Book Review – ‘Savage Drift’ (#3 Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

Great concept for a dystopian. One of my favourites.

Genre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 306

The survivors of the Monument 14 have finally made it to the safety of a Canadian refugee camp. Dean and Alex are cautiously starting to hope that a happy ending might be possible.

But for Josie, separated from the group and trapped in a brutal prison camp for exposed Type Os, things have gone from bad to worse. Traumatized by her experiences, she has given up all hope of rescue or safety.

Meanwhile, scared by the government’s unusual interest in her pregnancy, Astrid (with her two protectors, Dean and Jake in tow) joins Niko on his desperate quest to be reunited with his lost love Josie.

This didn’t have the same punch as the two prequels, though it is still a great book and wraps up everything nicely for the trilogy.

There was the same element of risk for the characters, but less action due to having to set up the premise, and the story being set in many different locations (and having to travel between these places). Told through alternating perspectives between Dean and Josie also cut the pacing a bit, just as you got interested in one characters plight, you head-jumped to the other character. In some places this worked, in others, not so much for me.

We meet a lot of new characters, while other, established characters are relegated to the background. I understand the practicality of this, but my heart wanted the group to keep together for the sake of the romantic in me.

The realism noted for this collection is lost a little with Josie’s storyline – there were some major plot holes that I felt were missed. Maybe an internment camp strike or retaliation in protest to the conditions and treatment? There was knowledge of the camps, but no action or pressure from the outside when reporters are obviously on scene trying to get information. The USAMRIID facility felt a bit wish-washy with its governance and performance. I’ve been on both a military base, and in a top security medical facility… a little research would have gone a long way in painting a more realistic and bleak picture for Josie. We could have seen more play with politics and Josie bringing to front her stubborn streak (and her O blood condition.)

I think I felt like the story in this finale floundered a little. It could be down to the protagonists being teens and naive of their options… but I feel we’ve seen them grow and mature through their ordeal and gain a great deal of street smarts and survival skills, and I’d have liked to see them put these skills to use to circumvent a lot to complete an arc and show how the disasters they’ve survived, force them to become independent and more equipped to face the new world than any adult.

Also the exposure to the compounds released from the NORAD facility has obviously changed those to whom were exposed permanently – there did not seem to be closure on this element. What does it mean for the future? What becomes of USAMRIID? It felt like there was the possibility of the series continuing, or at least a possibility of a companion series to delve into this aspect of the Monument 14 universe.

Dean seemed to be reactionary throughout this whole book. In the previous novels he was more proactive, organisational, and had leadership qualities. I don’t think he was given a chance to shine as a character in ‘Savage Drift’ which was a pity. Closer to the conclusion a lot of the tension was pulled apart too early which was another reason I wasn’t invested as I would otherwise.

Similarly Josie’s story (plot holes aside) had her just surviving. We had glimpses of her determination and survival instinct and care for the little ones in the internment camp – but then it went nowhere because she was pulled out of that situation and forced into another which meant her motivation was eliminated.

I wish ‘Savage Drift’ were two novels the first dealing with the characters having been separated, reuniting at the end facing the might of the military regime; and the second taking on the military rule and USAMRIID (with allies and rebels).

I didn’t know what to predict going into ‘Savage Drift,’ but upon completion they must have been high because, while I enjoyed the read, many of my expectations did not feel met. After the last page I was left with a feeling of ‘is that it?

Having read a number of other novels in-between ‘Savage Drift’ and its prequel ‘Sky on Fire’ I also felt the writing style a bit sparse and dry. It did not capture my imagination as the first two novels. Again, it reflects the demographic, dystopian world of the Monument 14, and head space of its tween protagonists – but I wanted it to be a bit more reflective and expressive of the wider world. It could have felt intimate given the way the novel is narrated, instead it fell flat for me.

Overall a lovely conclusion but I wanted more – an elevation over the established precedence of the first two novels.

Overall feeling: Not too shabby.

© Casey Carlisle 2020. 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 – ‘Sky on Fire’ (#2 Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

The kids from the school bus go on a rough ride.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 215

From Goodreads:

Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope.

Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . .

Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected. . . .


Another quick, realistic, and gritty read from Emmy Laybourne.

I loved the circumstances and the everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong tone of this series so far. In this sequel we see the Greenway teens split into two groups, one on a journey to Denver International Airport for medical care of a gunshot wound and evacuation point; the other group, with blood type O – the beserker kind – remain behind waiting for rescue, scared to endanger the rest of the self-made family. They both go through the ringer.

I really appreciate Emmy Langborne’s writing style and how she can craft a story. The pacing kept me glued to the page from start to finish and I completed the novel within a day.

