May 14, 2013


Matched by Ally Condie
I recently read (and forgot to add it to the Current Reads blogpost) Matched by Allyson Condie. It's yet another dystopian novel, of which I've read literally ten in the last few months (i.e. Uglies, The Hunger Games Trilogy, Divergent and Insurgent, The Selection and The Elite), and yet another in which the government is completely tyrannical over those underneath them. This government goes so far as to say whom you may and may not love. At a ceremony, upon the eve of your sixteenth birthday, you are Matched, or basically told with whom you are to foster a relationship with the future goal of marrying and producing children. Typically all goes well, and the two comply to the matching and procreate and live on in complete ignorance of the fact that they are being controlled at every turn in their lives. Such is not the case with Cassia Reyes. When she's matched to her best friend it appears that she's going to live out every girl's greatest wish - not only getting matched to someone she knows, but having it be the smart, attractive and sweet Xander? Unthinkable.

When she goes to look at the chip with Xander's information on it, there's a glich... and the face on the screen isn't Xander's.  For a brief second she questions whether or not she was supposed to be with Xander - whether the government is right - and this question grows into general unease about the way things are. She begins to foster a relationship with the boy behind the face - Ky, a boy who is, unbeknownst to the general population, an aberration, someone who cannot be matched. Her act is seen as rebellion to government officials and is treated as such, the consequences being drastic. Cassia finds out that the government can give great joy, and can take it all away if she displeases them. Subtle acts of rebellion don't go unnoticed, and Cassia intends (in the later installments of the series) to do something much more than subtle.

All Will Be Sorted
I enjoyed the novel, though I'm getting to be a bit jaded about the whole formula behind the teen dystopian novel. The inner dialogue of Cassia's character was interesting in it's honesty, and Ky Markham is a bit of a puzzle to figure out. Towards the end of the book I felt rather sorry for Xander, and proud of his loyalty to Cassia as a friend. He's far more than he seems, which may end up being beneficial to Cassia throughout the rest of the novels. The idea of the government dictating who, when, and what I did with my love life was upsetting... admittedly, I'm not a hopeless romantic, but I still am far too rebellious and cannot stomach the idea of another allocating what I do with my life. I'd give the book 6 out of 10, but largely because this was like... the tenth book of its type that I'd read. As always, read on!

May 4, 2013

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series is comprised of four books: Uglies, Pretties, Specials and Extras. I just finished reading the first book, and will move onto the second shortly (after finals end). Uglies is set in a time quite a ways from now when modern day technology is known as the "Rustys" (I don't know about you, but my Kindle is quite schnazzy, thank you very much!) and the government controls everything... literally everything. What you wear, what your job is, even what you look like! Upon your sixteenth birthday you are turned into a Pretty - being that complete body makeovers using plastic surgery is what makes someone pretty. The thing is that turning Pretty changes an Ugly's personality... and when a select few rebel against this social norm Special Circumstances gets involved.

Tally Youngblood
Enter Tally Youngblood. She's a bit younger than her best friend, Paris, and when he left she began to feel a bit lost. She meets up with this girl named Shay and they start pulling pranks together. Then Shay suggests a bigger prank than any Tally's ever done - Shay is going to leave before she turns Pretty. Tally is shocked at the suggestion that she'd go with Shay and declines, fully intent on becoming a Pretty, but when Special Circumstances says she has to follow Shay and lead them to the town of the rebels, named Smoke for the fact that it's nearly impossible to find, she has no choice but to find Smoke or forever be an Ugly. When Tally gets to Smoke, after a harrowing journey and nearly getting burned (...the irony), she discovers that being Pretty may not be all it's cut out to be, and that the government may be more sinister than she thought it was.

The book had an intriguing message, to say the least. It seemed to me as if it was tossing off the social norms of being pretty and aligning itself with not only being a good person, but with being intelligent and knowledgable about the threats that may be around you. Tally learned that not all Pretties are pretty inside, and that some Uglies may be wiser than she could ever know. The fact that the government was controlling it's people via making them placid and apathetically-minded is reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984, though a much more modern (and teenage-friendly) version of an omniscient government. The ending was... confusing, though I bet it'll be cleared up with the next few in the series. I'll definitely get to reading them shortly! I just gotta catch up on this Biology, take the final, and then I'll be back for more!

May 2, 2013

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers
Carolina jasmine for separation.
Indian jasmine for attachment.
Dahlias for dignity.
Marigold for grief.
Dried basil for hate.
Common thistle for misanthropy.
Misanthropy is distrust of humankind. 
Misanthropy is all she has.

