Wrap up – The Matched Trilogy by Allie Condie

A dystopian adventure that left me a little disturbed.

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Such an amazing concept – the Matched trilogy has hues of ‘The Giver’ and ‘Divergent’ but did not deliver as well as those did. Sad to say, but this series has got to be the lowest rated I’ve read to date. Maybe it’s because it was released at the start of the dystopian craze and marketed towards a tween demographic, leaving me feeling like I’d read it all before and the immature narrative tone felt boring.

I didn’t know what to expect going into the series because of such mixed ratings on Goodreads and from my friends, so I took it on faith of Ally Condie’s popularity as an author.

I guess the best way I can sum this series up is ‘soft,’ having all the elements to make a great dystopian, but not quite hammering them home for me. The pacing felt slow to start with, though the descriptions of the landscape are inspiring, the story lagged. The poetry elements were also lost on me – I skipped over every one of them.

Each book seemed to be an improvement on the last; especially in terms of character development and pacing. Though I can say I was never sure where this story was going to go. Not because of predictability, but because of its narrative style. The changing perspectives and what felt like a lack of direction left my interest waning several times. The world-building felt over simplified and at times waffly. There felt like a compulsion from the author to pair all the characters up too. It was too nice for a dystopian series. I wanted more grit, higher stakes for the characters and the world.

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I supposed ‘stylized’ is the best way to describe the treatment of this trilogy. While it was entertaining, the characters took a while for me to care about, I was frequently bored or frustrated. And ultimately, upon finishing the series, I did not feel satisfied. Book 1 ‘Matched’ dealt with escape; Book 2 ‘Crossed’ with a battle for survival in the wilderness; and ‘Reached’ turned out to be a rebellion… fought in a Lab. It wasn’t cohesive and felt like an author’s first draft.

The elements of medical science and technology were really interesting and I would have liked them more in the forefront of the plot (with details – many times the details were skipped over or dumbed down.) As too with the survival aspects – fighting in a war and trekking across inhospitable landscapes. I love these aspects, but wasn’t lead to feel like they were desperate and on the brink of death – which they were.

I did like the covers, the simplicity and symbolism. They definitely drew me in. The collection as a whole blended well together aesthetically. Large readable font in the hardback boxed set that I purchased. The cover art definitely lead me to believe there would be a heavier sci-fi element than was represented.

So a great premise, but lukewarm delivery for me. Sadly the trilogy took a slow downward slope to disappointment. Not a collection of books I’d recommend. 😦

Matched Trilogy Wrap Up Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

For individual reviews click on the links below:

Matched’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/book-review-matched-by-ally-condie/

Crossed’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/book-review-crossed-by-ally-condie/

Reached’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/06/22/book-review-reached-by-ally-condie/

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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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Book Review – ‘Perfect’ (#2 Flawed) by Cecelia Ahern

A rebellion led by a compassionate girl labelled flawed…

Perfect Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian

No. of pages: 341

From Goodreads:

You will be punished…

Celestine North is Flawed.

Ever since Judge Crevan declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick, the only person she can trust. 

But Celestine has a secret—one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or risk her life to save all Flawed people.

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As much as I enjoyed the sequel ‘Perfect,’ it did not feel as engaging as ‘Flawed.’ Even though I completed this in two sittings, staying up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it, there was an element of preachiness to the narrative as our protagonist Celestine gave many long pointed speeches.

Perfect Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleThere was a bit of swinging between indecisive and lost teenager to leader of a rebel cause with Celestine, but I found that realistic and true to her character, where I know in a different context it would have annoyed the willies off me. Because of the nature of this story, it deals with pride, confidence, and determination. These traits are compelling to read, but as previously mentioned, at times bored me a little with all the self-flagellation.

The other aspect around Celestine was her scheming – like she alone was more intelligent than Judges, Doctors, Politicians, and other adults. Sometimes I was like ‘yes! Rise up young woman!’ and others just elicited an eyeroll. It came off as trite. But even having said that, I was still wrapped up in her plight and revelled in the story from start to finish.

I did like how we got a resolution to the whole love triangle thing… it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I didn’t like how the introduction of Carrick kicked off what I’m interpreting as insta-lust at the start of this series. I wasn’t sold. Though I ended up liking this pairing more in ‘Perfect.’ Her boyfriend from the debut (‘Flawed’) Art, has a more prominent role in this book, and is treated with intelligence and maturity. I think I must have had a flame burning for him from the outset, because I was realy shipping their pairing… As much as I loathe love triangles, the one in this duology just scraped past my sensor because it felt more organic.

