story didn’t pick up until the last quarter – when the action and pace matched my enthusiasm – and from then on was totally engrossed.

Upon finishing the novel I really felt you could have whittled out half of it’s content and it would have been a way better book. And it urks me that given so many of my peers rave about this book and the series that something major has slipped past me. Even in an attempted re-read I still hold true to my conviction and have to agree that this it the worst book on my reading list for 2014 to date. I will, however, go on to read the second book in the series at a later date and hope for it to not suffer the same damning review. Given that the slow preamble of her origins has already been told and left it open in the middle of a build up to some great action scenes, it should by far surpass ‘Shatter Me’s’ score…

Shatter Me Banner

My favourite Character has to be Adam – steadfast in his resolve, a quality I always adore in the ‘knight-in-shining-armour types. Plus he didn’t feel the need to compensate for moments when he was weak and added credibility to his character. I really would have abandoned the story completely if it weren’t for Adam and his compassion and resolve.

Warner, the antagonist, however, followed the same doomed path as Juliette… the first three quarters of the novel I was literally rolling my eyes at how two dimensional and stereotypical he felt. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had grown a moustache and curled the ends with a maniacal laugh as he tied Juliette to the train tracks. Though in that last quarter of the story we caught a glimpse of something else – a sincerity and a righteous point of view that suddenly sparked my interest. It certainly adds to the potential for the sequel.

Tahereh Mafi’s writing style is quite readable, and I enjoyed her short expressionistic lexicon on the whole, but those crossed out words subtracted from my experience. So did some of her stuccoed sentences used in moments of stress; it gave me the feeling of someone speaking slowly and simply as if you had difficulty in understanding in what they were trying to say.

Shatter Me Quote 01

The storytelling device of Juilette’s power is a fantastic one – a concept that had me picking up the book in the first place. I like the way it is handled in the novel too, yet so much unexplored, and so much too convenient in the novel. I’m really hoping Tahereh has worked out the bugs and really starts to play with Juliette’s power in the sequels. I’m still having difficulty in understanding the world of the novel though, it is sort of dystopian, and wasn’t explained convincingly enough for me to buy into it. I feel that you either have to do a bang on job of setting the scene, or hit the ground running and leave it as a mystery of how it all came to be – unfortunately ‘Shatter Me’ did neither for me.

There are some great quotes – as I mentioned before Tahereh has moments of truly beautiful writing. I also loved the symbolism of the bird used throughout the first novel and how it is woven expertly within the story. All in all it wasn’t a terrible book, but difficult for me to get into.

Shatter Me Book Review by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle  

© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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.

Progress on the Smoulder Series:

For those of you who follow my blogs regularly and know about my works in progress, you are aware I like to create my own book covers while I’m writing. An inspirational/motivational tool to cheer me on. Given that I’m half way through writing the series, I wanted to design some covers that tie the books together, and designed a new set. Check out my handiwork below:


The Smoulder series


New covers:

Smoulder #1- Smoulder Series by Casey Carlisle sml Smoulder #2 - Embers by Casey Carlisle sml Smoulder #3 - Wildfire by Casey Carlisle sml Smoulder #4 - Firestorm by Casey Carlisle sml

Old Covers:

Smoulder by Casey Carlisle sml Embers by Casey Carlisle sml Wildfire by Casey Carlisle sml Firestorm by Casey Carlisle sml


Do you create your own covers for works in progress? Does it help you stay motivated too?

I’d love to see some of your creations…

Book Review – Wake

Wake Lisa McMann by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people’s dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie’s seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can’t tell anybody about what she does they’d never believe her, or worse, they’d think she’s a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn’t wand and can’t control.

Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else’s twisted psyche. She is a participant.

This is a weird little book that quite frankly, I loved to bits. Its premise is unusual, lending to an original storyline. The main characters are flawed in that anti-hero way, giving depth to what could have turned out to be a disaster.

If I wanted to get technical and pick this book to pieces, you probably wouldn’t read it, but judged solely on its entertainment value, it rates high on my metre. Yes, the language is choppy and reads like a teen girls journal (but that is the target market right?) and some of the plot points a little unrealistic; but it is a fantasy, so you need to roll with the punches.

Wake’ was a very quick read – I completed it in one night. Its style is quite abrupt and in your face, so don’t expect an eloquent tale of a reluctant hero. I hate to say, but it almost feels like a first draft, where you are scrambling to get down the story before an edit to have it flowing properly. Having said that, I feel the writing style adds to the ambience and subject matter. As Janie, the main character, is pulled in and out of consciousness, so is the reader.

