Book Review – ‘No Vain Loss’ (#3 No Ordinary Star) by M.C. Frank

All I can say is… blerg!

No Vain Loss Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 229

From Goodreads:

A soldier is summoned to the North Pole, days before the year changes, told to fix the great Clock for a celebration. He has no idea what to do. 

A girl, hunted for the crime of being born, almost dies out on the ice. She is rescued by the last polar bear left alive.
A library waits for them both, a library built over a span of a hundred years, forgotten in the basement of an ice shack.
The world hasn’t known hunger or sickness in hundreds of years. It has also forgotten love and beauty. 

This is the One World. 

The year is 2524. 

This is by no means a standalone novel in a trilogy – more like the third act of a whole. Why M.C. Frank released these novellas in this format has me dumbfounded. The novel jumps right into the action and there is little back story or summary of what has come before. Again, like its predecessors, I found it extremely difficult to connect to any of the characters or fully understand their motivations.

One gleaming positive about ‘No Vain Loss’ is the plot. It was the most interesting of the trilogy so far. There are hardships, twists and turns, and definitely the most intricate so far. So viewing the novella from a mechanical standpoint, it was pretty good. But as for the rest, I found it miserably deficient.

There was not enough character development for me to identify with any of the cast, or cheer for their journey. The descriptions are bland and bleak. The world building (though confusing at times) is much more colourful. I wanted that same care taken to the characters as well. This, added with short chapters and alternating perspectives, also contributed to the distancing from the narrative. I never really had enough time to grow with either protagonist. And then calling each other ‘Tin Soldier’ and ‘Match girl’ might have been cute, but it was used so repetitively it lost the romance and became annoying. Slapping a throwback signifier also distanced me from either protagonist. It all felt a little forced and disingenuous.

No Vain Loss Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThis has got to be the worst series I’ve ever read. I had to force myself to complete each and every one of these novellas. And that’s not a great compliment because they are meant to be short, paced reads. I kept putting them down due to boredom and lack of interest.

I don’t even want to re-gift these to anyone, I prefer to toss them in the bin. The art work looks like it’s been done by a primary schooler on PhotoShop – couldn’t there have been some original images used that relate to the story and its symbolism instead of low resolution clip art?

Yes the concept of this trilogy, and the plot outline is fantastic, but its execution is the worst I’ve come across to date.

Definitely don’t recommend this one. (Or the series.)

 Overall feeling: Worst. Book. Series. Ever.

No Vain Loss Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

No Vain Loss 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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#bookquotes

#BQ World War Z by Casey Carlisle

Great movie, but it is a struggle to read this novel. Looking forward to the sequel and some more of Brad Pitt on the big screen :p Filming starts this coming summer, so not long to wait now.

Book Review – ‘In a Handful of Dust’ (#1 Not a Drop to Drink) by Mindy McGinnis

It’s a hard knock life!

In a Handful of Dust (#2 Not a Drop to Drink) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 384

From Goodreads:

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

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There is certainly always something going on in this novel. A fight for survival, deception, overcoming a psychological need to simply give up. I sped through ‘In a Handful of Dust’ in a day. There was no putting it down.

It’s a bleak world protagonists Lynn and Lucy live in. And their trek across America to escape a Polio outbreak and hopefully find the fabled Promised Land in California that has a desalination plant. Water. And plenty of it. An easier life. It was a great – I want to say road trip – in a dystopian future.

In a Handful of Dust (#2 Not a Drop to Drink) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleLynn, the protagonist from the first book in this duology ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ is now an older woman and Lucy her adopted charge, now in her late teens, have been weathered by a life of having to shoot first and ask questions later. Especially Lynn, who’s had to fight, guard, and sniper her way through every minute of every day. Rewarded by drops of water. Life gets a little bit easier for the pair before the Polio outbreak, but Lynn never loses her edge. And that hardness and survival-mentality is what carries the two to the opposite coast of America, California from Ohio.

Lucy slowly becomes a different, more compassionate and self-sufficient woman. Finds her place in the world. Her own wants and needs. This is really her story.

The plot itself if predictable. The girls have a destination in mind and will do anything to get there. It’s the journey that throws the surprise and shapes them into stronger women. I got a few curve balls thrown at me that I did not see coming, but on the whole I don’t think I was overly shocked with the twists and turns. The tone of this novel prepares you for striking news… which is a shame because the shock value would have been magnificent. *me holding the book, mouth wide open*

I wasn’t completely sold on the ending, though it is left open for further books in the series; but McGinnis has stated on her website that she has moved on from this collection for now.

I liked McGinnis’ writing style, it’s poetic and stark at the same time. Similar to the observations and descriptions of the landscape. It wasn’t too dumbed down either, which was refreshing for a YA novel.

I’m glad I got to continue with Lynn’s story and would recommend this to those who love a good survival story. Even though it is classified dystopian, it differs from the usual in this genre. We get notes of feminism that sit well with me.

