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. . . .

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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

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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.

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.

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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

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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.

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 – ‘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

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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.