Saturday, December 31, 2011

get behind me, 2011

Y'all...
I won't lie when I say that this has been a 
TOUGH YEAR for ASHELEY

I'm so THANKFUL for TODAY
I've been waiting for tonight! 

See ya later, 2011!! 
There are better times up ahead!!! 
More blogging buddies! 

More books! 

More: 
dragons and swords
dystopian societies with awful villains
swoon-worthy romances
and
I've promised the world more contemporaries

There's a whole bunch of other stuff up ahead too...

I've taken some time off from the blog, but I'm back with a vengeance
And I'm ready to kick 2012 into high gear

GET THEE BEHIND ME, 2011. 
I don't want you around here anymore. 

*************************
Sidenote: 
It was awesome to finish the year having read 135 books. 
How many do you think I should challenge myself to read in 2012?? 
Leave me a comment. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Thoughts On: Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

Article 5 (Article 5, #1)
Article 5 by Kristen Simmons
Published by 
Tor Teen 

Publish Date:  February 2012
368 Pages
My Source:  Borrowed

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons 

New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned.
The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.
There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back.
Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard for her to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It’s hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.
Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow. 
That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings…the only boy Ember has ever loved.  -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:  Three years ago, the Federal Bureau of Reformation (aka the Moral Militia) was created after the war to enforce their Moral Statutes. Violation of these Statutes bring a citation and sometimes trial; going to trial usually means you don't come back. In a world where morality used to be subjective, it has now become the law, and compliance is mandatory


Ember Miller has been arrested for noncompliance with Section 2, Article 5, which pertains to conception out of wedlock. Ember was taken to a rehab center to be groomed on how to become moral and chaste. She was horrified to realize that one of the officers at her arrest was none other than Chase Jennings, her past love. 


From the moment Ember is arrested, there is nothing but action. 


Let's discuss Article 5:


1. The Characters

  • Ember Miller. 17 years old, arrested early in the book for being born to an unwed mother. Sent to be rehabilitated by the Moral Militia, but instead learns exactly what sorts of things the government has been doing behind the backs of its citizens. Beaten and tortured for speaking out and defending others. Devises a plan to escape, knowing that it will most likely cost her life. Ember is brave, smart, strong, and impulsive. She's scared but doesn't let it stop her. She's young and fierce, a great protagonist.  
  • Chase Jennings. One of the officers who is present when Ember is arrested, it becomes clear that they have an emotional past of some sort. Ember is devastated to see him there, not trying to stop her arrest. Chase is handsome, well-built, tall, and a member of the FBR. He's quiet, broody, and mysterious. In the beginning of the book, I was unsure of him, but the more I found out about him, the harder I fell for him. Chase has a plan that Ember doesn't know about, and wow wow wow... He is marvelously written, and he is another of my book crushes.  
  • The Villains. There are a ton of awful, awful people in this book - and they all work for the government. They are horrid and despicable and downright scary. And wonderfully written. But scary. 
Ember is a great character, very defined and developed, and a joy to read...but Chase is the jewel in this book. He is so mysterious and only reveals himself to us in tiny bits...so three-dimensional by the end of the book... Characters like Chase are among my favorite. Loved him

2. The Government. Founded on the Moral Statutes, which are no longer subjective but mandated. The FBR is just awful behind the scenes, of course, while making the country think they have their best interest at heart. There is so much irony in the Moral Statutes and their enforcement:  officers use brutality, starvation, sexual harassment, and murder to carry out the enforcement of these moral laws without so much as a slap on the wrist by the government. Dystopian books with governing bodies like this one are so interesting to me and so, so scary. This one is quite believable and it is easy to daydream of how easily the times could change to be just like they are in Article 5

3. The Setting. The building of this world is not my favorite in this genre, but there are some great settings built. The world itself is described at the beginning of the book - in certain parts - as desolate, where entire towns have been evacuated in some instances. In contrast, toward the end of the book, the setting is a very large metropolitan area where there are thousands and thousands of people ranging from poor and hungry to very wealthy. Perhaps my favorite setting descriptions are those of the rehab center and the prison, because of their awful-ness. I could visualize these places quite easily and, well, isn't that what we want in an excellent setting? 