The surprise I got with this novel came from the periphery characters and subtext. It touches on bullying, body-shaming, discrimination, and oppression. It conjures strong images of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ with how the Flawed are forced to wear their shame, and human rights are stripped away under the guise of (social) justice. There are some great zingers about self-worth and learning from your mistakes. About community and peaceful rebellion. ‘Perfect’ feels like an entirely different creature to ‘Flawed.’

The whole thing with Celestine’s scars left me squirming a bit. She doesn’t let you forget what was done to her. It’s a visceral feeling reading about her branding. It’s great that it makes the reader uncomfortable. It make you think about your own behaviour – how many shades of Judge Crevan do we have? How many of Celestine? Her story really makes you inspect your own judgement and treatment of people.

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The writing style, though preachy in some short parts, is easy and has a quick flow. It’s open to digest quickly and the pacing increases the further you get into the narrative. Things just keep on happening. I was engrossed. On a side note, there was a little bit of jumping around the timeline for the sake of reveals in the storyline that felt cheap and out of character – why it was introduced in this manner so far into the duology I can’t quite swallow. For me, it did not add any impact. In fact I felt a little cheated.

The overall storyline is predictable, the tone of the novel sets you up to believe an inevitable ending; though there were so many little things that took place along the journey which had me excited. I really enjoyed ‘Perfect’ – it was the perfect YA dystopian read.

Overall feeling: juicy!

Perfect Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Perfect Book Review Pic 05 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Red Rising’ by Pierce Brown

Being a Martian is difficult.

Red Rising Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Science Fiction

No. of pages: 382

From Goodreads:

“I live for the dream that my children will be born free,” she says. “That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.”

“I live for you,” I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. “Then you must live for more.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

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I’ve owned ‘Red Rising’ (well, the whole trilogy) for a while, but have only just started reading it after a number of rave book reviews popping up on my feed to remind me why I bought this collection in the first place. While an amazing story, at the beginning I was resistant to the narrative. There is a lot of information to process, and the writing style feels dry, or sparse, making it hard to connect with our protagonist, Darrow. ‘Red Rising’ read like an institutionalised Lord of the Flies on a futuristic Mars. Brutal.

Darrow is a complex protagonist, but there is something hinted at in the narrative, at to how his destiny is shaped the way it is, but not revealed. I think this is a major part that stopped me from truly connecting with him. The novel is full of puppet masters pulling strings – and Darrow is ultimately just another pawn. I never felt his motivations and actions were truly his own. But I love an underdog story, someone fighting against insurmountable odds, so I was invested in his story though not truly convinced by his convictions.

Red Rising Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

The friendships formed – especially in the school, were barbarous and endearing. I see it in my best friend and his buddies that were in the S.A.S. together, there is a certain type of connection that is formed on the battlefield that nothing can break, and others will not truly understand. Piece Brown captured that comradery perfectly.

There are a few things about the society and its technology that puzzle me in the face of human nature. Such as the role carvers (doctors) play and how malleable the body, and its genetics can be. They are truly playing God… and from the hierarchy and accounts of the ruling factions they pretty much are, but this aspect did not seem to be explored as far as I think it would be naturally with such a powerful instrument to play with.

The politics, however is an intricate web and blindsided me on a number of occasions. I think this, and the battle scenes are the best parts of the novel.

I may have rated ‘Red Rising’ higher, because it is truly a tremendous tale, but if not for my issues connecting with the writing style, and near boredom through two thirds of the novel. But aside from that, it is a magnificent book that others may find outstanding. The writing style was sparse, dry, distinctly masculine. Even though the protagonist is male, something about the narrative made it difficult for me to immerse myself into the Martian landscape. I was frequently putting the book down for a rest or lack of interest. The last third of the novel, however, is an entirely different creature. The pacing is gripping, and so is the plot with all its twists and turns. The cast start to show their true colours and get tested… I was truly riveted and could not put the book down. The only thing that kept my persistence in the beginning was that I had heard so many wonderful things from friends about this series and kept telling myself that it will get better… any time now… any time… and finally it did.

I think there is so much to set up for this series to work, the world building, the motivations, the politics, that it takes some time to get its legs. That didn’t bode well for this debut, but promises that the following two books in this trilogy should be amazing. That’s what I am hoping for anyway.

The main purpose of ‘Red Rising’ is easily predictable – it has to be to continue on to the second and third in the series, but the journey there was not. There were some minor points that I had been spoiled from my friends, but they confirmed what I thought as I was reading, but did not detract from the enjoyment near the end. I still got shocked and horrified. It’s a great story, but because of the issues I had with the writing style, did not get emotionally invested. Had I been sucked in, I think ‘Red Rising’ would have brought all the feels.

