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Disappointment and aggravation

I finished two books this year that were both second installments of trilogies: Crossed by Ally Condie and A Million Suns by Beth Revis*. The first books in each series (Matched and Across the Universe, respectively) had the same effect on me. I didn’t want to put either down and I was excited and anxious as the release dates for the sequels drew nearer. Crossed came out first, in November of 2011. I asked for the day off work so I could download and read it without interruption. Like most books, I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it in a single day, but I figured I would get a good chunk read.

How wrong I was.

Matched was told entirely by Cassia’s point of view but Crossed took on a different format. Chapters alternated between Cassia and Ky’s points of view. Each chapter was marked by who was speaking, as books with alternating storytellers often do, but other than that, there was nothing to distinguish who was speaking. I found myself often flipping back several pages to find whose chapter it was that I was reading. The characters didn’t have their own voices. It all sounded like Cassia’s from Matched.

Then there was the action – or lack thereof. The mystery and intrigue that Matched had (who put Ky’s name in the system? Why did Grandpa have forbidden poetry? etc.) were missing largely for Crossed. Cassia and Ky are in search of each other, far from the Society where they first met. About half the book is taken up by this search, which is a lot of walking in deserts and hiding from Society spy planes. Once they find each other, the search continues for the Rising. It wasn’t until about 75 pages from the end that I started to feel that grip of intrigue pull me into the story. Something interesting was finally happening.

Despite taking the release day off to read it, I didn’t finish the book for three months. I didn’t feel the pull to not put it down. Instead, I felt the dredge of picking it up again. I had very little interest in it to keep me going. What would have taken me about a week to read took me months instead and that says a lot about the content.

But there’s still one more book in the trilogy, set to come out this November. And even though I was disappointed in Crossed, I am still curious to see what happens to Ky and Cassia and, therefore, will still download a copy of Reached. I just won’t bother taking a day off work so I can read it.

*Stay tuned for a review of A Million Suns.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Literature, Rants

 

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My utopia is dystopia (part 1)

One of my favorite genres to read is dystopian fiction. Ever since my eighth grade English teacher recommended The Giver by Lois Lowry, I’ve been hooked.

You’ve probably heard of utopian fiction (ie: Brave New World by Aldus Huxley, Lost Horizon by James Hilton, etc.). Dictionary.com defines dystopia as “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.” So, if a book takes place in this type of setting, it can be considered dystopian fiction. However, there’s a second type of dystopian fiction where a person or persons fight against the utopian society, against control and gentrified society. This is the kind that I like. I think the reason I’m so attracted to these books is that I see myself as the heroine in these stories, that I would be among the first to fight back should an elite group decide what’s best for society (in the most extreme case, that is).

There’s been a plethora of dystopian fiction put out the past few years, at least for teens (although I’ve sold plenty of them to adults). Currently, one of the more popular titles, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, is being made into a movie. While I have a copy of the ebook, I have yet to read it. Instead, I’ll review three other dystopian fiction books, all of which have been published within the past year, over a series of posts. There will be spoilers so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Matched by Ally Condie (book one of a trilogy)

Cassia does everything the Society tells her, from what music to listen to, to who she’ll marry. But a mistake with her match makes her question if the Society really has her best interests in mind. She starts seeing Ky, a guy from the outside now living in society. He knows and has seen things that Cassia hasn’t even heard of. As they continue to see each other (not in private – nothing is private with the Officials always looking on), her feelings for him grow deeper. Her feelings toward the Society also changes. While on the outside Cassia continues to do as she is told, inside she rages. Once Ky is sent away, though, Cassia decides it’s time to fight harder.

There are many parts in the book that are my favorite. One is where Ky teaches Cassia to write her name. Within the Society, people use electronics for communication so handwriting is not known. Ky, who’s from the outside, learned how to use his hands, not only with handwriting but also with drawing. This especially piqued my interest for two reasons. First, when I write, the process begins with me handwriting a rough draft. The act of physically writing down the words, pen to paper, helps my creative juices flow. I also prefer it to a first draft on a computer because once you erase something on the screen, you can’t get it back again. Sometimes I have the perfect word or phrases and then I decide to cross them out. Later, I can look back on these “deletions” and see if I can use it again in a better place, or something close to it. I can’t do this on a computer. Second, beginning next school year, Indiana will stop teaching cursive writing in its schools. While children will still learn handwriting, they will no longer be required to know cursive. While some may say, “So what?” to me it’s just one step closer to the world turning into one of these gentrified societies.

Another great part of the book is the little bit of interaction between Cassia and her grandfather. Near the beginning of the book, Cassia’s grandfather is about to have his 80th birthday. It’s bittersweet to reach 80 in the Society because while you get to have a party with any food you choose (rather than the regulation food), that is the last time you will see anyone. You are killed off quietly with pills. As Cassia is saying goodbye to her grandfather, he gives her a gift. It is an old compact, or an artifact, as they call it. He shows her a hidden chamber where Cassia’s grandmother had hidden a piece of paper. The paper contains two poems, but not ones that Cassia knows. The are not one of the Hundred Poems the Society kept. Cassia soon memorizes the poems and gets rid of the evidence before getting in trouble.

One of the poems is by Dylan Thomas:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked to lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Later, she has an epiphany that the reason this poem had not been kept by the Society was because it told the reader to fight. I must admit that when I read this part, I cheered, and hoped that Cassia would indeed fight.

The book ends with Cassia serving out a punishment for disobeying the Society. But as she works the land on the outside, she plots how to break free and find Ky.

The next book, Crossed, comes out in November.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2011 in Literature

 

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Looking forward to the rest of 2011

As I often do, I was browsing upcoming book releases on Amazon. There are some books coming out this year that I’m excited to read. Below is a list of what and when by authors I’ve already read (and really enjoy). I’m sure there will be more exciting books from new authors but I don’t know what they are yet. If you know of an unreleased book that’s getting some buzz, drop me a comment and let me know!

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
March 22nd

Bumped by Megan McCafferty
April 24th

If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster
May 3rd

Ordinary Beauty by Laura Wiess
June 14th

Uncommon Criminals (A Heist Society novel) by Ally Carter
June 21st

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
July 12th

The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Spencer Quinn
September 6th

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
August 30th

The Death Cure (Maze Runner Trilogy #3) by James Dashner
October 11th

Crossed by Ally Condie
November 1st

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2011 in Literature

 

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