4. Betrayal. There is betrayal all throughout the book, from betrayal between friends to betrayal by the government to betrayal by the rehab staff to betrayal by safe houses along the escape route. There really was no one to trust, and this was so scary to read. Ember's character grew throughout everything and by the end of the book, she was amazingly resilient and strong. 

We learn of betrayal by Chase at the beginning - when he joined the FBR. We learn these details in small pieces throughout the story, mostly through italicized flashbacks. With every detail, it stings us - but for different reasons each time. Oh, so cleverly written! But the betrayal does not end there and it is gut-wrenching and beautiful and filled with pain. Which brings me to...

5. The Romance. From the beginning, it is clear that there was a past romance between Ember and Chase, which fizzled out sometime after he joined the FBR. Ember held very strong feelings of hatred and disdain for him for his treatment of her after joining, and she understandably did not trust him at all. Being thrust back into his care, though, meant that she would be forced to trust him whether she wanted to or not and oh my gracious the feelings between these two run so deep, you guys. The problem is that neither one will allow themselves nor the other one to realize it...

...and we end up with an absolutely stunning, amazing, beautiful slow-burn...a rebirth of feelings that never died between these two people that loved each other so much. And there is a story buried underneath this dystopia that will knock your socks off. Trust me. Trust me


Don't be fooled by the mention of a slow-burn romance; there is some big-time meat to this story. I never felt like the romance overshadowed the real issues that were packed in there - the big things to think about:  a government with too much power, the deterioration of society, a set of morals mandated and punishable by law, censorship, things like that. At times, the events that unfold are pretty devastating, but the story is excellent and well worth the read for any lover of this genre. 

Article 5 is a book that is action-driven and fast-paced. The characters are great and the plot is thick and interesting. The situations in this story are believable and that is what makes them so horrifying and scary. I started this story a little unsure of what I was getting myself into but ended up staying up most of the night with palpitations, barely breathing. 


I recommend Article 5 for fans of the dystopian genre. If you are a lover of a strong female protagonist, you'll love this book as well. There's a slow-burn romance without the presence of a love triangle, so if that matters to you, add this one to your wish list. If you are a fan of action-driven stories, you love villains, and you love reading about a crazy, twisted society...Article 5 is definitely for you. It's certainly one to look forward to in January 2012, and I myself am already looking forward to the next book in the series. I really want to see where this story will go. 

*I borrowed this book as part of Around The World Book Tours in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Simply The Best! or My Favorites of 2011 {7}


Click HERE to check out Top Ten Tuesday 
at The Broke and the Bookish


Ten of the Best Books I've 
Read in 2011

I started this list thinking it would be easybut 
MAN OH MAN
it was super hard
I've read SO MANY GREAT BOOKS this year. 
And there are like 100 I didn't put on this list! 
Destined by Jessie Harrell
(my review)
I am a sucker for mythology, folks, and this is by far
my favorite of the re-tellings or adaptations 
that I've read this year. 
And it's Cupid and Psyche, one of my favorite myths. 
The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa:
The Iron King (my review)
The Iron Daughter
The Iron Queen
The Iron Knight (my review)
I sobbed like a baby through the second half of this series. 
(I rarely do that. Honest.)
I read the entire series in a really short time. 
I read along with blogger friends 
and was Team Ash all the way. 
I'm SO SAD this series is finished. 
SO SAD. 

Fire by Kristin Cashore

This is the first book I read in 2011 after having
finished Graceling shortly before it at the end of 2010.
LOVED IT.
Yall, I'm like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Bitterblue
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
(my review)

I can't even believe this book. I love it so much it hurts. 
I hugged it so hard after I finished it and then painfully 
had to return it to the library. I need to buy it, like, yesterday. 
A love like Celia and Marco have...
- so intimate yet without touching - 
have mercy...


Paper Towns by John Green
I'm one of John Green's biggest fans
This is my favorite of his books. 
I read it this year and I love it so much
That is all. 


The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma

This is one of the best books I've ever read in my life
Yes, it's non-fiction. But that shouldn't stop ANYONE 
from reading it. It is beautiful and if you haven't read it, 
YOU'RE MISSING OUT ON SOMETHING SPECIAL.


