Wrap up – Sky Chasers Trilogy by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Not my favourite trilogy, but a great ending.

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This series took me on a bit of a ride. I was kinda liking the debut, ‘Glow’ and then didn’t bother continuing with the series for close to two years because it failed to make an impression on me. Though, my OCD finally kicked in and I needed to complete the trilogy, however ‘Spark’ was underwhelming and my hopes began to sink. But ‘Flame’ ended the trilogy in brilliant fashion and is definitely my favourite of the whole collection.

This trilogy is a bit like ‘Lord of the Flies’ in space. It has a heavy religious aspect to it as two ships travelling to colonise a new planet each have a focus: one on faith, and the other on science and technology. It then further delves into beliefs, violence, vilification, and politics in a fight for survival. While there is certainly a lot packed into these novels – and not for the faint of heart – I did find the religious aspect somewhat preachy. You do get a very real sense of the isolation and insignificant-ness of being a tiny speck of dust – a spaceship – floating in space.

I cringed at the self-congratulation of many of the characters, as I did to the continual ramming down our throats of religious belief, this was so prominent in the second novel I ended up with a stress headache. I was also put off with the amount of violence and abuse of human rights. While a great novel to kick up discussion on many issues around these topics, it verged on unpalatable. But you cannot deny Amy Kathleen Ryan can write a novel wrought with tension and importance.

The final book of the trilogy brings some much needed action over the issues I has with the first two novels. There were a few major plot holes with the science of it all, but it ties up everything in a neat (if somewhat spoony) bow. You can definitely see Ryan’s growth as a writer with each instalment. And I truly think that if ‘Flame’ had not impressed me so much I would have happily torched this trilogy in a fire pit.

But would I recommend it? Probably not. It wasn’t all that entertaining for me. But, if you are up for a science fiction read that poses social issues to discuss, you might get something from it. It is confronting, adventurous and a little bit preachy.

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For individual reviews click on the links below:

Glow’https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/book-review-glow/

Spark’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/05/29/book-review-spark-by-amy-kathleen-ryan/

Flame’ – https://strokingfire.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/book-review-flame-by-amy-kathleen-ryan/

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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 – ‘Flame’ by Amy Kathleen Ryan

A book in another world to its predecessors.

Flame Book Review Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle.jpgGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 309

From Goodreads:

Waverly and the other members of the Empyrean have been scattered, and their home ship destroyed. The mission to rescue their parents didn’t go quite as planned, and now they’re at an even greater disadvantage: trapped with their enemies on the New Horizon, trying to find a way to survive. Will Seth’s health hold out long enough to help Waverly topple their enemy? And will Waverly find a way to unite her friends before the final battle? Nothing is certain and every second is a risk in this explosive finale.

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The final book in the Sky Chasers trilogy and another collection down in my Slay That Series year!

Flame’ is so much better than its prequels. The religious aspect was kept to a respectful belief system of those who chose to live by it, and I didn’t feel like it was being crammed down my throat or the crew being oppressed by it.

The political struggle became raw and visceral. It was thrilling. And action – I don’t think I’ve read a book with so many twists and turns. I was thoroughly impressed. Such a departure from my experience so far in this trilogy.

Again, like in ‘Glow’ and ‘Spark,’ I loved the character growth and arcs. People are fallible and it could not be more true about the cast of the Sky Chaser trilogy. Some redeemed themselves, some didn’t. and I loved this aspect of the story. One thing that has stood out about this series is the types of characters, how their beliefs motivate them, how they are changed by their experiences.

I found the long-winded postulation and stream of consciousness were just about gone. The pacing far superior than in ‘Glow’ and ‘Spark.’ I read this in one sitting. I get distracted by long speeches or pages and pages of deliberation – it goes down as well as a fart in a space suit with me. So I was delighted that the lamenting had been replaced with sci-fi action.

A factual thing that is still niggling in the back of my brain is in regard to the gene pool – how many off spring of a couple of girls are there? It was mentioned over 100 embryos were ready… the new generation sounded like it was going to be majorly made up of Waverly’s children. Doesn’t leave much room for them to repopulate the new planet when prospective partners consist mostly of your half brothers and sisters… They’d have to map our genealogy out carefully. I felt like this was an important issue not to be addressed. You go to all this trouble of kidnapping, murder, and essentially raping your girls of their genetic material only to risk the future of the human race to genetic degradation from inbreeding. I mean, c’mon!

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The ending was lovely, if a bit spoony. Having everyone coupled up and all the loose ends tied up neatly can feel cheap in an epic sci-fi; I tend to like it conclude with possibility and wonder, or just a hint at an amazing future. It was a cute ending, and I liked it, but after wading through so much I was hoping for a bit more of a significant event or image for the series to end on.

It has been a bit of a journey for me. I had a low opinion of this series and Amy Kathleen Ryan at the start, but after completing ‘Flame,’ I have to eat my words. She crafted a marvellous story. I still feel the issues I had with the first two books are legitimate, but have seen Amy’s growth as a writer over this series, I now actually look forward to reading more of her catalogue.

Overall feeling: Wow! Where did that come from?

