Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ally Condie

rating: 7.5 out of 10 "books"

Dystopian fiction seems to be all the rage these days and while I feel like I need to switch gears over here and start reading (and reviewing) other types of fiction, I can’t seem to tear myself away. I’m one of those readers who will read things based on “buzz.” The more a magazine, journal, whathaveyou talks about a particular book of interest, the more I want to read it (see my upcoming review of the controversial “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”) So when I kept seeing Matched by Ally Condie pop up everywhere, I knew I had to take a peek.

In the perfect world of the Society, Cassia is one of the many perfect citizens; she follows the rules, doesn’t question anything or anyone, and like everyone else: believes she is happy. And why shouldn’t she be? The Society provides for everyone. There is no war, no hunger, no suffering or disease. Cassia knows exactly when she will die because Society plans it out for every citizen to be at 80 years old. Everything is so perfectly planned that the Society even figures out who a citizen’s perfect match is, based on the collection and analysis of tons of data. So when Cassia is matched with her best friend Xander, it’s a wonderful surprise for both parties. Most matches don’t even know each other, let alone live close enough to one another, so it comes as a very strange occurrence for the whole town.

The problem arises when Cassia goes to look over Xander’s bio data one day, even though she already knows everything about him. Along with Xander’s photo in her match material, a flash of someone else appears – someone Cassia also knows. This in turn sets off a chain of events that completely turns what Cassia thought she knew about life in the Society upside down. On top of questioning her match with Xander, Cassia now worries about the perfect planning set in motion by the Society. As she begins to discover some ugly truths about her “perfect” world, Cassia starts down a path she can never come back from.

This story and I got off to a slow start, but I can’t deny that it got pretty page turn-y at the end. I can definitely see how people have complained that this is yet another piece of Twilight-esque teen dribble, with a thoughtless, selfish female character torn between two gorgeous teenage boys. I can definitely agree that a lot of what Cassia does in the story is very stupid; obsessing over a guy simply because he accidentally appeared on her screen and is mysterious, and so on. But when you think about it, isn’t this much like what today’s teenage girls do anyways? Obsess over the tiniest of details about the opposite sex? So honestly, I can see why the author made this such a huge deal for Cassia. But I also read some pretty redeeming story points that made up for the cheesiness; the fact that each citizen carries 3 separate tablets for different situations, the idea of “artifacts” that the townspeople have from waaaay back when (like 2011) which most have no idea what these artifacts are or what they do, and the concept of the matching ceremonies themselves. I’m definitely the type of reader who doesn’t need some sort of big intellectual point at the end of my story. I’m not exactly the biggest fluff reader either. But hey, sometimes fluff is not a bad thing.

Oh, on another note readers -- I've also heard that they're thinking of turning "Matched" into a movie :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Infinite Days
Rebecca Maizel

rating: 8.5 out of 10 "books"

If I had to quickly summarize the past decade in TV, movies, and literature it’d probably go something like this: girl falls in love with sparkly vampire but is torn between her feelings for her werewolf friend. Or how about this one: girl falls in love with vampire in southern town where vampires are well known of and even catered to with a drink called Tru Blood. Annnnd wash, rinse, repeat. There are so many vampire books out there it’s overwhelming. Well, get ready for one more. But before you close this page in disgust over this reviewers post, let me tell you that this story is a little bit different. Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel tells a story unlike so much of the dribble out there. Instead of Maizel’s vampire character wishing she was human like every other vampire in recent storytelling Lenah Beaudonte, super evil vampire, actually wakes up one day completely human.

Okay. It’s a little more complicated than that. Throw in an ex-vampire soul mate, a ritual, and a little magic and you start to get the picture. Longing for a human life again, Lenah would give anything to change who she is. She’s grown tired of and almost crazy from her destructive vampire life. No longer proud of all the lives she’s taken to make her the most powerful female vampire, Lenah needs a way out. That’s where Rhode, her first vampire love (and the one who made her), fits in. He claims to have found a way to transform Lenah back to her human form. The only problem is the powerful coven of vampires Lenah has created to protect her and who will stop at nothing to find her. Coming up with a plan to hibernate for one hundred years and fool the coven, Lenah sees no danger down the line. And when she wakes up those one hundred years later, the last thing she needs to worry about is her coven coming to track her down because Lenah needs to be able to spend all her energy trying to fit into this new world of humans.

Having a little trouble at first, Lenah eventually begins to fit into human society. She’s made friends, is excelling at school, and even has a love interest in ultra-jock Justin. Of course, like any story, drama ensues. Lenah’s coven discovers her missing body from her crypt and after finding a charred clue (that Rhode failed to burn) as to her whereabouts, start to make their way toward the Wickham Boarding School where Lenah resides. Will Lenah lose her human life again before it’s really started? Can she protect those she loves from the vicious vampires she herself created?

I really liked this book. Sure, it’s not exactly an intellectual read by any means, but if you’re looking for something fun and different involving vampires, I’d definitely recommend you check out this book!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Surface Tension: A Novel in Four Summers
Brent Runyon

rating: 3.5 out of 10 "books"

Surface Tension by Brent Runyon tells the story of teenager, Luke, through the course of four summers. Beginning when Luke is thirteen, readers get to experience the progression of feelings, attitudes, experiences, and views that Luke has as he matures summer after summer. Although the story focuses solely on his family’s summer trips up to the lake, Luke’s first person narrative provides us with enough background information as to what happened during the times in between summers to provide readers with a general idea of how Luke’s life has changed. From his wonder at nature and focus on becoming the best rock skipper at age thirteen, to his anxiety over his summer away from his girlfriend at age sixteen, Surface Tension provides an interesting perspective into how fast a person can change in so little time.

If you’re looking for a quick read, I’d recommend this book. Although the idea of chronicling four summers of a teenage boy’s life sounds like a good idea, my biggest complaint is that I felt like the story wasn’t very well developed. I felt the book could have been a lot better if it had gone more in depth with the character and the story, adding more chapters or something. A word of warning too: some of the material in this story may not be suitable for children, so although amazon.com places the reading age at grades 8 to 11, I’d definitely recommend Surface Tension to the higher teen reading audience.