Sunday, May 29, 2011

Matched

Ally Condie makes her debut with this latest addition to the ever growing  shelves of teenage dystopian worlds.

Cassia has never questioned the Society. She lives the life that has been mapped out for her with numbers and statistics and is the model citizen. Until the day of her Matching. The unlikely happens when she is Matched with her best friend Xander and for a moment everything in her life is perfect. This changes drastically however when she goes home and she sees Ky appear on the computer screen and not Xander. After this glitch in the system, she begins to question everything that the Society stands for and wonders if being the perfect, predictable citizen is what she wants.

Since the Hunger Games trilogy I have been seeing more books that are about YA fighting against the tyrannical government, starting revolutions and just being rebellious teenagers. In a way this isn't that different but it is better written than others that are coming out.

First of all, I don't find the female protagonist whiny and weak. Cassia is a character who is the product of the Society but thankfully can think for herself, can take risks and not quibble too much about it. I will be reading the rest of the series to see if and how she evolves.

However! I am getting terribly tired of books where the first point of discussion amongst readers is Edward or Jake? Peeta or Gale?  and now we have Xander or Ky? Now before I completely write it off as something juvenile I do give props to Xander for ***spoiler***(Highlight it if you want to see) letting go of Cassia at the end and giving her not only permission but contraband supplies to help her find Ky after they have both been exiled to Outer Provinces. He didn't try to make a case for himself, he just let her go and wasn't all dramatic about it as others have been. ***spoiler done*** So it has been put together better than others in the past.

About the world itself, everything is in the hands of the Officials. They determine what you wear and eat; where you live and work; who you associate with and marry. All is done with the help of probability and perfectly matched genes. Cancer and all other illness have been "matched out" of the Society and everything seems perfect. It is happier than Orwell's world of 1984 but there is still the knowledge that you are permanently being watched and monitored to ensure no Abberations or Anomalies are wandering around.

I read this because it was part of my book groups summer challenge and while I don't think it was a complete waste of time and I most likely will finish off the series, this isn't something that I am going to be rereading. I would describe it as a cotton-candy type of book. Something that is fluffy and good on occasion, but too much at once makes you feel sick.

I would recommend this book to those who have devoured Hunger Games and are wanting something new to read.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I love this book. I got the opportunity to read it when it first came out and have just recently come back to it for a book group read and I fell in love with it all over again as my patient roommate can tell you.


Goodreads Plot Summary: January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.



As I have said, I absolutely love this story. It has a depth of character and a charming wit that left me laughing through one passages and nearly in tears by the next. It feels so real that you can imagine that this was a pack of letters found together in an old trunk somewhere, probably in your favorite aunt's attic. Each of the characters has their own unique and quirky personality. 

This book actually had more meaning for me this last time I read it because it is a Literary novel. There are passages and quotes from Chaucer, Seneca, Ms. Marple and everything in between. Having now had the chance to study Chaucer and Austen and the Bronte sisters this book took up a lot more substance and became far more meaningful.

 I applaud Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows for their research and their flair for covering such a dark time in history the way they did. 

I really recommend this to almost anybody. I haven't yet come across a person who wouldn't be enchanted by the letters of the inhabitants of Guernsey Island.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Beastly

Picture taken from Goodreads
Alex Flinn has written many YA novels though this is one of my favorites. And may I just say that I liked it and had heard of it YEARS before it became popular.

Think Beauty and the Beast in modern NYC.
Kyle Kingsbury had everything anyone could possibly want, money, looks and powerful connections through his father. He was the king of his class. Until a fateful night when after his Spring Formal he was met by a witch from his English class. 

The rest pretty much follows your basic Beauty and The Beast story line.

Let me reiterate, I discovered this years ago sitting on a shelf in the public library and I really liked the story. I reread it recently because of all the hype surrounding it due to the movie. 

The reasons I like it are because it was fresh take on the story for me. This has been a favorite fairly tale of mine and it was nice for it to be told from the Beast's point of view. Kyle was well developed and he didn't go from Beastly to Prince Charming in a single page. Flinn gave him a chance to develop at a believable pace without the story dragging. Another device I like is the structure of the narrative. The chat-rooms that the author has put in between sections of the story help to segue the different plot developments. Furthermore it has been divided into seven parts (six parts and an epilogue) which is a perfect, magical number.

I recommend this for YA readers who are looking for another more modern take on a classic fairy tale.

Daughters of Lancaster County

Image taken from Goodreads.com
Another set of Amish stories from Wanda E. Brunstetter, this series follows the Fisher and Weaver family in Lancaster County.

Starting with the story of Naomi Fisher who has taken over the care of her family after her mothers death, this series is centered on the tragedy that befalls her in a moment of distraction.