The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
(my review)
I don't even have the words to fully express 
how much I love this book. 
So I'll just have to let you all imagine it for yourselves. 
But my heart swelled so big it almost burst, 
all from alphabetical wordplay
So much emotion. So much. 

Wither and Fever by Lauren DeStefano 
(my reviews are yet unposted)

I wondered why Jamie (@brokeandbookish) 
loved these books so much...
until I read them. Weeks and weeks later, 
I'm still struggling to make coherent sentences about them. 
I know Fever isn't out yet (Feb '12) but 
WOW WOW WOW, you guys. 
Beautiful writing, brilliant story. 

We The Animals by Justin Torres
(my review)
This book changed my life a little bit, and still is. 
I read it on recommendation from Adam (@RoofBeamReader).

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
(my review)
This story is one of those "total package" stories...
excellence in everything. Also, another case where 
barely any physical touching
between the characters escalates the romantic tension 
and the effect is dizzying
I loved this book SO HARD
(Laini Taylor, I'm holding my breath for the next part of the story!)

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
(my review)
This book is coming SOON!!! *Yay!*
Oh. My. Word. 
Thinking about this book gives me palpitations
Thinking about the next book makes me nearly pass out
I have a ridiculous book crush, and it's all RIGHT HERE. 
I love every single thing about this book. Period. 
(Only a few more days until release, everyone!!!)
Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness:
The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and The Answer
Monsters of Men
Anyone who knows anything about me at all knows that 
I read this series this year on the recommendation of Lisa (@heylisarenee), and 
IT WRECKED ME
I cried STUPIDLY when it was over. Like an idiot. 
I could. not. help. it. 
And I don't often do things like that, y'all. 
I'll be reading these books again in 2012, and 
they'll be on this list again one year from now. 
I loved this series so much, I still haven't even 
been able to review it. 
Maybe one day. 


Yes, I realize that is more than ten... 
But I don't often abide by the rules when I do this meme. 
It was hard enough to cut it back this far!



Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Thoughts On: Between The Land And The Sea by Derrolyn Anderson


Between The Land And The Sea
(Marina's Tales, Book One)
by Derrolyn Anderson
Self-Published
Publish Date: March 19, 2011
My Source:  received from the author for review
Between The Land And The Sea 
by Derrolyn Anderson 
Something extraordinary is lurking in the deep ocean waters off the coast of Aptos, California. Just a few weeks after moving to the beach town, sixteen year-old Marina has nearly drowned twice, enchanted the hottest guy in high school, and discovered a supernatural creature. If she can manage to survive her increasingly dangerous encounters with unpredictable mermaids, she might just be able to unlock the mystery of her past and learn how to appease the mysterious forces that seem to want something from her... and maybe even find true love along the way.   -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:  Series like Marina's Tales are exactly why more people should give Self-Published and Indie published authors a chance. When I found out about it - a series about mermaids - I knew I wanted to read it because to my recollection I've never read any mermaid stories before. Great call, Asheley! Between The Land And The Sea is the first book in the series and I loved it. 


Let's talk about why you should add Between The Land And The Sea to your to-be-read list:  


1. The Characters. There are a ton of characters in this book, and they are all incredible, well-developed, and three-dimensional. They are all people I would want to know. It would take up too much space to list the things I love about them all, but I'll tell you about the main characters: 

  •  Marina. After growing up wealthy and privileged in San Francisco, she moves to Aptos while her father works abroad. There, she lives with cousin Cruz and Aunt Abby in a very small house. Marina never knew her mother but was 'mothered' by Aunt Evie, the eccentric and famous lady next door that loved to lavish her with expensive gifts. While in Aptos, Marina discovers she has a love for the ocean and comes to realize this is because she is part-mermaid. She also falls in love with Ethan. 
  • Ethan. Handsome, tanned, working-class boy who becomes Marina's love interest. He surfs. He works hard and has goals. He's patient and kind and protective. Loved him
For so many of the characters to be high-schoolers, they are all so believable. They are going through what high-school age people go through, they aren't overly mature, they don't speak overly adult-like. Ethan has a good head on his shoulders and his patience and level-headedness balanced out Marina's girlish emotion and occasional bad decisions. And the adults, particular Aunt Abby and Ethan's father, were wonderfully believable as well. Only Aunt was outlandish - but that was written into her character and there's a reason for it. Great, great set of characters. 

