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.

#bookquotes

#BQ Scorch by Casey Carlisle

Thought experiment : What if you could date anyone in the afterlife, who would it be and why?

For me… hmm… maybe Edmund Hillary (a New Zealand explorer who conquered Mount Everest) because I like to go on adventures – as long as we can have all my dogs tag along. Hey it’s the afterlife, there are no rules.

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 – ‘Scorch’ (#2 Croak) by Gina Damico

Angsty Teen Grim Reaper.

Scorch (#2 Croak) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal

No. of pages: 332

From Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby is a teenage grim reaper with the bizarre ability to damn souls. That makes her pretty scary, even to fellow Grims. But after inadvertently transferring her ability to Zara, a murderous outlaw, Lex is a pariah in Croak, the little town she calls home.

To escape the townspeople’s wrath, she and her friends embark on a wild road trip to DeMyse. Though this sparkling desert oasis is full of luxuries and amusements, it feels like a prison to Lex. Her best chance at escape would be to stop Zara once and for all—but how can she do that from DeMyse, where the Grims seem mysteriously oblivious to Zara’s killing spree?

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It was fun to visit the emo, sarcastic teen protagonist (and Grim Reaper) Lex again. However ‘Scorch’ was a little lighter on the snark that I was so entertained by in the debut of this series.

Scorch’ left me wanting a meatier, more substantial plot development other than the cat-and-mouse chase with antagonist Zara.

I guess this suffered from the middle book syndrome. Though I was definitely engaged and entertained. I want to say an element was missing from the story to send me over the moon. So while a great concept, thrilling and kept me glued from the page; maybe some more character arcs, or a more intertwined plot would have bumped up my rating of ‘Scorch.’

Scorch (#2 Croak) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleLex was always complaining about something, and though she was researching information to get Zara off her back, and save innocents from being ‘Damned,’ I did not get a sense that she was particularly proactive. Additionally, the ‘forced’ breaks to enjoy being a teen for Lex and some of the other characters felt out of place. It didn’t seem like it was to let off steam, but rather engage in teen activities to pique interest with the target demographic… it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to the story. I would have rather Lex been a bundle of nerves, on the edge of a breakdown, go smash up a car with a baseball bat, than go clubbing and gossip. Ya know?

There was an interesting twist with Lex and her gift at the end of ‘Scorch’ I did not see coming; but am conflicted about her justification, because her attitude earlier in the story contradicts the final standpoint.

The romance between Lex and Driggs was cute and funny, but something about it felt frivolous, not having as much heat and interest as it did in ‘Croak.’ I kinda wanted Driggs to become more independent and have an arc of his own. This couple was attached at the hip too much.

Uncle Mort was my favourite character in ‘Scorch.’ His fatherly duties mostly comic relief, but well placed throughout the novel. Although the non-explanations and ‘for you own good, just trust me’ standpoint were too common and started to get on my nerves. Granted, he is the only adult around Lex, and has much more knowledge about the Grim mythology, and his position lends his moving political chess pieces about the board, plotting steps ahead – it makes sense that Lex would be in the dark for most of this. We get a lot of her frustration of being kept out of the loop, but it only added to the parent-child relationship these two shared.

The whole Zara-as-the-villain, and another reveal in ‘Scorch’- while great fodder to pace the story forward – I’m still grabbling with some realistic motivation for what played out; though I’m anticipating an explanation in the last instalment in this trilogy ‘Rogue.’

Scorch’ is a fun easy read, the pacing is mostly tense and engaging. My issues came from plausibility and character motivations… and wanting a more intricate plot. But there are some great surprises. Gina Damico’s writing style is succinct, and captures the emo tone and dark business of being a Grim Reaper. Love the mythology of the business of death, and am keen to see where it all goes in ‘Rogue.’

I’m on the fence about recommending this one, because it’s more of a passion read – if you loved ‘Croak,’ then, yes, read on. If you weren’t particularly impressed with ‘Croak,’ then ‘Scorch’ is much of the same. But I thought it was a nice little escapist read for a lazy Sunday.

Overall feeling: Jan, Jan, Jan!

Scorch (#2 Croak) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Scorch (#2 Croak) 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.

#bookporn

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‘Croak’ has been sitting on my TBR pile for over a year – recently got time to read it and fell in love – jumped online to buy the rest of the series, so keep a look out for the reviews to come 🙂 A sarcastic teen protagonist much in the same vein as the tv show ‘Dead to Me.’

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.