Girl sleeping in classI can’t say I predicted the direction of this novel all that expertly, and it felt as clunky as the writing, and often dwelled in that ‘after-school-special’ feeling with some of the topics thrown in the storyline. Given all these faults, ‘Wake’ still captured my imagination.

Janie’s narration, and her living situation were a little difficult to relate to. I know in YA books the parents aren’t that present, but it felt unrealistic in this case and had me glancing sideways at times thinking ‘Oh brother!

Cabel, the new guy (well, re-invented) and Janie have this “come here, no, go away relationship,” which was annoying, but managed to pay off at the conclusion of the novel. I’m still not certain I wholly liked the development of these two, but I think it came down the writing style of Lisa McMann, rather than the plot. If you can get past the slips of realism they are actually a cute and complimentary pair.

Carrie, Janie’s rebellious best friend brings some great colour (and language), although their friendship felt more like it was out of convenience than some deep connection. Nonetheless she is a great voice of reason in the novel and is one of my favourite characters.

I would still recommend this read, such an imaginative premise, dealing with complicated and taboo issues unabashedly. Being such a quick read I can overlook some of the issues I had about its style (hence 3 kisses instead of 2) and jumped into the second instalment of this series, ‘Fade,’ soon after. (I will say I enjoyed this sequel far better – be sure to keep an eye out for that review!)

A good little read when you have insomnia :p

Wake Book Review by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle   

© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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 – Anna Dressed in Blood

ImageA hellacious little book which is more surprising than scary…

From Goodreads:

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas’s life.

I passed over this title a number of times in my collection, its first impression did little to excite me. Even after the first few pages, I just about put it down – the language and set up of the storyline felt cliché and overused. Quite possibly it took a beat for the author to warm up to her subject, because after that, I was gripped.

Kendare Blake has written a fun and captivating novel. Macabre – check! Horror- some, but definitely not scary. Suspense – not overly, but expertly kept the tension going right to the last page. Her writing style is pleasant making Anna Dressed in Blood an ultimately entertaining and easy read.

I was a little annoyed in the first few chapters at the repetition of “Anna Dressed in Blood,” like some sort of ominous omen. It destroyed the reverie of the book and instead had me rolling my eyes – reminding me of those ‘80’s horror flicks with the compare staring down the lens using a radio voice in attempts to make us shiver.

ImageTold through Theseus Cassio Lowood’s point of view, who goes by Cas, a young male ghost hunter who travels from town to town eliminating restless spirits before they can add more hapless victims to their body count. He is a likable and sensible young man, and had me cheering for him in no time. His fixation with Anna Korlov, a powerful ghost came off a little weird, but I found I loved the dynamic. Kendare introduces most of the characters as fitting into a overdone stereotype, but then systematically destroys it leaving the cast as interesting and ultimately entertaining.

Granted the characters didn’t face that much difficulty outside of the storyline, abandoning the potential for the novel to become much darker through increasing the problems and anxiety they faced. The addition of parental (and grand-parental) involvement also had me cheering, adding credibility to the plight of Cas and Anna.

I was aware of the author’s voice at some points – inadvertently using language in an effort to sound like a teen. Plus I felt like she let circumstances explained off to easily. With so many unexplained deaths in the backstory, it felt a little too convenient. I felt raising the difficulty for Cas would have added some much needed suspense and intrigue.

Although being able to predict the direction of the book, I was unable to foresee the events which took it there, delighting me with surprises chapter after chapter. It also had the added benefit of having a double climax: just when you think the story is over and things are wrapping up Kendare reveals another set of problems. I know some readers are not a fan of this, but I welcome any break from traditional story telling. With a follow up novel, Girl of Nightmares, I am expecting much more and have already added in my reading pile.

Anna Dressed in Blood is not a horror, not a paranormal thriller, and not a romance, but elements of all three.


It was announced recently that Anna Dressed in Blood in currently under development for a screen adaptation by Stephenie Meyer’s company Fickle Fish, and I’m really excited in anticipation to see how it unravels on the big screen. What elements will they keep, will it be terrifying, or dark and comedic (along the lines of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) because it could certainly work either way. Needless to say I will be keeping an eye out for a trailer sometime next year.