2. The Setting. Aptos. I want to move there. Not only is the town described well but the description of the houses, the farmer's market, and the shore are equally great. I've spoken before of how sometimes, to me, settings can be like characters -- Aptos seems to be very fleshed out, if that is even possible. I love my own real-life proximity to the ocean, but I still found myself wanting to live in a place like Aptos. 

3. The Mermaids. I'm new to this area of the paranormal. The mermaids are fascinating to me. Beautiful, with their own language, and their skin glowed in the water! Oh, and they communicated with animals! They were also very protective over Marina, which came in handy for her a few times when she was clumsy or made some bad decisions. These same mermaids seem to have some sort of strong pull over Marina that always led her toward the ocean, which was a little fascinating and mysterious and strange...I had to keep reading because I had no idea where this would end up. What a payoff, though. 

4. The Romance. I love this romance. There is no triangle because Marina and Ethan have eyes only for each other the entire time! Theirs is the very definition of a slow-burn, and it was so lovely to read. I personally enjoyed the scenes between Marina and Ethan more than I did the scenes with the mermaids, but this is undoubtedly because Ethan is so doggone charming

5. Surfing. I know pretty much nothing about surfing, despite loving the ocean so much. But there's plenty of surfing in this book and I thought it was neat. 

I know I'm sounding repetitive, but this story was so much fun to read. It is definitely a romance but with the mermaid element, there is definitely some extra supernatural spunk. I didn't really know what to expect, as it was my first mermaid book, but I really loved the story and once I finished it I started book two fairly quickly. 

Author Derrolyn Anderson has put together a strong series opener with Between The Land And The Sea. The characters, the setting, and the romance are all written incredibly well. If you're a fan of Indie authors, I'd love to introduce you to Marina's Tales. If you are a fan of mermaid stories, these are incredible. If you love slow-burning romance, you'll love Ethan! If you're a fan of the ocean in any way, you'll find something in this book that you'll love. Between The Land And The Sea is age-appropriate and will be enjoyed by YA readers as well as adults. 



Coming Soon: 
 The Moon And The Tide & The Fate Of The Muse reviews
and an interview with Derrolyn Anderson with a GIVEAWAY!! 

**I received a review copy from the author, Derrolyn Anderson , in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you so much, Derrolyn! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Thoughts On: Abandon by Meg Cabot


Abandon by Meg Cabot
Published by Point
Publish Date:  January 1, 2011

304 Pages
My Source:  Borrowed/Library

Abandon by Meg Cabot

Though she tries returning to the life she knew before the accident, Pierce can't help but feel at once a part of this world, and apart from it. Yet she's never alone . . . because someone is always watching her. Escape from the realm of the dead is impossible when someone there wants you back.
But now she's moved to a new town. Maybe at her new school, she can start fresh. Maybe she can stop feeling so afraid.
Only she can't. Because even here, he finds her. That's how desperately he wants her back. She knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven, yet she can't stay away . . . especially since he always appears when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.
But if she lets herself fall any further, she may just find herself back in the one place she most fears: the Underworld.  -(taken from Goodreads.com summary)
My Thoughts:  Abandon is a milestone of sorts for me because it is my first Meg Cabot book. I picked it up for two reasons: the cover is absolutely luscious and the book is supposedly a mythology re-telling. You can give me a story about mythology and a cup of coffee and I'm good for the rest of the day...which is almost exactly what happened here. 