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Flame Book Review Pic 04 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 – ‘Spark’ by Amy Kathleen Ryan

No spark for me… fizzled out.

Spark Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Dystopia

No. of pages: 309

From Goodreads:

Waverly and Kieran are finally reunited on the Empyrean. Kieran has led the boys safely up to this point, and now that the girls are back, their mission seems slightly less impossible: to chase down the New Horizon, and save their parents from the enemy ship. But nothing is truly as it seems…Kieran’s leadership methods have raised Seth’s hackles— and Waverly’s suspicions. Is this really her fiancé? The handsome, loving boy she was torn from just a short time before? More and more, she finds her thoughts aligned with Seth’s. But if Seth is Kieran’s Enemy No. 1, what does that make her? 

In one night, a strange explosion rocks the Empyrean—shooting them off course and delaying their pursuit of the New Horizon—and Seth is mysteriously released from the brig. Seth is the most obvious suspect for the explosion, and Waverly the most obvious suspect for releasing him. As the tension reaches a boiling point, will Seth be able to find the true culprit before Kieran locks them both away—or worse? Will Waverly follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? With the balance of power precarious and the clock ticking, every decision counts… every step brings them closer to a new beginning, or a sudden end…

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With much trepidation and determination, I am pushing through this trilogy after not really connecting with the first book in this series, ‘Glow.’ And while ‘Spark’ held more interest for me, I still had some of those same issues…

It was more a political intrigue drama than a science fiction novel with a maniacal religious fanatic manipulating for control and power. The cast lamented with a lot of self-congratulation and postulating that felt tedious, as too did the religious aspect. It all gave me a stress headache.

Seth’s character arc is fantastic. Kieran’s was annoying, and Waverly’s was engaging, though a little frustrating. Though, I liked that all the characters had flawed moments and were given opportunity for redemption – whether they took it or not is a different matter.

(L-R) HAILEE STEINFELD and ASA BUTTERFIELD star in ENDER'S GAME

I will say there was much less violence and death – that had me cringing and uncomfortable in ‘Glow.’ But the overall tone felt dry and slow paced.

I got past the point of predicting things, or investing too much in the novel, and skimmed through it to find out what happens. The narrative style is drawn out, characters going off in tangents and flashback accompanied with long self-assuring flagellation. ‘Spark’ did not feel engaging or entertaining. But having said that, the tension in the last third of the novel was well done. I think if the novel was half it’s length, and involved more technology and science fiction elements, I would have been much more interested.

Loved the cliff hanger ending – eager to read the final book just to find out what happens (I pray that that the narrative is way more engaging.) I’m in a much different place at the end of this book than I was at the end of ‘Glow.’ I was of the opinion I’d never finish reading anything from Amy Kathleen Ryan ever again, but ‘Spark’ has changed my opinion a little. Though, it’s still not a book I’d easily recommend, however interesting.

Looking forward to reading ‘Flame’ and putting this trilogy behind me. It feels like I’m reading about a pack of violent crazies…

Overall feeling: frazzled.

Spark Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Spark Book Review Pic 04 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 – ‘A Million Suns’ by Beth Revis

Action and religion – like mixing vegemite and chocolate… it’s an acquired taste.

A Million Suns Book Review by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, science fiction, Mystery, Romance

No. of pages: 248

From Goodreads:

Godspeed was once fuelled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos. 

It’s been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. Everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed.

But there may be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He’s finally free to act on his vision—no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder learns shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a mystery that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier. Their success—or failure—will determine the fate of the 2,298 passengers aboard Godspeed. But with each step, the journey becomes more perilous, the ship more chaotic, and the love between them more impossible to fight.

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The stakes are raised higher in this second installment of the Across the Universe series. Definitely a better read than its predecessor.

There wasn’t really anything surprisingly new with the plot of A Million Suns, and found that I’d either read or seen something with the same storyline. Although there were some shocking moments to add a bit of spice to the reading experience.

Revis’ writing style is pleasant and not bogged down with too much sci-fi language, even though she was able to build the world of Godspeed masterfully, so you are able to flit across the pages effortlessly. I managed to complete the book in one sitting – it has some great pacing and suspense woven into the story line, which, especially towards the end, had me glued to my seat.

Our protagonist, Amy, felt a little more mature in this installment – and rightly so. I appreciated the fact that she made up her own mind and dealt with her circumstances from her own experiences. Given her age and the environment, it would have been an enormous pressure to assimilate into the group, peer-pressure style. If not for a form of ‘racism,’ I think she may have well done that if her features weren’t that unusual. I was uncertain if the slow rate at which she cottoned on to Godspeed’s dilemma was frustrating or appropriate, given it was not really her place to get entwined with the political machinations. There was less emphasis on her family unit that I felt would have been more of a driving force for someone so young. Nonetheless, Amy (being a red head), is another strong female character that has made it onto my favorites list.

Amy’s love interest, and burgeoning leader, Elder, annoyed me the most. I really felt that Amy had more backbone than he did. However I loved their symbiotic relationship, not afraid to lean on each other in times of difficulty. Without the structure of school and society we have IRL, Elder had the opportunity to grow up faster and get a wider view of his world on Godspeed, so I felt he should have had more clout and a better grip on things than he did… but the story of his struggles made for compelling reading.