I know Stephenie Meyer’s Fickle Fish Films optioned the debut ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ for a film back in 2014, but we’ve heard no updates since then. I’d be interested to see what treatment they give the film, and what star they could attract to play Lynn.

Overall feeling: I feel exhausted… in a good way.

In a Handful of Dust (#2 Not a Drop to Drink) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

In a Handful of Dust (#2 Not a Drop to Drink) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Retribution’ (#5 The After Light Saga) by Cameo Renae

The conclusion to worst series I’ve ever read. Love the concept but the writing was extremely undercooked.

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 301

From Goodreads:

War is coming between humans and Arvies, leaving me trapped between two enemies. This time, I don’t think I’ll survive.

The government will stop at nothing to get me back in their clutches. They want what’s inside me—a power I call Venge—and will use my greatest weakness to bring me to my knees. 

The Arvies know of my gift, and use my telepathy and their numbers, in an effort to take me out. 

My name is Abigail Park, and I promise retribution against those who’ve wronged me, even if it’s the last thing I do.

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All I can say is thank goodness this series is over and my OCD can pack up and leave! I still maintain the concept of The After Light Saga is brilliant, and I loved this story in theory, but the writing and execution was hella-poor.  It had every bad YA trope I can think of. I still cringe when I remember how Protagonist Abi named her gun and her psychic ability. Hellfire and Venge. Ugh! It wasn’t even done ironically.

Abi loves to blurt out everything to complete strangers. She hasn’t learnt to be cautious despite all of the crap she has found herself in since leaving the bunker. People are fighting to survive, so some caution should be common sense by now. Especially by book five. Not only does this reflect badly on her as a character, but is a form of info-dumping. I hope Cameo Renae grows as a writer because she has a great imagination and I’d love to read her stories if she can level-up.

How many times was Abi going to pass out? It felt like every two or three chapters ended with ‘my world went black.’ It felt like cheap storytelling. I was really gritting my teeth trying to get through this novel.

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI’m still not convinced of the romantic paring of Abi and Finn. I can’t relate to either of them. From the first novel until this finale, still every description of either revolve around how sexy they are. Nauseating. The overly lovey-dovey carry on didn’t feel like it was properly established or grounded in connection between Abi and Finn. It was all about muscles and abs – a strong emotional connection that wasn’t explored. This pairing could have been iconic if treated differently.

But having said that, some of the romance is cute – though other parts immature and sickly sweet, bordering on unrealistic. People that age don’t wax poetic like Cameo has written. It felt more like wish fulfilment than grounded in the character and relatable to the demographic of this series.

Reference to ‘normal’ life’ pre-bunker was made, but given that Abi has spent her life underground, she couldn’t have possibly experienced everything mentioned. Big contextual error there.

The introduction of the dog was a pleasant surprise – it added some interest and lightness to the narrative. Though this, and the astral travelling thing, felt a bit forced and not in the same vein as the rest of the story.

It feels like everyone is dumb. The army grunts, the government. And it only amplified how immature I felt the writing was. Characters are so quick to offer forgiveness and detailed explanations (more info-dumping) – they feel two-dimensional and obviously guided by the hand of the author. Where’s the complexity, the tension, diversity. It added to my frustration. This whole series reads like a child’s imaginings.

However, ‘Retribution’ cutely wrapped the series up (even if it had a tone of convenience.)

I hate to say this, but this collection makes me want to gag. ‘Retribution’ is a touch better than some of the previous sequels, but certainly not one I recommend. I’ll be donating the series, it’s not something I want to keep in my library.

Overall feeling: Blurgh!

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Retribution (#5 After Light Saga) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Elites of Eden’ (#2 Children of Eden) by Joey Graceffa and Laura L. Sullivan

Starts off a bit disorientating but brings it home in the end.

Elites of Eden (#2 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, GLBT

No. of pages: 289

From Goodreads:

Two girls, one destiny.

Yarrow is an elite: rich, regal, destined for greatness. She’s the daughter of one of the most powerful women in Eden. At the exclusive Oaks boarding school, she makes life miserable for anyone foolish enough to cross her. Her life is one wild party after another…until she meets a fascinating, lilac-haired girl named Lark.

Meanwhile, there is Rowan, who has been either hiding or running all her life. As an illegal second child in a strictly regulated world, her very existence is a threat to society, punishable by death…or worse. After her father betrayed his family, and after her mother was killed by the government, Rowan discovered a whole city of people like herself. Safe in an underground sanctuary that also protected the last living tree on Earth, Rowan found friendship, and maybe more, in a fearless hero named Lachlan. But when she was captured by the government, her fate was uncertain.

When these two girls discover the thread that binds them together, the collision of memories means that their lives may change drastically—and that Eden may never be the same..

