Matched By Ally Condie: A Review

Matched By Ally Condie

Title: Matched

Author: Ally Condie

Series: Matched #1

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Published Date: November 1, 2010

Matched by Ally Condie is a great addition to the ever-growing Young Adult Dystopian genre. It features a strong heroine in Cassia, who is very smart and slowly begins to recognize the truth about the world she lives in. I love to read female teen characters that have strength in their convictions and will do the right thing even when it’s hard.

On her matching day, Cassia finds out she is matched with Xander, her best friend. It is unusual but not unheard of for people to be matched with someone they already know. Cassia is given a disk with information about her match and when she views it another face is shown on the screen. A glitch like this is unheard of and it starts a chain of events that change Cassia’s life forever.

This book is difficult to put down. It really has it all forbidden love, a government that has a big secret, and a character that is put in an impossible situation. The normal awakening and awareness of self that one experiences in the teen years coupled with a forbidden love and a government that is literally out to get you, makes for an exciting read.

I am glad that the love triangle was dispatched quickly. Even though Cassia tries to imagine her perfect little life with Xander, she realizes that you cannot go back. That knowledge changes you.

This series is often compared with The Hunger Games but I think The Uglies Series is a much better comparison. There is a lightness here that The Hunger Games lacks. The dark things are just below the surface and will most likely rear their heads in books two and three.

Please join the conversation about Matched by Ally Condie on BlogHer.

If you enjoy reading about books, please find me on my new book blog All The Stacks.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

All images taken from goodreads.

Born Wicked By Jessica Spotwood A Review

I recently won a book from goodreads. I love this site (not only because they gave me a free book) but because their app lets me scan books I want when I am out and add them to my to-read list. That way I never forget the name of a book or a new author.  It has grown my to-read list to ridiculous proportions (178) but has helped me discover (and remember to read) books that I know I would forget about.

The book I won is Born Wicked by Jessica Spostwood .

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

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Synopsis from goodreads:

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

The cover is my favorite so far this year. Besides the obvious beauty, it captures the freedom that Cate feels when she can be herself. Carrying this book around, countless people asked me about it solely based on the cover.

I loved this book and could not put it down. Jessica Spotswood creates this world where women are forced to keep quiet about anything that makes them special or calls too much attention. They must obey the men in their lives. Any deviation from the accepted protocol and they are likely to be accused of witchcraft. Women are routinely rounded up and sent away.

Cate, being the oldest of three, is the mother figure to her sisters after the death of their mother. Their father is mostly absent. Before she dies, Cate’s mother asks her to promise to watch out for her sisters. As the story unfolds, Cate finds out why her mother was so protective of the girls magic and warned Cate to be careful.

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood is an excellent mix of an interesting world, strong protagonist, and a love story. I am eagerly awaiting book two in this trilogy.

What We Leave Behind

The Book Of Jonas A Novel By Stephan Dau Book Review

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The Book Of Jonas by Stephen Dau is a powerful and haunting novel that exists in a place where there are no good or bad guys and where the effects of war are given a human face. Jonas is a teenage boy when his village is attacked. He survives by fleeing to the mountain where his father tells him to go in case of an emergency. A US soldier named Christopher follows him into the cave and offers him first-aid. Throughout the book, the story of Christopher and Jonas become forever intertwined.

Jonas is given an opportunity to live in the US. An aid group arranges everything, including a college scholarship. Jonas struggles to fit into this new world and is forced into therapy. He reveals bits and pieces of his life to the therapist but he is unable to face the truth until the very end.

This book is beautifully written and expertly executed. Stephen Dau is able to take a subject that is highly political, such as how soldiers could target the wrong village, and takes the reader through the desperation and longing of loss. Even going into this book with a preconceived notion about US occupation in foreign lands, which I did, it is difficult to pick a side. Impossible to say what is right. The characters are fully formed but vague enough that they could almost be anybody. It could be your neighbor or son. The toll that war takes changes everyone around it.

To join in on the discussion, visit the BlogHer Book Club.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review: Speak By Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by laurie Halse Anderson

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From Goodreads:

Freshman year at Merryweather High is not going well for Melinda Sordino. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, and now her friends—and even strangers—all hate her. So she stops trying, stops talking. She retreats into her head, and all the lies and hypocrisies of high school become magnified, leaving her with no desire to talk to anyone anyway. But it’s not so comfortable in her head, either—there’s something banging around in there that she doesn’t want to think about. She can’t just go on like this forever. Eventually, she’s going to have to confront the thing she’s avoiding, the thing that happened at the party, the thing that nobody but her knows. She’s going to have to speak the truth.

Speak is a powerful book that reaches the heights of the best in the Young Adult genre. The main character, Melinda, is starting her freshman year of high school as the book opens. She is alone, even though she grew up there, all of her friends hate her. During the summer, she called the police and busted-up a party. This one act turns everyone against her and she is left to navigate through the treacherous halls of High School as an outcast. Her life starts to spiral out of control from her parents to school work until it culminates and Melinda is forced to acknowledge the truth.