Victoria Jones is an eighteen year old who has just gotten out of the United States foster care system. Gotten out meaning that she's run away. Run away with no other place to go. She lives in a park while she attempts to get her life together, and grows her flowers - the only things that keep her company these days. She knows about the flowers because of Elizabeth, the woman that was so similar to her - dealing with demons of her own past - the only person who has been able to handle the tempestuous Victoria. She taught Victoria about her flowers, about how to care for them, what seasons they grow in, but most importantly their meaning. When Victoria begins working with a florist, the meanings of the flowers take on a whole new light. Victoria learns that she can change others lives through the flowers she gives them - periwinkle for tender recollections, mums for truth, rosemary for commitment

Each one has meaning
Her attitude towards life begins to change when the florist, Renata, takes her under her wing, and changes further when she sees a face from the past - Grant - Elizabeth's nephew. Grant understands Victoria, or at least he seems to, and an odd sort of romance blossoms between them, though she doesn't want to trust him. She's had way too much hurt in her life to let him into her heart. The novel takes you through Victoria's daily life as she faces obstacles and heartache that everyone faces, though it's more acute because of her background. You begin to wonder if Victoria will overcome the obstacles of her past that she's let cling to her, or if she'll crumble under the weight of the things she remembers.Victoria needs a large dose of peony, healing.

There were times in the book that I really just wanted someone to knock some sense into this girl's head. I found Victoria to be not exactly likable  though she had a certain allure, but it was more her background and story that drew sympathy. Grant, on the other hand, was charming because of his willingness to deal with all of Victoria's heaviness. I can't say that the plot was entirely surprising, as I could see that something (not telling what) was going to happen to shift things dramatically at some point. It was a good read, though I originally bought it just because the cover was pretty. The Language of Flowers surprised me with its content, and the information concerning flowers was definitely intriguing. I'll have to consider it next time I buy a bouquet...

May 1, 2013

The Hunger Games: Trilogy

May the odds be ever in your favor.
I read The Hunger Games series in 2010, right after the last in the series, Mockingjay, came out. The books in order are: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. I read the entire trilogy in three days, and then saw the movie within the first weekend of it coming out. I guess you could say I blurred through the series. Susanne Collins, author of the popular kid's book Little Bear (which I basically grew up on), conceived the idea for The Hunger Games after watching reality TV shows and footage of wars of the past back to back. The two blurred together and created the idea of a world where teaching children to murder others for entertainment was totally acceptable. The books gradually gained in fame, and resulted in not only the making of an extremely popular movie, but the honor of being at the top of Amazon's most popular book series, stealing that title away from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series in mid-2012, just 4 years after the start of the series.

The United States has turned into the kingdom of Panem (named for "Panem et Circences" or "Bread and Circuses" which was a motto of the Roman Empire), and has been divided into twelve districts (first thirteen, but then later twelve). The wealthy of the nation live in the Capitol, and oversee the goings-on in the rest of the districts. After the thirteenth district rioted against the Capitol and was obliterated, the Hunger Games were instituted. Each year two contestants, one of each gender, is taken and thrown into a survivalist arena where they have to fight to the death, leaving only one conqueror. The games are watched and presided over by the leaders of the Capitol, and merely serve as a reminder for the districts and entertainment for the people of the capitol.

Peeta, Katniss and Gale
Katniss, a young girl living in District 12, shocks everyone by volunteering for the games after her sister is selected in the drawing. She and Peeta, the boy that was selected, leave and go to the Capitol where they are pretty-fied and trained for a brief period of time. They earn the approval and respect of those in the Capitol and those in the Districts, and shock everyone when, through an outrageous turn of events and pissing off the leaders at the Capitol, both of them emerge as victor from the games. They return to District 12, unsure of their seemingly loving relationship due to Katniss' prior involvement with her friend, Gale. Both Katniss and Peeta are thinking that they'll be able to put the memories behind them, but the Capitol has other tricks up their sleeve.

After traveling the country for the next year, while publicly planning their wedding, Katniss and Peeta return to District 12 to await word of the next Hunger Games. Then comes the horrible announcement that the contestants will come from the previous victors of each district, which means that Haymitch, Katniss, and Peeta are the only ones up to bat. Katniss and Peeta are drawn yet again, and, at the urging of Haymitch, escape the arena after breaking out of it. Katniss is rescued by people from District 13, and taken to join them in rioting against the Capitol, but receives the awful news that the Capitol has captured Peeta. Katniss is supposed to join forces with District 13 in their riots against the Capitol and save Peeta, but various things go awry, leaving Katniss to wonder if either side is right. The end of the last book was so freaking sad... well, at least one specific detail of it. I'm not telling! That'd spoil too much!