Continuing with the life of Abby Miller who seems to have the picture perfect life with her successful quilt shop and charming fiancé in Ohio. Everything is shattered when she leaves to help her pregnant mother. She must figure out how to continue on when everything she cares about seems to be taken from her.

Finishing off with Leona Weaver, a school teacher who has lost her fiancé in a horse accident. Life seems to become increasingly difficult with her father's accident and the growing attraction she is fighting to an Englishman.

Well, what to say...
Overall it was a sweet story, peppered with lots of Pennsylvanian Dutch and information about the Amish way of life. It is told from many different points of view which is something I generally like in a narrative if it is done well, and Brunstetter did a good job in the continuity and clarity of her narrative.

However, Christian Literature is something that is very difficult to write without coming across as preachy. And I felt while reading it that it crossed the line in a couple of points. Not only were there a lot of repetitive phrases but also the characters felt a little flat and too perfect in their dialogue - not real at all.

I would classify this as a fluff read. Fun to read once but I bet I will have forgotten it in a matter of weeks.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Northanger Abbey

The first of Austen's novels to be sold, though not published until 1817, after the death of the Authoress. It is a very witty satire on the Gothic novels which were so popular of her time.

It is the coming of age story of Catherine Morland who at the young age of 17 is given the chance to visit Bath with her family's friends the Allen's. Catherine has nothing of the heroine about her. She comes from an averages family, has average intelligence and is "nearly pretty." Little does she suspect the friends she will make in Bath, both charming and duplicitous. With her head filled with the stories of Mrs. Radcliffe she secures an invitation to visit Northanger Abbey with her friends the Tilney's. Her Gothic notions almost lead to her doom but she is saved by good sense of friends.

I read this book for a class I am taking and fell in love with the writing. As this is her first novel, Austen had not quite yet found her narrative style but it is still peppered with all of the wit and humor that can be found in her works. A thing that I did really like about the narrator was how she spoke directly to the audience at times and in turn became almost a character in and of itself.


Catherine, too, is a heroine I was deeply enchanted by. She is average and extremely naive. Her naiveté is nearly her undoing on several accounts and yet we see her grow and learn how to read people.


This is fairly short for an Austen novel and I recommend it for anyone who is interested in the genre and wanting to have a good laugh.

The Silent Governess

The Silent Governess
 Written by Julie Klassen The Silent Governess is one that I have thoroughly enjoyed in the past and have even come back to read again. I am still working on plot summary so until I can really get them concise, here is one from Goodreads:


"Believing herself guilty of a crime, Olivia Keene flees her home, eventually stumbling upon a grand estate where an elaborate celebration is in progress. But all is not as joyous as it seems…. Lord Bradley has just learned a terrible secret, which, if exposed, will change his life forever. When he glimpses a figure on the grounds, he fears a spy or thief has overheard his devastating news. He is stunned to discover the intruder is a scrap of a woman with her throat badly injured. Fearing she will spread his secret, he gives the girl a post and confines her to his estate. As Olivia and Lord Bradley's secrets catch up with them, will their hidden pasts ruin their hope of finding love?" 


What I really like is that it isn't strictly romance. Olivia has a sense of who she is and is content with herself. She has a sense of self-worth and refuses to take insults from anyone. Also matrimony isn't her main goal. She is intelligent and wants to keep her education going and continue on to teach at a girls school.



To me this book is a nice mesh of the mystery and romance. It will keep you going until the final pages yet leave you satisfied with an ending that isn't too perfectly wrapped up.

Welcome

To those of you who have stumbled upon this blog, thanks for taking a minute to read the words I'm writing.
I am new to the process of book reviews so I ask you to forgive me for any amateur mistakes and writing, especially when I am first starting off.  

A little bit about me, I am a junior attending a small liberal arts college on the East Coast. I am still debating about what I am majoring in. It will be either English or Liberal Arts. My favorite class I am taking right now is an in-depth study on the novels of Jane Austen. I am hoping to graduate in two years and well...we'll see where life will go from there.

What qualifies me to do book-reviews and pretend to be an arbiter of taste? Well, I have been reading everything and anything I can get my hands on since I was little. I have read just about every basic plot known to mankind and I have through my readings discovered what works and what doesn't. I also was a manager at an independent bookstore for 3 years. This let me get the inside view on the business side of books -  knowing which publishers specialize in which genres. My job also gave me a view on what a majority of the country's book-clubs were reading. I know what is popular and why.

Well thanks for reading my ramblings. If you have any for books to review just leave a comment and I will get to it as soon as I can.

Shame Nation

Shame Nation Genre: Non-Fiction Rating: 4 Stars Summary My Thoughts: This is a book everyone needs to read. The title perfectly fits ...