On a side note, I found elements of this society synonymous to that of the Japanese yaoi ‘Ai No Kusabi’ (minus the sexual nature of the anime.) This book has also been optioned to be turned into a movie. I’d be interested to see how this series will be treated… maybe it will fix the issues of pacing because there wouldn’t be the need for pages and pages of explanations. And I can just imagine the special effects! No news has come through on the development of this project as yet, but I am certainly keeping my eyes peeled. Additionally, Pierce Brown is starting a new series in this universe, with the first novel ‘Iron Gold’ due for release in January 2018. It’s all so exciting!

I think I’ll reserve judgement on whether or not I’d recommend this novel until I’ve finished the trilogy because there are so many unexplained elements that worried my brow…

Overall feeling: Huh?…. OH! *lightbulb*

Red Rising Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

 

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Reached’ by Ally Condie

A slow decline into obscurity…

Reached Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 512

From Goodreads:

After leaving Society to desperately seek The Rising, and each other, Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again. Cassia is assigned undercover in Central city, Ky outside the borders, an airship pilot with Indie. Xander is a medic, with a secret. All too soon, everything shifts again.

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I think what I’m glad about most, is that I managed to finish this trilogy. This wasn’t the series for me. As interesting as the concept was, the delivery and characters didn’t grab my attention like I had hoped. One hundred pages in to ‘Reached’ and I was so bored. The story jumped forward in time a little from its predecessor ‘Crossed’ and I had difficulty connecting with the cast. Additionally, it tells the story from three points of view (Ally has added a POV with each novel,) changing in each chapter, adding more strain for me to get into the narrative.

I liked Xander’s strength of character, Ky’s determination, but Cassia, though steadfast, lost the oomph she had in the previous two books. She actually felt somewhat superfluous for most of the novel.

While the plot was interesting enough, the writing style and wordiness ultimately left me on the bored side. I pretty much adopted a speed reading method for the entire book because I never got that engrossed to slow down and lavish in the language. Again, as I did in the previous books, completely skipped over the poetry sections – for some reason I didn’t find these appealing at all.

It felt like there was a compulsion from the author to pair everyone up as well, which came across as cheap and cheesy – but that could be because my experience was starting to tilt more towards the uninterested side. I wasn’t invested in the characters or the story.

The myth of The Pilot and the other places were introduced too late in the storyline for me to give them any credibility, and weren’t explored/explained enough to add value to the plot. Felt a little wishy-washy.

The premise is great and well thought out, but the execution was wobbly and waffly. I enjoyed how the priorities of the society changed because of the rules and regulations, what was valued and what wasn’t, what was considered powerful… it really is a thing of beauty, I just couldn’t get into it. There was no grit, the stakes didn’t feel high enough for the characters, and the world did not feel fully realised through the eyes of Ky, Cassia & Xander.

Over-simplified in world building and the structure of the society gave this book a tone of a first draft. Additionally the general population in the novel were grouped enmass in descriptions, like there was very little individuality, leaving it feeling unrealistic. The series came across as too stylised. On the whole, this trilogy left me uneasy. I had too many unanswered questions.

With what turned out as a pathogenic war – a complete departure from where I thought it was going and from the type of action established in the previous two books. Book 1 ‘Matched’ dealt with escape; Book 2 ‘Crossed’ with a battle for survival in the wilderness; and ‘Reached’ turned out to be a rebellion… fought in a Lab. It went from a physical challenge to an intellectual one. And Ky, Cassia and Xander are the only ones capable of succeeding against all odds as a team? Too much of a cop out! What happened to all the experts in technology and science who built this world. Cue me growling in frustration. With all that (unrealistic) pressure there was also a huge missed opportunity – there was such little tension and emotion between the trio… it all fell flat.

At the end of ‘Reached’ I got no feeling of triumph or accomplishment, the book was mildly interesting but when I reached (pun intended) the last page, I kind of thought ‘okay, well that was that…’

Overall feeling: A lukewarm wet mess on my front lawn…

Reached Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Reached Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Crossed’ by Ally Condie

An adventure in the rocky wild that plateaued…

crossed-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 367

From Goodreads:

The Society chooses everything. 

The books you read. 

The music you listen to. 

The person you love. 

Yet for Cassia the rules have changed. Ky has been taken and she will sacrifice everything to find him. 

And when Cassia discovers Ky has escaped to the wild frontiers beyond the Society there is hope.

But on the edge of society nothing is as it seems…

A rebellion is rising.