I'd give the books about a 7.5 out of 10. They were an easy and fun read... not overly pithy stuff, other than the horrendous state of their society, but a relatively decent plot line (no matter how much you say it ripped off Battle Royale). The Hunger Games movie came out towards the beginning of 2012, and was much anticipated. It launched the adorable Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) to becoming a household name, and also starred the two heartthrobs, Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) and Liam Hemsworth (Gale). The movie was pretty good, and nothing strayed from the plot line too terribly, and I'll definitely be seeing the other two when they come out! 

Apr 23, 2013

Vamps and Shape-shifters and Telepaths,oh my!

True Blood
When Charlaine Harris crafted the tale about a telepathic waitress and her vampire beau, I doubt she knew that she was starting a craze. HBO soon caught on, and began turning the series into a television series called True Blood starring Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse, Stephen Moyer as Bill Compton, Sam Trammell as Sam Merlotte, and (the super attractive) Alexander Skarsgård as Eric. The show is about to start it's sixth season on June 16th, and has an avid fan base (who doesn't like attractive men... oh, and blood). I've just finished the first book in the series, Dead Until Dark, and hope to work my way through the rest of them, possibly watching the HBO series as I go.

Sookie as Rogue
The series begins with the introduction of a vampire, one of the undead - who have recently been legally recognized as existing, though excuses were made for their existence - a Bill Compton. Bill has recently moved to a small town in Louisiana with the intention of "mainstreaming," or basically not eating humans. Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress that just so happens to be telepathic (meaning that she can hear people's thoughts... basically an X-Men character... oh... wait...), develops a fascination with Bill because she can't hear his thoughts. You would too if you were barraged by the darkest secrets of your creepy neighbors all the time. His "silence" is welcome (and by that she means his heart isn't beating. But it's not... see what I did there?... I give up.) 

Eric, Sookie and Bill
Bill complicates things for Sookie in a town where already she is not entirely accepted, though she may have lived there from birth. His existence, and her budding love affair with him, is looked down upon, by the residents of Bon Temps. As their love grows into something very unusual - an unselfish bond between a vampire and a human (Bill sounds like a parasite.) - a series of seemingly vampire-related attacks rack the town of Bon Temps. Murders of people close to Sookie, and the suspicion cast on her brother, forces her to use her gift to attempt to track down the killer. This gift also brings her into contact with a powerful vampire named Eric who'd like to use her for himself. Sookie seems to instantly become the most desirable thing in southern Louisiana, because her boss, Sam, also craves Sookie's attention, and makes her aware of it through his hazy thoughts. When Bill leaves town, Sam reveals to Sookie that he has supernatural gifts as well. He's a shapeshifter, and he wants to protect her. Unfortunately, his protection doesn't seem adequate, nor is the security vamp Bill left to watch over Sookie. She is attacked, but makes it out alive, and the identity of the killer shocks everyone. After all is said and done, Bon Temps, Louisiana seems like it will go back to normal again. Bill has gained a position of power, and Sookie is healing from her bruises and broken bones. I guess I'll just have to see what happens in the next book in the series, Living Dead in Dallas!

Apr 22, 2013

The Twenties: Money, Parties, Flappers, and Gatsby

Fitzgerald and wife, Zelda
"Well, three months before I was born, my mother lost her other two children ... I think I started then to be a writer."
~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Named for his three-times removed cousin, Francis Scott Key, and his (deceased) sister, F. Scott Fitzgerald has, himself, admitted that he was born to be a writer. He and his wife, the legendary Zelda Fitzgerald, well-known for her lifestyle during the twenties, were married shortly after his first novel, This Side of Paradise, became one of the most read novels of 1920. After living out the Roaring Twenties in Europe, along with his friend, Ernest Hemingway, and his wife, Fitzgerald made any of his books about his wife and their life together. Fitzgerald died early, at the age of 44, from a heart attack .. probably from partying too hard. See, Fergie, a little party CAN hurt somebody!

The Great Gatsby (original cover)
The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald's most popular work, was released in 1925, and set in 1922, at the start of the Roaring Twenties, the time of affluence directly after World War I. The novel's historical context is taken from Fitzgerald's own life - the setting, Long Island, and the new-money, old-money discrepancies were found in the area that Fitzgerald lived.

