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!