Review of the Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie

Reached by Ally CondieI recently finished reading the third and last book in the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie. I began reading this series because it was described as a readalike to the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Well, it is…kinda. It is a YA dystopian novel set in a future where society has become corrupt and unreasonable. There is a lot that the Matched society has in common with Wells’ 1984. Society is always watching, listening, and controlling. Society tells you what your job will be, who you will marry, and when you will die. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that obviously the three main characters form a love triangle and succeed in overthrowing Society’s control by the end of the third book. That’s a common theme in dystopian YA. I will say that I enjoyed the first book much better than either of the two the followed. The second book indeed lived up to “second in a trilogy” stereotypes by being the least memorable. The conclusion was interesting, but entirely too perfect. All loose ends were tied up, all questions were answered, and everyone was happy.

I would recommend this book to people who found the romantic conflict within the Hunger Games trilogy highly interesting.

Review of Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross

by Kady Cross

And here we go with the third book in the Steampunk Chronicles, The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross. Not too long ago I read the first two books in this series and reviewed them. This one I received as an advance reader copy from the publisher.

Description from Goodreads:

When mechanical genius Emily is kidnapped by rogue automatons, Finley Jayne and her fellow misfits fear the worst. What’s left of their archenemy, The Machinist, hungers to be resurrected, and Emily must transplant his consciousness into one of his automatons—or forfeit her friends’ lives.

With Griffin being mysteriously tormented by the Aether, the young duke’s sanity is close to the breaking point. Seeking help, Finley turns to Jack Dandy, but trusting the master criminal is as dangerous as controlling her dark side. When Jack kisses her, Finley must finally confront her true feelings for him…and for Griffin.

Meanwhile, Sam is searching everywhere for Emily, from Whitechapel’s desolate alleyways to Mayfair’s elegant mansions. He would walk into hell for her, but the choice she must make will test them more than they could imagine.

To save those she cares about, Emily must confront The Machinist’s ultimate creation—an automaton more human than machine. And if she’s to have any chance at triumphing, she must summon a strength even she doesn’t know she has….

When reading the first two books in this series, I did a lot of ignoring the weird way the characters just seemed to take for granted the unusual things that happened around them and the baseless trust they showed in near strangers. The fast pace of the story and the intriguing plot do a lot to make up for the shallow characters, and the same is true in this book. Cross is an excellent storyteller, knowing just the right time and place to leave suspense and build tension. I might personally have been a little happier with a little less time devoted to the characters’ inner romantic turmoil, but I do see how the romantic developments helped drive the story along. I’m still not completely over the moon about the Steampunk Chronicles, but I will continue to read them just to find out what happens next.

Review of Mortality by Kellie Sheridan

Mortality, by Kellie Sheridan, is the first book in a proposed series titled The Hitchhiker Strain.

MortalityDescription from the publisher:

After surviving a deadly plague outbreak, sixteen-year-old Savannah thought she had lived through the very worst of human history. There was no way to know that the miracle vaccine would put everyone at risk for a fate worse than un-death.

Now, two very different kinds of infected walk the Earth, intent on nothing but feeding and destroying what little remains of civilization. When the inoculated are bitten, infection means watching on in silent horror as self-control disappears and the idea of feasting on loved ones becomes increasingly hard to ignore.

Starving and forced to live inside of the abandoned high school, all Savannah wants is the chance to fight back. When a strange boy arrives with a plan to set everything right, she gets her chance. Meeting Cole changes everything. Mere survival will never be enough.

I enjoyed this book. It is the first zombie book I have read in a while and I really enjoyed the new perspective it gave. In this book, zombies were caused by a virus. The government then rushed through a vaccine against the virus that made things worse. The original zombies are reanimated corpses walking around, decaying, and eating anything. The second generation Zs were never dead, they are vaccinated people who became infected but now attack and eat other living things. Since they aren’t dead rotting corpses, they are a lot stronger and faster. So… you’ve got your slow shuffling traditional zombies and the super scary fast ones (I dunno about you, but horror movies with fast zombies are so much scarier!).

This book tells two stories concurrently which finally converge in the end. The two protagonists are Savannah and Zarah. I won’t tell you any more about them because that would be spoiling the fun. One thing I will say is that I really enjoyed how Sheridan added a new dimension to her zombie book by giving the zombie perspective (no, I haven’t read or seen Warm Bodies though I will eventually do both). I thought it was refreshing and added a new scope to the zombie apocalypse storyline.

Review of The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite is the second book in the Selection trilogy by Kiera Cass. It continues right where the first book left off. Of the 36 girls who were originally part of the selection, there are now only six remaining.

Description from Goodreads:

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

While I wasn’t sure I would like this series, since it seemed to me like a weird cross between reality TV, dystopia, and fairy tale, I actually ended up really enjoying the first book, The Selection. It had all of the things that turn me off of reality TV, but I found myself not minding so much as the story progressed. In the first book you have America, a reluctant participant in a competition to become the next queen of Illea who is only playing along so she doesn’t have to go home (for many reasons including a broken heart). As you learn more about the prince and the other girls in the selection, you start to recognize the usual tropes of “females in a competition to win a boy’s heart,” including the Bitch, the Quiet One, the Sweet One, and the Normal One.