When you’re dealing with teens and children, they are selfish, naive and self-important at their worst… and seriously, I wanted to slap a bitch many times. A few of the characters were so narrow minded and stubborn I would have lost my patience and tossed them outside to fend for themselves, or like I said, clapped them about the ears. What a brilliant accolade for Langbourne’s writing and character development!

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

This book does not pull any punches, the debut sets up that tone, and again we see death, blood and guts – many trigger warnings. Underage Drug and alcohol use, suggested sexual assault, underage sex, violence, shootings, murder and dismemberment by chainsaw. ‘Sky on Fire’ is not for the faint of heart.

But the strongest theme that shines through is that of family and survival. These kids band together and do whatever it takes to get the whole team to safety.

Because of the violent nature and constant plot twists I really had no idea of where this was going to end up. So I did not predict the ending at all. It ends on a good note and sets up the final book of the trilogy (‘Savage Drift’) nicely and I am eager to continue solely because of Langbourne’s writing.

This is one of the better dystopias I’ve read, and recommend of lovers of this genre.

The cover art isn’t that great for any of the novels in this trilogy, but I urge you not to judge these books by their dust jackets.

Overall feeling: ajklfmnato!.

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Sky on Fire (#2 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle


© 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.

Book Review – ‘Monument 14’ (#1 Monument 14) by Emmy Laybourne

Dipping back into dystopia with this raw and realistic series

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Dystopia

No. of pages: 304

From Goodreads:

Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not-you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.

Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.

But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.

Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.

When Dean raced out the door to catch the school bus, he didn’t realize it would be the last time he’d ever see his mom. After a freak hailstorm sends the bus crashing into a superstore, Dean and a group of students of all ages are left to fend for themselves.

They soon realize the hailstorm and the crash are the least of their worries. After seeing a series of environmental and chemical disasters ravage the outside world, they realize they’re trapped inside the store.

Unable to communicate with the ones they love, the group attempts to cobble together a new existence. As they struggle to survive, Dean and the others must decide which risk is greater: leaving… or staying.


This was a great dystopia with a heavy helping of reality. It reminded me of the tone in Mindy McGuinnis ‘Not A Drop To Drink.’ Raw, bleak, and doesn’t pull any punches. I would have rated it higher but there were a few logical issues that had me feeling that some of the characters motivations weren’t quite organic; the other issue revolves around the machismo (*cough toxic masculinity cough*) which dominates the plot. I can understand all this head-butting and chest puffing is realistic, but it’s not something I particularly enjoy reading.

There are a lot of characters in this novel for a YA, and it took me a time to knuckle down everyone in the cast. The story is told from a single perspective, that of Dean, a teen who sits mid-tier in the forming power hierarchy as the youngsters grapple with the world changing cataclysms and struggle to survive barricaded in a Greenway Shopping Megastore.

Emmy Laybourne can write complex characters, but I felt there was a resonance of something stereotypical about them, and I was hoping for an obvious arc or character growth from more of the cast. However, the reactions the players have in this tragedy are very realistic, and it took me a little bit of reflection to identify why I wasn’t completely sold on ‘Monument 14.’ But it may also be that I am well past the demographic this novel is marketed towards and have come to expect more from my reads as my tastes are growing wider and more sophisticated. Plus the dystopian genre has passed its used-by date in the current publishing landscape at the moment. But I love sprinkling in old, new, popular, unpopular, and random reads to spice up my reading ventures.

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I have to say that everything I predicted about ‘Monument 14’ came to pass. I didn’t get any surprises when it came to the storyline. Though it is a compelling quick read and I am interested in following this story in the next two sequels. Objectively though, I’m more keen to find out what is going on with the planet after so many disasters rather than invested in any of the characters stories.

Monument 14’ is very well paced. I read this in one sitting, in one day. There wasn’t one point where I skimmed forward or put it down for a break. There is always something happening to test the characters or drive the story forward.

The concept of a massive natural disaster, compounding and contributing to further complications was masterful. I really enjoyed the landscape of ‘Monument 14.’ All the props given to Emmy Laybourne here. She also has a great writing style, a touch masculine, but it may be because we are experiencing the story through the eyes of Dean. My interest in definitely peaked over her writing and will venture out into some other titles to see how her style changes and impacts me as a reader.

My opinion about ‘Monument 14’ may change after reading the sequels – the story is unfinished – so we don’t get resolution on many plot points.

I’d confidently recommend this to an older/more mature YA reader of this demographic mainly because of the stark landscape and the story deals with issues like pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, death, attempted rape, bullying, and slut shaming. Some I took issue with, and others I did not…

Overall feeling: Hold on to your knickers with this one.