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This book was disorientating at the start and it took 100 pages to figure out what the heck was going on. There was no connection to the prequel ‘Children of Eden’ at all. But when the story got going it was a doozy. I really enjoyed the second half of this book.

I feel character development and relationships were sacrificed for action. While I was totally engrossed with all the goings-on, there were many missed opportunities to build attachments to the main cast.

Yarrow/Rowan still possess that adventurous spirit‎, a dash of naivety, and a whole lot of spunk, but I wanted a bit more from her in this instalment. She doesn’t really get a chance to do much for herself, she’s caught up in a whirlwind of colour, action, and espionage that it felt like she was treading water in a rough sea.

I loved Lark’s role in ‘Elites of Eden,’ but felt like the story changed gears as soon as things started to get interesting. Lachlan wasn’t so prevalent and felt more like a prop to the storyline. With both of these characters as potential love interest for Yarrow/Rowan it added tension and a strained group dynamic. But we don’t delve too much beyond attraction and measuring a person’s worth – there’s none of that real world politics and social pressure leaving the interactions in their purest form.

Elites of Eden (#2 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

There are some banger twists and turns, none of which I predicted. It ends on a note that had me saying ‘What tha!’ out loud, and both excited to read what comes next. The story is not done yet. And now with the finale to this trilogy ‘Rebels of Eden’ already released, I’ve got it in my shopping cart for my next book haul.

The writing style possesses a charm all of its own, an innocence, but overall the narrative felt choppy because of the departure from the first novel, and then lots of action after re-establishing itself. I loved all the plot points and am invested and intrigued, but this was a harder book to get into.

On a personal note I wish there was a little more hype and hint about this series – a year with nothing and then a release with little to no fanfare… I was eager for more and surprised that with such a prolific author in the social media scene that Keywords did not market the novel more thoroughly. Maybe they thought his notoriety would sell it for them?

Overall feeling: intrigued but underwhelmed

Elites of Eden (#2 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Elites of Eden (#2 Children of Eden) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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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 – ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ (#1 Not a Drop to Drink) by Mindy McGinnis

A dystopian school of hard knocks..

Not a Drop to Drink Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 309

From Goodreads:

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

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From the blurb and some of the reviews I’d read, I expected ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ to be much more gruesome. There is plenty of tragedy and realistic hard living, but I felt it missed having a darker, grittier tone which would have added credence to the story. But this novel is a humdinger, and having grown up in the Centralian Desert, and now residing on a remote mountain top where I have to source my own water from rainfall, many of the elements of this novel rang true. Thank goodness I don’t have to fight off poachers and wildlife! A frank depiction of what could be very possible in the near future.

Our protagonist Lynn reminds me of Kantiss in the sense that she’s brought up in a difficult world of paranoia and survival, where hard choices are commonplace – and because of that she is almost emotionless and calculating in her outlook towards fellow man. A silent huntress. A warrior. And while I enjoyed reading this story and appreciated her hard-knocks attitude, there was something missing about her character to make me feel like she was a fully realised person.

Not a Drop to Drink Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleMother was too hard and cold for me to truly appreciate as a person, maybe she was suffering a mental illness? But her Eagle Scout ways were invaluable in the girls’ survival against man and nature. But was it all that necessary?

Eli, placed as Lynn’s love interest, while cute, hunky, and well-mannered, I didn’t really buy this paring. Maybe it was the writing style, I felt a little disconnected with ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ it could have really dragged out all the feels – the desperation, the isolation, and the need for human connection. But those were left dry… and so too was this novel (pun intended).

Eli’s sister, Lucy was the much needed grounding and softness that ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ lacked and was a genius inclusion. I would have liked to read more about her journey, have her involved more in the main plot and her own story arc. Maybe we’ll see in the sequel ‘In a Handful of Dust.’

Neighbour Stebbs was an interesting character. The wise voice of reason, only I felt he came in much too late in the timeline. I almost felt like his emergence was too convenient and that he should of had a stronger presence in Lynn’s life prior to where the novel started.

It is a great story and I found it highly entertaining with realism and stark landscapes. However, the plot is rather simplistic. The inclusion of a few arcs, maybe a few unexpected twists, and the protagonist failing more would’ve had me more engaged. But only if I’m being picky. Otherwise this is a great, if not bleak, adventure.

Not a Drop to Drink’ has easy language and a nice touch with poetry interspersed throughout the narrative to juxtapose some beauty in the confronting situations the cast faces.

I read it in a day, though I felt it dehumanised death, murder, and survival a bit, but a gem of a dystopian that is not hard to imagine as a realistic future. This has also been optioned by Stephenie Meyer’s production company Fickle Fish to get the big screen treatment. So I’m keen to see how this develops.

Recommended for lovers of the genre, or those wanting some light escapism, however not necessarily a book that will wow.

Overall feeling: I think I need to sit down…

Not a Drop to Drink Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Not a Drop to Drink Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© 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.