Going into The Elite I was hoping that there would be more action involving America’s own private selection (Maxon or Aspen) and more plot twists with the other girls, I wasn’t  disappointed but I wasn’t satisfied either. In fact, it was America herself who let me down. In The Selection she seemed to have a much better handle on her own feelings than she displayed in The Elite. She kept deciding one way and then changing her mind a chapter later. She had extreme reactions to some minor occurrences which made her mood swings more apparent. The main event where America completely (and with reason) flips out, she shows a complete lack of sympathy to the prince afterwards which is out of character. When this is resolved in the end of the book, I feel like the author was just giving her readers a pacifier for having so cruelly abused her characters.

I think The Elite is probably just suffering from middle-book-in-a-trilogy syndrome and the third book, The One, will be all that I hope it will be.

If you read and liked the first book, I would still recommend that you continue on and read this one. I am still emotionally invested in the characters and I want it all to turn out all right in the end.

Review of The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

from goodreads.com

I just finished reading the first two books in the Steampunk Chronicles by Kady CrossThe Girl in the Steel Corset and The Girl in the Clockwork Collar. Instead of writing individual reviews for each of these, I’m going to give you two book reviews in one! I’m going to be very vague and general. No spoilers, I promise.

From goodreads.comI want to start by saying I love steampunk lit. It tickles my technology bone. I run an after school club for middle schoolers centered around reading steampunk YA novels and doing hands on projects based on themes and technology in the book (more on that here). The first thing I want to say about these books is that I couldn’t read them fast enough. That’s not to say that they are the most amazing books ever, but rather the story was so engaging I just had to keep reading.

The characters in this series are not especially deep. In The Girl in the Steel Corset, you have four main characters who simply come to terms with unnatural and impossible things without seeming to think much about them. You’ve got one character who has had two distinct personalities her whole life and through only a few hours of “training’ begins bringing the two halves together to make an uneasy truce. One character trusts an unconscious stranger enough to bring her to his home/secret headquarters and maker her part of the crew.

When I think too hard about the characters themselves, I realize that I probably shouldn’t have liked this book as much as I did. But if you just take all the unnatural and impossible things in stride as the characters do, you get absorbed in the story. It is very fast paced and exciting. There are so many things going on, twists, explosions, myterious persons, that I forgot about the vagueness of the characters and kept turning the pages just to see what happened next.

And I’ll read the third one too when it comes out.

Review of Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger was just released on February 5th, 2013. I am a huge fan of Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series (henceforth designated as PP because typing that out every time is tiresome) so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this, the first book in her Finishing School YA series. In fact, I pre-ordered a copy for my Kindle and was delighted when it appeared like magic.

Description from Goodreads:

Featured imageSophronia Temminnick at 14 is a great trial more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners — and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Her poor mother, desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady, enrolls the lively tomboy in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage — in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

Sophronia is a precocious teenage girl who prefers mechanics and exploring to the more ladylike subjects of fashion and society. She is sent away quite abruptly to a finishing school. Almost immediately Sophronia  realizes that this is not your normal finishing school. Between her home and the school, she is involved in a flywaymen attack (like highwaymen but they travel by air instead of land), a daring rescue, and a high-speed carriage escape. And that’s just the first 2 chapters. There is one major mystery that spans the entire book, but there are many small mysteries and quiet intrigues that spin off the main mystery and come as a result of the students’ social dynamics. Something interesting or exiting happens at almost every turn of the page, so much so I had a lot of trouble putting this book down.

Every one of the students has a distinct personality which sets them apart from the others, even if they fall into the usual stereotypes of teen girls at a boarding school (there’s always that one girl whose personality is just to admire and copy everything that one bossy/rich/popular girl does). Each girl has a particular strength I absolutely loved the descriptions of the school itself and the various areas upon it, though I did worry a bit for its structural integrity (I can’t help it, it’s the engineer in me).

If you have read Carriger’s PP series, you may find a few of these characters familiar. In fact, they are the same characters in the same world some 25 years prior to the happenings in the PP series. It isn’t the entirety of the cast, however, so don’t expect to find young Miss Hisselpenny cavorting about with young Miss Tarabotti, but you will find several familiar names and be enthralled to learn more about their early years.

All in all I loved this book and will highly recommend it.

Review of Delirium by Lauren Oliver (audiobook version)

I recently finished listening to the audiobook recording of Delirium by Lauren Oliver read by Sarah Drew.

Description from Goodreads:

TDelirium by Lauren Oliverhey say that the cure for love will make me happy and safe forever.  And I’ve always believed them.  Until now.  Now everything has changed.  Now, I’d rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie.

Delirium is set in a future where amor deliria nervosa (also known as Love) is a serious disease that must be cured. All residents of the United States of America live in walled cities where they are safe from the wilds and from invalids, the un-cured people who live there. At the age of 18, people receive the cure which is a surgical brain operation that cures them of Love (and most other sympathetic emotions). Lana is just a few months shy of her 18th birthday and looking forward to being cured and becoming a normal functioning adult in society. After she has her first personal experience with active rebellion against society, she begins to have doubts about the procedure and about the “happiness” that supposedly follows.

Lana is a well written 17-year-old girl who has always lived by the letter of the law. Tragedy in her childhood made her crave the cure and the peace and tranquility that society promises after the procedure. As events unfold and fundamental truths about her life and her faith in society are shaken, her very human emotional responses are easy to empathize with: best friends fighting and the agony before making up again, the first time you break a rule on purpose and the fear of being caught, suddenly realizing that something you believed was true is not.

There was one plot twist towards the end that I felt was a little too forced, it is obviously the stimulus that will drive the sequel, but on the whole I found Delirium to be an excellent book. The reader, Sarah Drew, gives an emotionally stirring performance.