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Monument 14 (#1 Monument 14) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle


© 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.

Book Review – ‘Losing Hope’ by Colleen Hoover

There are two sides to every story…

Losing Hope Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, Romance

No. of pages: 337

From Goodreads:

Still haunted by the little girl he let walk away, Holder has spent his entire life searching for her in an attempt to finally rid himself of the crushing guilt he has felt for years. But he could not have anticipated that the moment they reconnect, even greater remorse would overwhelm him…

Sometimes in life, if we wish to move forward, we must first dig deep into our past and make amends. In Losing Hope, bestselling author Colleen Hoover reveals what was going on inside Holder’s head during all those hopeless moments—and whether he can gain the peace he desperately needs. 

Page border by Casey Carlisle

For a companion novel, I thought it did well – You have to expect some repetition, but Losing Hope also introduced new characters, and revealed an entirely other dimension to  the storyline providing a different perspective to Hopeless.

I think I enjoyed this more than Hopeless. The writing was better, you got a strong masculine sense from the writing style, as opposed to the feminine of Hope in Hopeless. And for that I have to applaud Colleen Hoover.

The book is predictable – we already know the story from the previous installment, but the inclusion of Les’ own narrative really sold me on this novel. And the glimpse of something extra at the end…

It was great to revisit the story again, almost like re-reading your favorite book and finding new things to like. This novel was a little too angsty for my general pallet, but nonetheless an engaging read.

One point that I felt could have been improved upon was thatHolden’s narrative began to sound quite like Hope’s toward the end – and you could either put it down to the fact they were getting close and began to think like one another; or, that Hoover was slipping with her inner voice and Holden morphed into the overly dramatic and sensitive guy all girls swoon over. It wasn’t a bad thing, it was just something that jumped out at me at one point… I remember thinking ‘Maybe Holden does have a hairy burger – when did that happen?’ But jokes aside, the guy does have to have some compassion. The issues dealt with in this book are pretty intense.

Losing Hope Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

I have experienced loss, and abuse. And while the story is a bit overly dramatic and angsty, Colleen pretty much nailed it! The fear, the numbness, the shock and the repressed memories. Best written representation I’ve come across so far. Bravo!

Overall reaction: pleasantly satisfied

Losing Hope Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Losing Hope Book Review Pic 06 by Casey Carlisle

Losing Hope Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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.

Book Review – ‘Hopeless’ by Colleen Hoover … written by Casey Carlisle.

A damaged person can have a beautiful story…



Hopeless’ by Colleen Hoover is a gem in the rough for me in the world of YA Fiction. It managed to keep me engaged throughout, and, as a mature reader, still managed to reveal unexpected twists.

I loved that all the characters in the book were flawed. It is so refreshing to see real life ooze from the page. I don’t think there was a single character that was cookie-cutter perfect. If I had to pick my favourite aspect of ‘Hopeless,’ this would be it. The complexities of the characters were so well written that their failings made them who they were. Not, this is [so-and-so] and she likes clothes; it was more like, [so-and-so] never had any money to buy new clothes and was ridiculed at school for wearing cast-offs – each foible had a motivation. I feel this is important because of the subject matter this novel deals with. What the characters have lived through lets the reader identify easily with them, even though their decisions may be vastly different to their own.


ImageWith that said, I did get a little annoyed at how the main protagonist, Sky, ran away from the story… probably to build suspense in the plot, but nonetheless it was irksome. She was such a strong character and her retreat from the knowledge that she craved distracted me from the story. At one point I had to put the book down and walk away in frustration.

The overall plot and storyline was a little predictable, but still managed to surprise me. The pace and cadence to the writing kept me up all night to finish the book. Although I felt like Sky had been dragged through so much, that by the end, it lost that punch of realism. Additionally the way Sky was raised didn’t sit quite so well with me (even though justifiable to the storyline). I felt, given her strength as a character, she would have rebelled much earlier, or at least had some close calls with the reveal in her past, piquing her curiosity when she had that instinct that things weren’t quite right.



ImageI’m not a big fan of flashbacks or amnesia as a plot twist. I feel they can be too convenient and have been overdone. And although both are present in this story, the flashbacks are few and far between and the memory loss is realistic. We forget and block out parts of our early childhood, until prompted with a photo or someone’s re-telling, which is how it presents in ‘Hopeless.’ And it is executed brilliantly!

On a personal note, having shared much of Sky’s experiences in my own life, the way everyone was portrayed as a little bit broken was perfection. Had it been told any other way would not have done it any justice.



It was a very satisfying read and it gets 4 out or 5 kisses from me.



© 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.