Abandon had a little bit of the Persephone and Hades myth mixed in, and that is one of my favorites. Let me share my thoughts: 


1. The Characters

  • Pierce Olivieri. Died, then was resuscitated. While she was dead, she visited the Underworld and met John, who completely threw her for a loop when he told her she had to stay with him for eternity. She escaped, but when she made it back to life, she was a little different...more cautious, paranoid, something. Now she and her mom have moved to Isla Huesos to start a new life - a normal life - but life is anything but normal. 
  • John Hayden. Tall, dark, and handsome. John has a certain role in the Underworld, but he often pops up when Pierce is in trouble to protect her or to visit her or to watch over her, sigh sigh sigh! He has super strength. He can disappear in the blink of an eye. He can do mysterious things. Pierce can't figure out exactly who and what John is, why is interested in her, and why he won't leave her alone. 
Pierce is fairly developed. She gets an incredible amount of face-time in this book, and most of it is spent sad or lonely or mopey. I kind of feel sorry for her because she just doesn't really feel like she fits in anywhere, and the truth is that she doesn't. John, in my opinion, doesn't get enough face-time in this book. I have all ideas that he is indeed a fully fleshed out and developed character but as we haven't spent that much time with him in Abandon, we really don't know. Hopefully this remains to be seen in the next book, Underworld. (fingers crossed)

There are several supporting characters that are really only there as fluff. One or two add depth to the story: Pierce's grandmother, for example, and the cemetery sexton, Richard. Other than that, I felt like they were entertaining filler - which is totally okay. 

2. The Setting. Isla Huesos, the Isle of Bones. The island was almost a character itself, and if it were it would be totally three-dimensional. There was a great deal of description to it and to its history. I loved it! I loved the description of the vegetation, the climate, the layout of the island, and why the cemetery used the above-ground crypts instead of underground burial plots. The author did a great job setting the stage for this story and despite never having been to Florida, I feel like I can imagine this area well after reading this. Plus the creepy factor for this gateway to the Underworld was spectacularly present. Well done. 

3. The Conflict. In the beginning of the story, the conflict is Pierce trying to fit in. And the story drags. Pierce's inner struggles, Pierce trying to find friends, Pierce blah blah blah. I was struggling to stay focused. But toward the end, there is a REAL conflict that works its way out that had apparently slipped right by me unnoticed. AND I LOVED IT. One word: Furies. Y'all, I love The Furies. They are bad news. They are troublemakers, every time. And they make for excellent stories. 

4. The Mythology. I love mythology like a kid loves cake and candy, honestly. The Persephone and Hades myth is one of my favorites. So I was thrilled to dive into this one. It took forever in the book for the mythology to really start coming through, and it was probably closer to the last third before the mythology really started to shine. While I enjoyed it, I would probably hesitate to call this a mythology re-telling; I would actually call it a book that is based on a myth. I realize that might be grounds for some serious discussion or disagreement, and that is okay. But I read a lot of mythology and I feel pretty confident in what I'm saying. 

In this case, I have to wonder about the people who aren't familiar with the mythology and the names: Persephone, Hades, the Furies, the river Styx, etc. -- would all of the name-throwing at the end be confusing? The book doesn't give much background, to my recollection. I'm curious. 

5. Romance. There is a romance, and it's wildly interesting. It is clear that John is so in love with Pierce...well, it is clear to everyone but Pierce. She thinks John hates her, so she hates him, or at least she tells herself she does. But she isn't fooling any of us! It finally clicks and comes together at one point near the end for a few pages. (swoon, sigh, swoon) I want to see this romance develop in a big, bad way. 

6. The Cover. This is one of my favorite covers on a book, ever. It is stunning as a full wraparound. The inside pages are pretty as well, with embellishments on the chapter headers and a gorgeous title page. Excellent work by the design team. 

I really am not sure what to make of this book. I was on the wait list forever at the library and I had such high hopes for it. The cover is so utterly stunning and I kept closing the book just to look at it. But there are areas in which it fell a little bit flat. 

It took a little while for me to get into it, first of all. It wasn't Pierce's fault, with her mopey, sad self - because that's her character and I understand that's how her life was at that point in time. I just felt like all of the extraneous stuff about the school and the school friends was unnecessary to the story of Pierce and John, which is what I THOUGHT the main theme was supposed to be. 

Did anyone else feel the same way? 
Or am I alone in this thought?

I almost DNF'd this book, but I'm really glad that I stuck with it because the payoff at the end was spectacular. Not only was the mythology there, but the romance came to a head and there were some big twists thrown into the picture. Not one twist, but a few twists. 