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I guess the difference from this being an okay read to one that knocks it out of the park would be the pacing with the mystery within the novel… while it was built nicely, it lacked a bit of punch. Also, the chemistry between Amy and Elder felt a little contrived. There also existed the faith/religious aspect which was a little jarring against the science fiction setting of the novel.

Happy to have read the second book, but not something I’ll re-read.

Overall reaction: meh!

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A Million Suns Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

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© 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 – Across the Universe

Across-the-UniverseFrom Goodreads:

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. 

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone – one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship – tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

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I enjoyed this book, but didn’t fall in love with it. Starting with great premise; the consternation of Amy, with the description of emotions bubbling through her head, to getting cryogenically frozen (akin to drowning) is definitely a page turner. That was my favourite part of the novel. Shortly following, I wasn’t as riveted – maybe because the story became more about politics than space travel and technology (am I revealing my geekiness?)

Beth Revis has a great style, effortlessly tumbling from the page to create an aging spaceship, hurtling through the empty spaces between stars, desperately clinging to some semblance of life inside a metal shell. There are some similarities to ‘Glow’ by Amy Kathleen Ryan, which I reviewed days ago, although ‘Across the Universe’ is much more palatable.

I was distracted by the alternating narration between Amy and Elder, just as I was getting settled in the voice of one character, it would switch with the next chapter. The strained relationship between these two did not shy away from realism, but I wasn’t totally invested in the coupling. It lacked some passion. For some reason Elder held no appeal for me at all.

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I appreciated the mechanics of the community on Godspeed – equally foreign as delicately balanced… and Amy’s presence upset the applecart!. Her addition to the closed society was dealt with brilliantly, and I definitely got a sense of her isolation and anxiety with Revis’ narration.

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There was an element missing from this story for me. Be it the intensity between Amy and Elder; too many secondary characters and not enough rounding out; or a majority of the text spent dealing with the sovereignty of Godspeed, I was left wanting more.

Although not overly surprised with the reveals for the plot, I can’t say I predicted what eventuated. Revis weaves clues through her storyline expertly.

Across the Universe’ is not a book I’d recommend to any die hard sci-fi fans, but if you’re into YA and are looking for something different, an easy read, then you may enjoy this. Overall, not too bad. I will give the second installment in the series ‘A Million Suns’ a go, and maybe it will help fill my need for more intensity and tekkie gadgets.

Across the Universe Book Review Pic 3 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle  © 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.

Book Review – Glow

Its about choice… your right to chose what you believe in, about the life you want to live… and having that taken away from you.

Glow Book Review  by Casey CarlisleFrom Goodreads:

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you’d been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth’s collapse, the ship’s crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader’s efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don’t know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them…

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he’s the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren’t all from the outside.

This book was like attending a great dinner, the conversation is scintillating, controversial and has your stomach turning even though the food is outstanding. I say this because I am massive lover of all things sci fi, and the storyline of Waverly and growing up on an Arc travelling across the stars (essentially) peeks my interest. Like a great meal, I devour it! Then you have the science vs. religion aspect to the novel, and the things the cast of characters do in the name of either. It’s brutal, shocking and confronting.  To say this book made me uncomfortable is an understatement.

On pure entertainment values, I did not enjoy Amy Kathleen Ryan’s novel at all. It left a sour taste in my mouth… the violence, the fanaticism, none of it left me wanting to recommend this book to anybody.  However it was thought provoking and explored the human spirit when pushed into extreme circumstances.

The religious aspect got preachy towards the end and spoiled any desire to want to continue with this series. Amy Kathleen Ryan is a great writer and tackled a whopping number of taboo topics in ‘Glow,’ and her style is pleasant to read; although the religious aspect (being a personal thing for me) felt like I was being bludgeoned to death with it in her novel.

Waverly and Kieran are both young and unprepared for what eventuates in this novel and need to find their own strengths to pull through – it was a great change from the couplings where one is rescuing the other, or completing the other. This was an evolution of self… under stress. And they face multiple challenges in ‘Glow,’ which I found rewarding. Waverly was ultimately the strongest of the two, steadfast to her principles; whereas Kieran struggles to find his footing.

As in space, having only a certain amount of resources, and that claustrophobic feeling of living in steel corridors with the darkness and cold emptiness pressing in, threatening to end your life – you got a real sense of a person’s insignificance in the vastness of the universe.

Glow Book Review  Pic 1 by Casey CarlisleI did get the feeling that Amy Kathleen Ryan bit off more than she could chew with parts of the book – where the boys ship descended into ‘Lord of the Flies’ territory – many issues they faced were too easily resolved. She also did a lot of information dumping, but I wasn’t opposed to most of it, as it helped explain and educate the reader on the working and science of the ship. I was not too sure where this novel was going at times (maybe because there is just so much crammed into it) so it was difficult to predict. And because it is the first in a series, don’t expect the ending to tie things up in a pretty bow for you.

I applaud the book on its controversy, but blaze it on the execution. What could have been an outstanding and dark novel was overshadowed by religious propaganda.

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© 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.