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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

I had been in a local bookstore for an hour and a half, looking for a new treasure to bring home, when my eyes fell on a certain book that was on display. The hardcover was rather attractive looking, on the front was a girl in a green gown who appeared to be trapped in some type of bubble or glass ball. It was pretty. I had seen Facebook ads for it before, and had previewed it online, and it looked good. The next thing I know, I'm handing over money, and poof! Matched was all mine.

So here's what happens:
Cassia, a 17 year old girl, lives in a future where your whole life is planned out for you. The Society chooses who you marry, what your job is, and even when you die. Cassia believes her world is perfect, especially when she is matched with her best friend Xander. When you are matched, it means that the Society selects the ideal mate for you, the person you will love and eventually marry. But then another face appears on the Matching Screen, just for an instant. The face belongs to a mysterious and handsome local boy named Ky.
The Society tells her it was only a mistake that she saw Ky's face, and she should go back to loving Xander. But Cassia finds herself drawn to the boy anyways. And meanwhile, life in her city is growing more and more uncomfortable. Personal space is being invaded, and precious objects are being taken away from families. Before her grandfather died, he told Cassia to fight against the rules the Society is set. Cassia is shocked at this, but then she begins to learn that her world isn't nearly as perfect as she was led to believe.
Pretty soon, she's doing dangerous things that could destroy her and the people she's close to. She falls in love with the forbidden Ky, and feels trapped in her strict world. Now she's going to have to risk it all and eventually make big sacrifices while the world around her begins to fall apart.

You can tell right from the first chapter that it was definitely written by a poet. It's lyrical, descriptive style is fluent, and makes the story float right along.

At first, the story was so fluffy and light though, I almost got annoyed. Cassia, the main character turned me off at first, but then she grew stronger in her character throughout the book, and it was much appreciated by me. Hence, I enjoyed the exposition because it was so interesting learning about her world. And the whole Xander vs. Ky thing created the nice little love triangle conflict I've been seeing more and more in YA sci-fi. I found Ky to be a beautifully illustrated character, I think he was my favorite. And Cassia's narrations were always so poetic and descriptive, it was another lovely element.

But a problem I had was once Cassia started to see her world for what it really was, it got quite depressing. Everything starts to go wrong, the people she loves are taken away, and she can't be with got a bit sad. The whole rhythm of the story shifted from an interesting futuristic culture into a sad struggle to gain control of one's life. And this continues for the rest of the book, forcing us to wait for the promised sequel, Crossed.

So I guess you can say I had mixed feelings over this book. Apparently, it's been highly successful so far, a New York Times Best Seller, and it has had a lot of praise and good reviews. I will say that Matched was a good story, despite it's saddening plot, and tragic love story. It was written in a lovely way, and it was certainly interesting.

A dystopian romance novel that can grasp itself on to you, making you curious, and it's characters will work their way into you, making you feel plenty of sympathy.
3.5/5 stars

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Postcard Killers by James Patterson & Lisa Marklund

Well, this was rather intriguing...
I'm no-doubt a James Patterson admirer,the guy is just plain skilled. He's able to crank out new books all the time and they're GOOD. Of course, he gets paid enough to do this.
Anyways, up till now I have only read his Maximum Ride series (which are radical, by the way), and I was curious about his other thrillers. Apparently, European author Lisa Marklund composed the 1st draft, and Patterson did the 2nd. I had seen in on-display in store aisles and it had always looked interesting, plus, it had a TV commercial. How cool is that? You don't see commercials for books everyday.
But media aside, this was a "unique" story. It opens up in the prologue describing the murder of a tourist couple in Paris, France. It goes into the rather disgusting and horrific process the pair of Mac and Sylvia, aka the Postcard Killers go through in order to slay their victims. I was definitely grossed out, but I told myself to keep reading to see if it got less vile. I suppose it did.
The story then cuts to NYPD detective Jacob Kanon investigating the case. But this is no ordinary killing, because all over the European continent, young couples are found dead in hotel beds, and their bodies are arranged in the most curious of ways. Whenever a pair is killed off, the assassins send a postcard to a local newspaper, followed by a photograph of their victims. All over Europe, this is happening. "But why?" is the question we readers ask, "Why are Mac and Sylvia doing this?"
Jacob Kanon is desperate to find out, ever since his only daughter, Kimmy, and her boyfriend, are murdered in Rome. For 6th months he's been tracking the killers all through Europe.
Then we meet Dessie Larsson, a Swedish reporter who receives the postcards of death in Stockholm. She and Jacob join up with a police force to find out who the killers are, and exactly why they are doing this.

I'll admit, it was strange and horrific. But it was a good story with an expertly planned plot. Though it was revealed in the prologue who the killers were, we don't find out their reasoning until much later. To me, the purpose of the killing was a little iffy, and a bit unrealistic, but it still fit. Readers will be astounded at some points, but don't expect a traditional murder mystery story, because it's really only half of one. One thing that was cool about it was that the bodies were arranged to mimic famous works of art. Okay, I know that it sounds disgusting, but it only adds to the cleverness of the killers. I certainly won't recommended this for younger readers, this an adult book with the works: language, sexual content and themes, and violence and gore. But overall, I thought it was awesome.

A choppy, fast-paced thriller that will have you turning page after page. It will charge you up like a double-shot Starbucks expresso drink, making you excited and wanting more.
4 out of 5 stars.