I am happy to say that I will eagerly pick up Underworld when I can get my hands on it. I'm hoping that it will center more on the mythology of the story than Abandon did, because I still believe that this story is supposed to be based on a myth. Also, I am hoping to find a fully fleshed John and that his presence is astoundingly greater in this second book. I want a romance and I don't mind if it is a slightly tortured romance, as long as it is there. 

I am sure that die-hard fans of Meg Cabot will find this book great, because she seems to have an army of her own, and that is awesome. If you're in the Cabot army and haven't read Abandon, pick it up! If you love mythology, give Abandon a try - but be warned, you need to stick with it to see the myth come to fruition. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Thoughts On: Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan James


Forbidden by Syrie James & Ryan James
Published by 
HarperTeen 

Publish Date:  January 24, 2012
411 Pages
My Source:  Borrowed
Forbidden 
by Syrie James & Ryan James

She should not exist.  
He should not love her. 

Claire Brennan has been attending Emerson Academy for two years now (the longest she and her mom have remained anywhere) and she’s desperate to stay put for the rest of high school. So there’s no way she’s going to tell her mom about the psychic visions she’s been having or the creepy warnings that she’s in danger. 

Alec MacKenzie is fed up with his duties to watch and, when necessary, eliminate the descendants of his angelic forefathers. He chose Emerson as the ideal hiding place where he could be normal for once. He hadn’t factored Claire into his plans. . . . 

Their love is forbidden, going against everything Alec has been taught to believe. But when the reason behind Claire’s unusual powers is revealed and the threat to her life becomes clear, how far will Alec go to protect her?  -(summary from Goodreads.com) 
My Thoughts:   I have always wanted to read a book by Syrie James but I never have...so when I got the chance to read and review this one, I jumped all over it. Of course, it didn't hurt that it had a pretty cover. When I read a little about Forbidden, I learned that this was James' YA debut as well as her first time writing with her son. 

The Breakdown: 

1. The Characters
  • Claire Brennan. Daughter of an overprotective mother & unknown father. Moves around often. Goes to the prestigious Emerson Academy on scholarship, very smart. BFF with Erica & Brian and has had a crush on Neil for years. Neil never really notices her. Meets Alec just before school starts and is a bit intrigued as he is handsome, mysterious, and Scottish. 
  • Alec MacKenzie. The cover-up:  Just moved from Scotland to attend Emerson Academy, lives alone, parents died years ago. The truth:  Alec just wants to live a normal life. Running away from something. Trying to stay hidden. He shouldn't be interested in Claire because it is forbidden...but he can't help it. 
There are a few other great characters in the story, but none are as three-dimensional as Claire and Alec, although they all add some depth to the story and make it fun. 

2.  Paranormal. I love paranormal stories, but I admittedly haven't read too many dealing with angels. So this was pretty new territory for me and I enjoyed it a great deal. There is a mythology written in, certainly, but I can't really comment on whether or not it is a common mythology among angel stories because I just don't have the experience...what I can say is that I loved how Forbidden was set up. The hierarchy of the angels and half-angels and the Fallen, those in charge, and how rulebreakers are punished...all of that was unique to me and quite enjoyable to read. 

Of course, there were also some super human strengths, extra-human abilities, and even some shape-shifting that added to the paranormal feel. These things are always fun. 

3. The Conflict. Alec falls in love with Claire, which is forbidden. He can't do that. (I'll let you read exactly WHY yourself so I'm not a big SPOILER.) So now, he's broken the rules. Which is punishable by some pretty hefty fines. Not only that, but running away from his job is pretty punishable for Alec too. So Alec is a huge mess waiting to happen. He's pretty much a big ball of conflict. Throw in one someone wanting revenge and, well, it gets messy fast. 

There are also a couple of instances of betrayal. Betrayal is always interesting and adds fuel to the fires and sting to the hurt. 