Nick Carraway, a Yale grad, rents out a small house next to a mansion owned by the mysterious and filthy rich character of Jay Gatsby. Gatsby likes to hold parties... crazy ones. And this was before noise complaints, guys, so remember that next time you complain about your neighbors rap music being too loud. ( If ya havin' noise problems, I feel bad fo' ya son. I got 99 problems, but Jay Gatsby ain't one.) Carraway's cousin, Daisy, and her husband, Tom, live in the old money area across the waterfront, and they introduce him to Jordan Baker, a (girl) (cheating) golfer, whom Nick gets involved with. Tom has a mistress on the side - Myrtle, the voluptuous wife of a garage owner.

Nick eventually gets invited to one of Gatsby's parties, and they recognize each other, having served in World War I together (yet another element of Fitzgerald's life being input into the novel). Nick finds out, through Jordan, that Daisy and Gatsby had been interested in each other before the war, and that Gatsby throws these elaborate parties and owns this HUGE mansion in order for her to take notice of him. Nick invites the two to tea, and their love is rekindled. Meanwhile, Tom has become abusive and broken the nose of his mistress. (Affairs and intrigue abound.) Due to this, George, Myrtle's husband, has deduced that Myrtle is having an affair and locked her in their home. He tells Tom this when Tom stops for gas at his garage, and then Tom continues on his trek into New York City where Tom, Nick, Daisy, Jordan and Gatsby all dine at the Plaza.

The Wilson's Garage
Tom confronts Gatsby about his affair after lunch and over drinks, which leads to a huge fight, which Tom thinks he won. Daisy and Gatsby leave in Gatsby's yellow car, returning home together because Tom thinks Daisy won't be involved with Gatsby any longer. Tom, Jordan and Nick return together in Tom's car. On the way home Daisy and Gatsby hit and kill Myrtle, who ran out in the middle of the road (apparently she doesn't have as much brains as she does boobs), and there is an extremely gruesome detailing of Myrtle's right breasts being torn off and hanging onto her body as if by a few threads.

Tom and Nick come upon Myrtle's body after Daisy and Gatsby speed away, in shock. After returning home, Daisy shows herself to be self-serving and selfish by packing her and Tom's possessions and leaving town with Tom. Tom tells George before he leaves that Gatsby was the driver on the night of Myrtle's accident, which makes George think that Gatsby was the love affair that Myrtle had been seeing. Meanwhile, Gatsby tells Nick that Daisy was the driver that killed Myrtle, but that he's willing to take the blame for her sake, and refuses to flee to escape the hand of the law (or the anger of Myrtle's husband).

Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby
George, in a fit of rage, goes to Gatsby's house and finds him lounging in his prodigiously sized pool. George shoots Gatsby multiple times, killing him, then turns the gun on himself, committing suicide. Nick, Gatsby's father and his servants are the only people that attend Gatsby's funeral. Nick is disgusted by the fact that Gatsby doesn't seem to have any true friends, and turns this disgust on Tom and Jordan when he next sees them. He resolves at the end to return to the Midwest, and decides that both he and Gatsby hadn't fully acclimated to life in the East.

Each of the characters in the novel have some inclusion to a person that was involved in the life of Fitzgerald, the author, outside of the Wilsons (Myrtle & George) and Nick Carraway, which very well could've been Fitzgerald himself. Gatsby, originally James Gatz, was inspired by the life of WWI veteran Max Gerlach, an acquaintance of Fitzgerald's who also dabbled in bootlegging (an illegal activity) like Gatsby. Daisy was inspired by the memory of the first girl Fitzgerald ever fell for, Ginevra King, while her friend, Jordan, was inspired by a golfer friend of Ginevra's.

The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckelburg
Colors also play a key role in the novel, with Daisy and Jordan often being shown in white - ironically symbolizing innocence and virtue, since Daisy is playing two men for fools and Jordan is well-known for her 'fast' lifestyle and her tendency to cheat in golf matches. Gatsby's car and Jordan's hair, both alarming shades of yellow, are symbols for the fast life of the East, and eventually stand for things that Nick and Gatsby cannot live up to as Westerners. Nick has to leave Jordan, as he eventually develops distate for her and her lifestyle, and Gatsby's car is the cause of Myrtle's, and in turn, Gatsby's, deaths. The green light on the end of Gatsby's dock is mentioned throughout the book as a symbol of Gatsby's ever-present love for Daisy as well as his hope that she will return to him. The blue eyes, immortalized on the cover, of the optometrist that watches over the valley of ashes, symbolize the judgement of the moral situations that each of the characters face. The optometrist is a sort of all-seeing, but never interfering, judge - seeing each movement that the characters make, but doing nothing to stop them from heading to their own demises.