*photos used from and respectivelyImage

© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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 – ‘Fallen’ by Lauren Kate … written by Casey Carlisle.

Where some angels fear to read.

ImageThe first book in a YA supernatural series promising something “dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, ‘Fallen’ is a thrilling story about forbidden love.”

                My overall impression of this book was mixed with unrealised potential. I did enjoy to story, but it failed to reach my expectations.

Having been recommended by a number of friends, I finally succumbed and bought the book. The cover and blurb hinted at an angsty romance with plenty of action and drama… well it did play out between the pages, but with a rather lukewarm execution.

The story itself is interesting, although nothing new or surprising, and if it hadn’t been such a lumbering read I would have rated it higher. You could predict the plot easily and I was a little disappointed how the climax (battle) of the book took place off screen. There were some unique and devices within the novel, like the use of shadows to glimpse a window into the past, I really liked how this was done. But amnesia and flashbacks are two of my pet hates in a novel – because they are cliché and overused.

With so many books being turned into movies these days (as this one will be), I’m interested to see what will come of ‘Fallen,’ because it may quite possibly turn out much more entertaining than the book.

Luce, the main character, was too insipid for me. She reacted to the circumstances around her, and lacked strength. I can understand what Lauren Kate was trying to convey with this story, but neglected to give her main cast any sort of edge. Similarly Daniel and Cam, fighting for Luce’s affection, were equally two-dimensional. Both had strong chauvinistic attributes and I failed to connect with any of the characters or their love story. I don’t mind reading this type of genre from time to time; the all or nothing stakes for an indescribable passion between two people. But ‘Fallen’ fell down on this aspect.


Lauren’s writing is easy to read, and I enjoyed her style – she just kept losing me. I feel if you cut the book down to half its size to ensure the pace pulled you through the story, Luce would have been seen as a survivor rather than someone who simply endures. But the end of the novel I was more interested in the periphery characters: they had powers and attitude that stirred my curiosity.

Another aspect of ‘Fallen’ which didn’t play well with me, only from personal taste, is that I’m not too fond of stories involving angels. It humanises the divine and mixed drama into religious beliefs. Sometimes it can be done really well (as was with Cassandra Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments because the angels were a story telling devise, not a character trait) and sometimes not.

But if you love epic love stories, and angels, and don’t mind a passive protagonist then you will love this book.

 Excited over the premise, disappointed by the execution and it gets 2 out of 5 kisses from me.

   Image  Image


© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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.

Indigenous characters in popular Australian YA Fiction – do we represent? … by Casey Carlisle


                The silence of our stolen generation echoes in our YA literature…

I’m not trying to be political, or clever, but growing up in Alice Springs, NT, aboriginals were my classmates, my friends, my neighbours… and it was only natural to include our native Australians as characters in my novels. I didn’t think twice about it. So when I did a little research recently on YA novels, particularly the Australian market – not only for interest’s sake, but a little market research – it upset me to find very little representation of not only Indigenous writers, but also Aboriginal characters within popular YA publications.

When tackling the global market and the most recent prolific titles for the YA industry, the only title that stood out depicting indigenous characters, was Twilight’s Jacob Black. Australian Authors didn’t even make the top ten on the list. When actively looking for cross-cultural content, you can find it. But you have to be looking, it’s not on best seller lists, shown in billboards, being made into movies (as is the current craze). Is it that we aren’t tooting our own horn enough? Going that extra mile to market Australian talent overseas? Staying true to the ‘Australian Brand’ in our writing?

Then I thought about my favourite movies and television shows produced in Australia and struggled to find any which had an Aboriginal character as a part of the main cast. Suddenly I felt very disappointed in our Entertainment Industry.

With a secondary character in the ongoing series ‘Smoulder’ and a half-cast protagonist for ‘The Understudy,’ Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders are in the forefront of my cast it was never my aim to be culturally diverse. And it was a surprise in recent feedback on drafts, with beta readers praising the inclusion of characters of colour, which had me responding, “It really shouldn’t warrant comment. These types of characters should be mainstream in Australian content. Their representation wasn’t on purpose, I write drawing from my experiences.”