4. Alternating POV. This story is written with differing points-of-view, particularly between Claire and Alec. I realize that there are some readers who don't follow this structure well, but to me I always find that it adds depth when done well. In this case, I loved seeing not only the relationship between Claire and Alec develop from both perspectives, but when things started to get chaotic...well, I enjoyed both perspectives on all of the craziness as well. Of course there is the added speculation bonus that Syrie James wrote this with her son Ryan James, which is most likely the two differing points-of-view, which I find charming as heck

5. Romance. Sure, there's a romance! There is an instant attraction, but the relationship doesn't happen instantaneously - it falls somewhere between insta-love and slow-burn. This is a Forbidden Love. There is also another guy, Neil...the guy that Claire crushed on for years before Alec showed up. Neil never gave her a glance until Alec came to town, then suddenly he loved her too. So I suppose I should mention that there is a twinge of a triangle, but throughout the whole book, Claire pretty much only has eyes for Alec. Poor Neil. 

Overall, I enjoyed Forbidden. The story was fun, the pacing was great, and the angelic paranormal element was new and fresh for me. I love how the authors wrapped the story up, so it works as a standalone. HOWEVER, I personally would certainly welcome more...

I think the ending gives a great opportunity to expand a little. In a sea of readers who enjoy standalone books, I am one who loves a well-written series. Either way would be fine with me.

I am thrilled to have finally read a book by Syrie James and I am honored to be able to share my thoughts with everyone. I like what she did with Forbidden, but I can imagine that if I like this book, I would love her adult fiction titles. I can't wait to seek them out...like right now

If you love paranormal stories dealing with angels, Forbidden is one for your wish list. If you love romance, here is a great romance story! If you like books with music written into the story, here's one for your to-be-read list. It is totally age-appropriate and works well for younger as well as more mature YA audiences, and I even think adults would enjoy it. 

*I borrowed this book as part of Around The World Book Tours in exchange for my honest thoughts and opinions. I received no compensation for my review. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Thoughts On: Matched by Ally Condie


Enter My 25 Days of Jubilation Giveaway HERE!
(Win $25 to Amazon or The Book Depository!)


Matched by Ally Condie
Published by Dutton Juvenile
Publish Date:  November 30, 2010

366 Pages
My Source:  Borrowed/Library

Matched by Ally Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. 
The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.  -(summary from Goodreads.com)
My Thoughts:  I waited way too long to read this book. I'm not really sure why. But once I started reading it, I read it fairly quickly. One of the first things apparent to me was that it reminded me of Lois Lowry's The Giver - one of my all-time favorites - and perhaps that's why I gobbled it up so quickly. When Matched was first released, there was tons of hype and buzz and I remember reading that it was completely justified. In reading the book for myself, I find that it is indeed a great book or, rather, a great start to a potentially amazing dystopian series. 


As always, I have a ton of thoughts and I work best with a list. 
So here we go, in list form: 


1. The Characters. Written and developed well. Here are the main cast and an extra favorite: 

  • Cassia Reyes. Female protagonist, 17 years old. Learns she has been 'matched' to her best friend. Cassia tends to be less-than-happy most of the time, but what she lacks in happiness she makes up for in strength of character. Shows tremendous character growth throughout the story in which she learns to question everything, which I love. I can't wait to see how she is fleshed out in the next book. 
  • Xander Carrow. Cassia's best friend & match. Handsome and loyal, he is the guy all the girls want to be matched with. At times, his character tends to appear flat but I think this is just a case of Xander lying-low. He is not a weak character by any means, and I am hoping he plays an active role in book two. 
  • Ky Markham. Cassia's love interest & An Aberration*. Ky was adopted by his aunt and uncle years ago after his father committed a heinous crime, and he is somewhat mysterious to the rest of the young people. Because of his social status as Aberration, his activities are monitored extra closely by The Society, as if he is paying for the sins of his father. Despite this, he finds time to maintain some semblance of a relationship with Cassia, thus sparking a teensy little rebellion. Ky has a strength that is revealed in pieces, and is remarkable, but he also has a vulnerability that is very crush-worthy. Love him
  • Cassia's Grandfather. The age of death is determined by The Society, and Cassia's Grandfather has come to that time in his life when it is his time to die. She loves her grandfather dearly and it is some of his parting inspiration to her that encourages her character growth and development, starting the rebellion that we will likely hopefully see continue throughout this trilogy. He encouraged her to question things and that nothing is impossible. And he gave her the gift of poetry from Dylan Thomas and Alfred Lord Tennyson, neither of which are among the pieces of poetry approved for reading by The Society. Cassia was able to find meaning hidden in the words of those poems.