Cast of Baz Luhrmann's Gatsby (2013)
This book has been made into countless movies, analyzed in countless books, and critically acclaimed as perhaps the second greatest fiction work in the history of American novels. Among my favorite movie versions is the 1974 version starring Mia Farrow as Daisy and Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby. The final scene in this one is stunning, though a bit graphic - Gatsby's death scene is among one of the more dramatic I've seen, and Robert Redford never fails to deliver. A more recent version will be coming out shortly on May 10th, 2013 by Baz Luhrmann. This one features Carey Mulligan as Daisy, Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway. I, for one, cannot wait to see it, and am already avidly listening to the soundtrack. All of Baz Luhrmann's movies have fantastic soundtracks, do they not? This one features Lana del Rey and Fergie in two of the best songs on the album (Young and Beautiful & A Little Party Never Hurt Nobody, respectively). Make sure to look it up, and go read the book and watch the movie for some drama, some intrigue, some death, and a lot of twenties flapper fashion.

Apr 21, 2013

Current Books

Meaning of flowers
Hey! Okay, so, I'm going to list the books I'm currently reading, and I'll attempt to work through blogs concerning all of them.

  1. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
    • This one chronicles the life of an eighteen year old girl who had issues inside the foster care system while growing up. She discovers, through various means, that she can touch other people's lives through the meanings of the flowers she gives to them.
  2. Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare
    • This chronicles the tales of Henry IV and his son, also named Henry. The younger Henry doesn't quite live up to what his father, or basically all of England, thinks he should act like in order to inherit the throne in the future. Both go through a series of actions, following two different plot lines  culminating in one epic battle.
  3. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
    • True Blood
    • Harris' book is the premise of HBO's popular TV show True Blood, which follows the life of telepathic barmaid, Sookie Stackhouse, and her beau, Bill Compton, in a very southern, small town in Louisiana  Interesting twist - Bill's a vampire, and there are a series of vampire-related murders going through their small town. Both Bill and Sookie's brother are suspects, and Sookie is set out to prove their innocence through any means possible.
  4. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) by George R.R. Martin
    • The Game of Thrones
    • Another HBO television show, Game of Thrones, covers this series of books, set in the Medieval era, following the battle over the Iron Throne which was usurped after a huge country-wide war by one Robert Baratheon. After years of ruling the kingdom, he dies and  his wife, a member of the wealthy and powerful Lannister family, is discovered to be guilty of sleeping with her brother leading to the conception of Geoffrey, the bastard king. Whenever a member of the Stark family, Ned (also the Hand of the King), confronts the queen, she has him killed, leading to his family and their allies aligning against the Lannister king. Other factions claim their right to the throne, and full-on war ensues.
  5. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  6. Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
    • Yet another dystopian teen novel, Uglies is set in a time where, upon your sixteenth birthday, you are made over, through total remodeling surgery, to be a Pretty. Tally isn't sure she wants to be a Pretty, who seem to be empty headed thrill seekers, and when she meets another Ugly, named Shay, she discovers that there may be more to her city than she thought. Bad things can happen, even in a place filled with Pretties.
  7. Glamour by Penelope Fletcher
  8. Forest Fae
    • In another dystopian novel (God! There are a lot!), Rae Wilder thought she was human... but do humans run as fast as the speed of light? Do they sprout wings and shimmer? No, Rae discovers that she just might be Fae - she might be a demon girl - what she's been taught to hate. She enters the world outside the Wall, and walks straight into a civil war - not just between the humans and demons, but within the factions of demons. Dealing with blood bonds, love and friendship is bad enough for a young girl, but being called upon to support an entire race? Rough stuff. 
  9. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • Gatsby is fantastic, sexy and mysterious. He throws huge parties in classic twenties flapper style, but there may be more to him than meets the eye. Nick is sucked into his world, along with a few of their mutual friends. Gatsby's way of life could lead to great connections, money, power, and everything Nick doesn't have. Or it could lead down a path that Nick would rather not even think about. Death, drama, love, mystery... The Great Gatsby pretty much has it all.
The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann
That last is in honor of the upcoming movie premier, and it's more of a refresher, as I've read it already once. I'm attempting to finish books 1 through 4 of A Game of Thrones by the end of this summer, as well as the entirety of the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. I may also work my way through The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, though I've already finished The Hobbit by that same author. If there are any suggestions on books or movie/book duos that you'd like me to review, comment in the below section! Thank you, and see you soon!