So I guess this is my social commentary on the sad fact that the only exposure overseas readers get of Australians and our indigenous brothers and sisters is of stereotyped characters like Paul Hogan, Steve Irwin and the nameless shadows clad in a loin cloth, propped on one leg with a spear. I really hope that more modern, Australian content starts to appear. Characters artfully written in YA novels with intricate and intelligent storylines to challenge preconceived ideas of the developmental rift between our two cultures. This topic leaves me itchy and uncomfortable because there is so much more that could be said, and so much more light needs to be spread over this topic. But I want to refrain from getting on my soapbox and concentrate on staying true to my voice. I guess I have to be one of those instruments of change – keep writing, continue to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander characters in my novels. And hope that others will start to do the same and show Australia for the truly unique country it is.



© Casey Carlisle 2014. 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.

Excerpt from ‘Smoulder’ by Casey Carlisle

Image            When we entered the Lab, Matthew wiggled his fingers at me in a goodbye gesture and took his seat in the front row.

“Miss Taylor!” Mrs Noble exclaimed happily. “I have the last spot just for you.”

She pointed across the room to the second-last bench towards the back, where an empty stool waited for me.

I recognised Theodore immediately. Raven black hair falling in strands across one eye. He hadn’t noticed me yet, busily flipping through a text book.

As I walked down the aisle to the empty seat a tingling sensation filled my head. I reached the desk and started to pull out the stool when he looked up. Expecting another dazzling smile I inhaled deeply to calm myself. Instead, his eyes widened in recognition and his forehead crinkled, an expression more worried than pleased to see me. I tried to hide the confusion from showing on my face – hadn’t he just smiled at me during lunch? It was understandable that he would change his mind now he could see me up close.

“Hi.” I quietly chirped, moving to sit down.

My face felt hot again, no doubt tinged with red. Not hitting the seat squarely, glancing painfully off the side, I stumbled and caught my head on the edge of the bench, tripping into the aisle. Great first impression.

“Are you alright?” Theodore bent down steadying me with his hands, both of us squatting between the rows of benches.

I was thankful that he had been the solitary witness to my ungracefulness.

“I’m sure I’ll live.” I pushed back my hair and met his eyes.

They were even more stunning up close, the lightest pale blue around the black centre, to a deep violet rimming the circumference. His irises did that reflective thing you see in photographs for a second. A little twinkle. I was suddenly aware of his hands on my shoulders and my breathing accelerated. Theodore’s hands were hot, maybe I made him nervous too?

“Here let me help you.” He stood, steadying me by grabbing an elbow.

“Is she okay?” I heard Mrs Noble ask over my shoulder.

My head momentarily dipped and I clumsily stepped into Theodore’s chest. Wow – he was more muscly than I had thought. His arms shot around me before I fell again. Boy he smelled good! I attempted to shake off the dizziness and felt Theodore stiffen. Was he preparing for me to topple again?

The sound of breaking glass exploded through the room followed by alarmed screams. I felt sharp pain on my left forearm. Looking up, I discovered that the beakers on the shelves above our bench had exploded, shards of glass littering the floor and the bench. My eyes shifted to focus on a glittering at Theodore’s shoulder, and the thick pointed wedges embedded there.

“Oh my goodness!” Mrs Noble fussed, signalling for the class to settle. “How did that happen?”

“You’re hurt.” Theodore’s husky voice breathed in my ear.

I knew it was my arm without looking, it stung and a warm stickiness dribbled towards my elbow.

“Mrs Noble, she’s bleeding.” Everyone wide eyed and excited, but Theodore’s voice was calm, as if unaffected by the event.

“Dear girl.” She stepped over splintered glass and inspected my arm.

Theodore’s hands left my skin, followed by the distinct tinkle of a few pieces of falling glass.

“Should I take her to the nurse?” Matthew suddenly appeared at the teachers side.

“Yes, that would be a great help.” Matthew wrapped an unnecessary arm around my waist and walked me up the aisle towards the door.

I turned to look at Theodore, knowing he’d been cut too, but something about the look on his face made me stop. Matthew tugged on me harder and got me out of the door.

© Casey Carlisle 2013. 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.

Teaser #2 from “Beecham’s Nightfall” by Casey Carlisle

The second installment of a side project… when wrapped up in the world of a novel and hit a roadblock, it helps to take a break and do something completely different. And thus Beecham’s Nightfall was born. It’s not perfect, unedited, just a quick diddy for amusement.