And a tangled web of lies and double-crosses could destroy everything. 

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I just don’t know about this one. I enjoyed the survival aspect, and their quest. How they were out in The Carving, the wilderness, and had to rely on a different set of skills to survive. But the tone of the narrative was nearly anesthetising. I found myself speed reading through a large chunk of the book because the words weren’t grabbing me enough.

crossed-book-review-pic-02-by-casey-carlisleI enjoyed how we got to see more depth from Cassia and Ky – and this book is told in dual perspectives.. I’m still a little lost in to why Allie Condie changed up the format of her storytelling. It didn’t add too much to the plot, other than to let us know all the characters keep secrets.

It is an interesting story, but the delivery is, I hate to say it, bland. The hints of poetry we got in ‘Matched’ are a lot heavier in ‘Crossed,’ to the point where I was bored of them. I’m not a big fan of poetry, especially in YA. Poetry is compact, meaningful and something to be pondered over, where YA is punchy, fast and riding on the waves of current trends; so it felt jarring to have the two collide in the narrative. It is very symbolic and carries a romantic theme about life and rebellion – but I didn’t feel that. As soon as I reached the italicised letters I skipped down to the end.

The ending was okay – a bit of a cliff-hanger that has enticed me enough to read ‘Reached’ – the final in the trilogy. Luckily enough, these books are quick and easy to digest. I just wish the writing style was punchier and the pacing faster. I don’t find it melodic or engaging – merely interesting. Let’s hope the final book really shines, otherwise this series is going to seriously bomb.

A lot of the questions I had in ‘Matched’ went unanswered, and even more are raised in ‘Crossed’ – so it’s set up the finale for a doozy – and I really want to find out what is going on in this society, as well as the fates of Cassia, Ky and Xander.

As a middle book in a trilogy, I was expecting to be a little weaker than it’s predecessor, but it’s about on par – the character development is much better, as is the plot, but pacing felt really slow. I wanted a lot more to happen in this book. And at least get some resolution. I didn’t feel any satisfaction when I reached the last page. Just that I needed to read ‘Reached’ to get some answers.

Overall feeling: fun, but flatlined.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. 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 – ‘Matched’ by Ally Condie

A fragile equilibrium is about to be tested…

matched-book-review-pic-01-by-casey-carlisleGenre: Y/A, Dystopian, Science Fiction

No. of pages: 369

From Goodreads:

In the Society, officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.


Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one…until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow—between perfection and passion.

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Every one of my friends who read ‘Matched‘ before me gave it different rating – so much so that I had no idea if I would like the book or not. I’m glad it turned out that way, because if I had high expectations, this book would have bombed big time. Going in tentative, this novel ended up being a solid okay read. Which is promising for the series if the writing and stakes are increased with each volume.

Matched‘ is understated and slow paced. I mean that in a positive light. It reflects the attitudes and landscape around our protagonist: carefully filtered to keep things in an artificial balance. It’s unrealistic and unsustainable; and we start to see cracks before the end of the novel.

But the main part of this story revolves around Cassia awakening to the thought that she wants choice. Choice of who she is matched to, choice of her vocation… and that line of thinking is dangerous to their society.

Her biggest dilemma is mixed feelings between two guys: Xander And Ky. I’m loath to call it a love triangle, because it isn’t, even though it falls into that category. It just narrowly escaped one of my all time despised YA tropes. Ky surprised me – I had him pegged as the bad guy, the rebel – but he is nothing like that. Just as Xander is not so much the golden boy he is made out to be.

The characters are rich and we take time to get to know them through Cassia’s perspective. It feels very organic as each of the cast grows and develops.

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I found myself wanting more fast paced action and for Cassia to stand up and challenge the system – but it’s an easy mistake to make – that would not have worked for this novel, or for Cassia. She hasn’t found her feet yet. But it left me excited for where the next two books in this trilogy.

Ally Condie’s writing style is effortless. She paints colourful backdrops with a breezy prose with you can get through quickly – which helps because of the slow pacing.

I was a little disappointed in the world building. There wasn’t enough information for me to get interested in Cassia’s plight. It was the relationship that drew me in. I’m hoping we get the origins, mythology, and reasons behind this dystopian world better explored in ‘Crossed‘ before I get too frustrated in the series.

I can’t say that the book was predictable, because there wasn’t enough resolution for me to sink my teeth into. I still have sooo many unanswered questions. And the last few chapters dropped so many teasers. I’m kind of thinking this isn’t a book I’ recommend unless your committed to the entire trilogy‎.

Overall feeling: It was okay.

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© Casey Carlisle 2016. 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.