2. The Match Ceremony. What an interesting way to marry-off people, right? The Society and their computers match you with your ideal mate, deemed perfect for you in terms of genetics and DNA. At the ceremony, you get a chance to dress up (for once) and see who you will be married to for the first time ever. Cassia learns that she is to be matched with Xander, which is extremely rare since they both come from the same community. Typically people are matched with those they do not know. Also at the Match Ceremony, they get to eat foods they normally wouldn't, like cake. Such an interesting part of the book, and well-conceived. 


3. Free Will. There is no free will in this dystopia. The Society has eradicated disease, weakness, and crime in this world. In order to maintain this, they exercise complete control over everything, including diet, clothing, career choice, marriage, and daily work/play/sleep schedules. They have determined the best exact ages to meet your match, marry your match, have children with your match, and even the best time for death. 


I love free will; I love having it and I love the concept of it. I love when it is written into a book and explored well. I find it horrifying and scary for a government to have this much control, but it typically makes for an exciting dystopian story. I find it oddly interesting that the people in stories like this always go along with the government like they're brainwashed - and in some stories, they are. In this case, though, Cassia wises up and decides that trusting The Society isn't the best of ideas. It takes encouragement from her dying grandfather coupled with building a relationship with Ky to get her to this point, but when she arrives there things really start to get interesting in the book. 


4. World-building. There is unique and mention-worthy world-building here. It is not the kind of world-building readers of fantasy literature drool over, but the scary and horrifying dystopian "the-government-is-watching-you" kind. Also mention-worthy is this: the world is built slowly, released bit-by-bit as the story unfolds, as it becomes necessary. This is almost a relief, as we have time to adjust before another piece of the creepy dystopian puzzle comes flying out of nowhere. 


5. The Romance. Okay, we have to talk about this sooner or later: Whether or not everyone can agree that it is an actual love triangle or not, there is indeed a romance present. And it is a really-big-huge-colossal part of the story. We initially think the romance is going to be super neat and easy - Cassia and Xander, matched - and BAM! out of nowhere, Ky comes into the picture. Both of these guys are great, both of these guys are worthy of Cassia. I think she likes them both, but she only loves one of them - the trouble is that they both love her. So...in my opinion, this situation qualifies as a love triangle. I've said it before, I'll say it again: I love a well-executed love triangle. This one breaks my heart a little bit, but thankfully there are further books in the series to see where everything goes. 


The amazing thing about the love triangle in Matched is that, while it definitely DID overshadow the dystopian aspect of the story at times, it also was the reason for the stirring in Cassia's heart, the rebellion in her actions, and what happened in the latter part of the book. Because of this, and after careful deliberation with myself, I've decided that it is okay (in this instance) for the romance to equalize itself with the dystopia. I say this, though, still not having read Crossed, so I really don't know what is up ahead of me.


I thought Matched was a very well-written and deserving piece of dystopian literature. I don't know why I waited so long to read it, and I don't know why I still haven't read Crossed. Shame on me! I love the way Matched felt reminiscent of The Giver, yet totally defined itself within the genre. I loved Ally Condie's voice and the way this book read with ease. 


I will say that I'm annoyed with the comparisons that I've seen between Matched and The Hunger Games. Personally, I didn't get any Hunger Games vibes at all. Matched is a very character-driven book and making comparisons with a finished trilogy just doesn't seem very fair to an unfinished series. This paragraph is dedicated to me rejecting those comparisons. 


I recommend this book to fans of the dystopian genre. I think it is a great book that will interest young YA readers all the way up to adult readers. I DO recommend having access to Crossed (Book Two) when you finish. I didn't and I was all kinds of ticked-off at myself for not having it at arm's length. I'll be reading it soon. I'm having a fit to see where this story goes. 


*aberration - n,  A departure from what is normal, usual, or expected, typically one that is unwelcome. (source: Dictionary.com)
 
BLOG TEMPLATE BY DESIGNER BLOGS