For the first part in this series click >here<


Chapter 2


Beecham's Nightfall by Casey Carlisle

          Lying in the steamy water, letting the heat draw tension from muscles, which was helped along by a glass of wine I delicately balanced on the rim of the bath tub. Recalling it had been six months to the day since being woken by the police banging at my door. With the sun setting behind a neighbors yard, the two constables were bathed in a golden light, and I instantly felt relieved – like a pair of angels reporting for duty. However the night quickly turned sour after they reported that the scene had been cleaned of any evidence to corroborate my story. They were here to take my statement. At first I panicked, imagining scenarios of B-Grade Horror Films where I’d be declared a loony and subsequently committed. Fortunately, both young men were sympathetic and eager to hear my version of events… well the version without my imaginative interpretation. Plus I had collected my own evidence: which they promptly confiscated.

          I’d received two follow up phone calls since, assuring that the matter was still under investigation, and checking to see if I had any further information. I remained tight-lipped about my supernatural version. The last thing I wanted to do was sully the investigation with fanciful theories.

          It was a Godsend when the police had taken the clippings, photos and samples I collected, for it enabled me to forget it all the quicker – convince myself that it was entirely a bad dream. Except for when I slept, it all replayed in my subconscious, the screams, the gut-churning snap of breaking bone, the shredded chunks of dog I’d had the unfortunate experience of slipping in. Each time those images flitted through my mind, it was accompanied with the sense-memory of the repulsive coppery, rotting, stomach acid fumes. I’d woken and chundered a number of times, caught with a full stomach; but lately the nightmares were having less impact.

          Any inclination to delve into further mysteries evaporated, and I flourished in the uneventful domesticity of work-home-eat-sleep routine. Finding there was nothing better than a mechanical and monotonous schedule to ease a troubled mind.

          For the first week after the police had paid me a visit I had agonized over the choice whether to take some accrued annual leave and get away, far away, like overseas – Venice, where I had always longed to go. Instead I had opted for the second choice, and spent my savings on increasing security around the house. Installing cyclone shutters, sensor lights, security cameras on the front and back doors, and converted the concrete storage space under the stairs into a make-shift panic room.

          Hearing a slight noise, I languidly gazed out the barred bathroom window to identify the tapping and scratching sounds of a tree branch flapping in the buffeting wind and rain outside, a shiver rippling up my arms, I slouched farther into the piping hot bubble bath. Every noise frightened me since that night trapped in a rusty furnace, terrified by the heavy breathing at the grill where I hid, followed by the most violent animalistic screams. Tomorrow I’d need to trim back the tree again.

          Arriving at Dawson and Associates early the next morning I was greeted in the small freshly painted lobby by the other two partners, Andrew Fancis and Steven Bast.

“Good morning Miss Rosenthall, you’re nice and early as usual.” Mr Bast greeted with a big smile.

“Morning Mr Bast, Mr Francis.” I nodded to each of them intending to continue to my desk.

“Can you check Errol’s diary to see if he can squeeze an appointment in this afternoon with Normanby Trucking. They are a potential new client that could bring in a lot of business for us.”

“Certainly. I’ll email out a meeting invite. Do you have the particulars?”

“Skye will have them.”

“And is there any background information so I can prepare for Mr Dawson?”

“I have a little, but could you be a dear and do a little more research?”

As easily as I got along with everyone at work, Mr Bast continually called me ‘dear’ which always felt condescending – it was an old man’s term of endearment, but coming from a thirty-something overweight man, it just felt wrong, even if it was unintentional.

          I swept past the chatting gentlemen and headed to the reception desk which was still empty, leaving a sticky note on Skye’s computer screen asking for the details of Normanby Trucking. Continuing to the rear of the building where my cubicle was situated outside Mr Dawson’s office, I booted up the computer ready for the day’s tasks. Completing a small folio profiling the transport company before my boss tenderly walked up the hallway, always quiet and respectful, carrying what I guessed was another bag with a tupperware’d meal.

“Ah, Ida. Good to see you this morning.”

“Morning, are you well?”

“As much as these old bones can be. Here’s something Kathleen made for you. She’s trying out a new recipe which I’m afraid is a little too spicy for me.” He handed me the plastic bag.

“Let her know I’m very greatful.”

“She wants to know what you think, she want’s to use if for a dinner with friends next month.”

“I’m sure it will be sublime.”

Mr Dawson leant on the top of the partition signifying he was more in the mood for a chat than attacking the piles of work littering his desktop.

“You know my nephew is visiting this weekend from Melbourne, maybe if you are not busy, you’d join us for dinner. I’m afraid Kat and I will bore the poor lad to death.”

“Mr Dawson, I hope you are not trying to set me up?” I gave him a cheeky smile.

“Goodness no, you’re much too nice for him. Kat has been asking to see you again, and you work so hard, we thought it would be a nice break from the routine.”

“In that case, I’d be delighted.”


“I’ve forwarded your messages to your inbox; and Sue from Mendlesons wanted you to call her back quite urgently. Also Mr Bast and Mr Francis wanted to schedule a meeting with you and a new client this afternoon. I’ll email an invite shortly, but here’s a dossier for reference. I’ll need to schedule your four o’clock with Mr Ceder if you approve?”

“That sounds fine Ida.” He flipped through the folder I handed him. “Did you prepare this yourself?”


“Great work. We might have to think about promoting you sometime soon, if your interested? I was thinking about having you manage some of our larger client accounts. Give it some thought will you?”

“Uh.” I stuttered, taken completely by surprise. “Sure.”

That effectively ended the conversation as my face turned a shade of beetroot and Mr Dawson cleared his throat several times before retreating to his den.

          Saturday was upon me before I was ready, and presented to Mr Dawson’s doorstep in heels and a dress, it was the first time I’d bothered to dress in anything other than my work clothes or sweats in months. The anticipated awkwardness throughout the evening was nowhere to be seen; in fact I had a marvelous time. Mr Dawson’s nephew, Jacob, was hilarious company. A good five years younger than myself and still possessing that glassy-eyed exuberance and optimism for life, he amused the table with anecdotes of adventures in the big city. I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed so much. I retired for the night with a full belly and a kiss on the cheek. Failing to notice the darkness, or imagine sinister eyes watching me, I unlocked the front door and made my way to bed.

          The night out had broken a ritualistic spell that consumed my life over the last six months, my routines began the falter in which I had placed so much asylum. Although I still dead-bolted the doors and windows, tucked away indoors before the sun kissed the horizon of an evening – my bravado returned as I tenuously checked over the news for any further animal mauling. No missing persons. No dead bodies. Appeased to find a vacancy of such stories in the bulletin, convinced that my fears were mere fantasy. No more would I become statuesque, like a kangaroo caught in the headlights of a semi-trailer, entranced and wide-eyed at small sounds. The adrenaline soaked synapses of my brain matter connected noises to their harmless sources: branches in the wind, a passing car, a party down the block… everything was explainable. No longer was I going to remain a neurotic; locked in an old house with the ghost of a garroted teen.

          The remission of my over-cautious nature was noticed by those around me, even Skye Merrick, our receptionist, invited me to lunch with her frequently.

“So tell me, who is he?” She asked, while masticating a mouthful of salad.

“He who?”

“The guy who’s put a skip in your step.”

“There’s no guy.”

“A girl?” Skye leaned in excitedly.

I rolled my eyes. She was always so animated, her head stuck in the latest rag mags, wore way too heavy foundation and hair hot ironed straight like brittle yellow straw. A victim of name fad’s from the 80’s, Skye epitomized every blonde joke. She had a heart of gold and dreamed of leaving our small community for the active nightlife and club scene of a city. Maybe Mr Dawson should have introduced her to Jacob?

“No girl either.” I replied dryly.

“Well what is it then?”

“I got offered a promotion.” I grasped, not wanting to re-tell a story that would have her thinking I was schizophrenic.

“No shit! You gonna be a fully-fledged accountant? Is he grooming you as a new partner for the firm?”

“No, Mr Dawson asked if I’d be interested in managing a few accounts for the firm. That’s all.”

“Well congratulations. You deserve it.” She finally swallowed the mouthful of food before continuing. “We should celebrate!”

“I don’t know. I haven’t even accepted it yet.”

“Are you stupid. Of course you’ll take it. And we are having a girl’s night out!”

I was more concerned if I objected Skye would end up spraying her food to convince me as she chomped another all-too-large bite full of her lunch. Besides, what could it hurt? It’s about time I reclaimed my life.

          As my social life re-emerged – with the assistance of Skye setting me up with Chris Sturgess on our evening celebration – a couple of lunch dates later I escaped from work Friday afternoon as she and Mr Dawson began to prod me for details. I wasn’t the type to discuss my personal life with anyone, and the thought of divulging any part of my dates, or feelings, turned my stomach.

          Ensconced back in my familiar four walls I deliberated over phoning Chris to ask him out on what would be our first official date… maybe at Flinders Restaurant for dinner?. It wasn’t too fancy but had an intimate enough atmosphere.

Time to stop being a coward.

Refusing to fade into history like Nanette, I picked up the phone. And then promptly put it back down.

Maybe after a bath… and some dinner.

          Falling back into my nightly routine I ate, bathed, and checked every window and door. Unencumbered by any further excuses, I made a second attempt to dial Chris’s number. It was already late, the sky past the purplish bruise of a sun long gone. Scrolling through my contacts I suddenly felt the familiar prickle of hair along the back of my neck, sensing something with claws and teeth watching through the half closed shutters in the dining room window.

Just ignore it! You’re nervous, that’s all. No need to succumb to your over-active imagination.

I found Chris’ name in the list on the touch screen of my mobile phone.

Don’t look. Don’t look!

The window beckoned to me.

I pressed ‘Call’ listening to the dial tone. He didn’t answer, instead redirected to his voicemail. I searched the wall desperate for an invitation that sounded casual and cool. Then I stared out the window.

Another set of eyes were staring back.

That reflective eye-shine that cats have. Clear and close. I took a deep calming breath.

It’s not real!

And then they blinked, moved ever so slightly.

Just an animal. A dog, a possum. Nothing sinister.

Was I having a panic attack because I had to ask a boy out on a date?

­Be brave.

I took a few steps towards the window, fixated on the twin yellow-pearl glowing orbs following my movements. I was safe behind iron bars and locks. At the glass pane, unable to make out an outline of whatever animal had me under surveillance. With my free hand I reached up slowly towards the external light switch. The motion sensors should have lit up the yard like the midday sun, so, more than likely this was nothing.

I flicked the switch.

The yard was immediately illuminated – and empty. But the eyes remained fixed upon me. They were further back, in the scrub behind the house. Now that I had some perspective on the distance of whatever was watching, I realized it was big! The eyes were far apart at that distance, and up high. Six, maybe seven foot tall.

I gasped.

And then they blinked out.

          Finally snapping out of my reverie, I ducked behind the wall.

Realizing I’d just left a five minute message to Chris consisting of heavy breathing, I hung up. Running about to re-check the security system, the locks, turning off the interior lights as I went, I refused to let paranoia consume me. My hands trembled and I could barely hear a thing over the blood pounding in my eardrums.

I curled up on my bed for hours, mind buzzing. I was safe. This house was a veritable Fort Knox. No matter what it was that I thought I saw, the house would light up like a Christmas Tree, alarm blaring and a reinforced panic room for me to escape to, counter-measures before dissolving into a pathetic, cowering child. Reassured, I lay a while longer, restless, before resorting to a sleeping tablet and relief in a chemically induced slumber.

Things always look better in the morning… in daylight­.

          It was noon by the time my drug fueled and drooling coma wore off. I felt a little foolish about last night. Petrified by some innocuous mammal in the bush, and leaving an ominous sex-pest voicemail on Chris’ phone. How embarrassing! Maybe I can shrug it off saying that I must have pocket dialed him? Brushing my teeth and throwing on my regular weekend uniform, grey sweats and sneakers, hair wrapped up in a twisted knot atop my head. Skipping any breakfast I ventured outside to inspect the yard, determined to prove that I was in fact, a complete idiot.

          Examining the tree line first around where I had seen the mysterious holographic irises taking in my house, I uncovered a section of ground compacted and disturbed. Small twigs and under brush were bent and snapped leading a trail away into the hills. But the track also continued right into the back yard. Whatever over-sized rodent it was, had made its way to the house.

          I checked the bins first, but they yielded no results. Retracing my steps and inspecting the perimeter I discovered scuff and trample marks in the ground at several places along the wall, just under the windows. Something was casing the house, peering in. I couldn’t make out any foot or paw prints. But thank heaven I’d had the forethought to install security measures.

          Just as I was about to return indoors I noticed part of the wall glistened with a water mark, now dry, its crystalline residue coloring the render with a yellowish hue. I bent closer and caught a spicy, definite uric scent. Checking the rest of the walls, each corner had the same discolored patch. Something had marked this as its territory. My house, me, firmly locked in its cross-hairs.

          If I’d eaten breakfast, I’m fairly sure I would have thrown it up. Suddenly, the six months since my night in the abandoned church seemed like yesterday. And I knew in my gut – as inconceivable as it seemed – that there was something out there, be it animal or animal-like, which had hunted me down.

 © Casey Carlisle 2014. 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.