Any book dealing with rape is difficult but Laurie Halse Anderson is a gifted writer who reminds us what it is to be 13. What it is to have a secret that people might not believe, that might hurt people. Speak is both beautiful and powerful. It is a must read for anyone with a teen and would be an excellent book to open a dialogue about sexual assault for parents.

Speak was made into a movie in 2004 starring Kristen Stewart as Melinda. The movie is a great compliment to the book. Laurie Halse Anderson worked on the script which made it a fairly close adaptation.

Speak the Movie Kristen Stewart

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As it can happen when books focus on difficult topics, Speak has been the target of book banning since it was published in 1999. Most recently, it was targeted by Wesley Scroggins who wrote an editorial for the News-Leader in Springfield, MO. In this op-ed, he characterizes Speak as “filthy.” and suggests that the book should be banned.

Banning books that deal with difficult topics is a ridiculous prospect. A good book, just like any art form, should make you think, and sometimes that requires dealing with difficult topics but it does not make them any less valuable. Young Adult literature is a great way to get a conversation started with teens who may be uncomfortable talking about sexual assault with their parents or peers. A book like Speak, shows these young adults that they are not alone and that they should use their voices to stand up for themselves. There is great power in that.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) By Mindy Kaling

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me And Other Concerns Mindy Kaling.

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I was so lucky to receive this book as a Christmas present from my awesome friend Becca (who is hilarious and if you like that kind of thing, you should follower her @RebeccaLucente).

So who is Mindy Kaling?

Mindy Kaling B.J. Novak The Office

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Mindy plays Kelly Kapoor on The Office plus she is a writer, executive producer, and sometimes director on the show. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) is a collection of essays about her life and includes some observational pieces. Mindy is very relatable growing up as a nerdy comedy geek in Boston who lives for Saturday Night Live, Kids In The Hall, and the late night shows.

As a huge Office fan, I was very interested in how she started on the show. Her behind the scenes take on being the only woman in a writing room full of men plus being only 24 when she starts, makes it easy to remember how awkward that first foray into the working world can be. She even describes one episode where the show creator, Greg Daniels, asks her to leave. So she storms out, grabbing a case of water, and grabs a bite to eat. After awhile, she realizes that storming out of her dream job might not have been the best idea, so she goes back. Mindy does keep the case of water though.

If you are looking for a hilarious book by a TV star, Is Everyone Hanging Out With Out Me? (And Other Concerns) is a great book. Mindy Kaling is like your best girlfriend who tells stories that make your stomach hurt from laughing so much.

The Rules Of Inheritance: A Review

The Rules of Inheritance Claire Bidwell Smith

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The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith is a memoir of life and death. Claire is only fourteen years-old when her parents are diagnosed with cancer within months of each other. This book shows Claire growing and changing with their illnesses and how it impacts her life.

The book is written in a non-linear form that jumps from year to year and various stages of illness. It shows Claire as a teenager, losing her virginity, and trying to find a way to fit in. It takes her through different jobs and different men. The death of her mother when she is 18 and in her first year of college, is life changing. She is never again the girl she was before her mother dies.

Her mother’s death gives Claire time to get to know her father. The relationship is tender and sweet. One of my favorite chapters is where Claire and her father travel to Europe to where his plane is shot down in World War II. They meet-up with a historian and he introduces them to people who remember the war and the impact the American soldiers had on their lives. Finding a statue in tribute to the soldiers who died is touching and fitting way for her father to spend the last trip they take together.

The Rules of Inheritance is about a woman who loses her parents before she is 30 and how she emerges from the other side of grief. It is honest and raw, it shows the bad feelings and remorse. There is strength, love, and eventually peace. Claire ends up a woman who overcomes her grief and makes a career out of helping others cope with theirs.

I highly recommend The Rules of Inheritance for anyone who has lost or feels lost. It is ultimately hopeful and true.

To follow the discussions and learn more about Claire Bidwell, you can find the Rules of Inheritance on the BlogHer Book Club page.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Why Women Need Fat: A Review

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Why Woman Need Fat by William D. Lassek, M.D. and Steven J.C. Gaulin, PH.D is a diet book for people who are looking to lose weight and make long term changes in the way they eat. The book is broken down into three sections and does a great job of backing up its’ thesis of how dietary changes of the past forty years have negatively impacted us, in clear and easy to understand ways.

Part One: Why And How We Got Fatter

  • The change in the American diet over the last fifty years.
  • The differences between the American diet and those of women from other countries.
  • Ancel Keys argument that fat is the cause of heart disease which the authors disagree with.
  • The increase in use of polyunsaturated fat.
  • The 1977 Dietary Goals for the US.
  • The change in the American diet increased the consumption of Omega-6 fatty acids which increases weight.

Part Two: Why Women Need Fat

  • Why American women are heavier today than in the past
  • Omega fats being out of balance (too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3).
  • The importance of DHA and EPA in our diets.

Part Three: How To Achieve Your Natural Healthy Weight

  • It gives a list of different food groups the authors recommend eating.
  • Finding your natural weight. How to find out what it is and how to reach that point.

Why Women Need Fat is packed with information, especially part one where the how we got here is explained in great detail. I found the advice easy to follow and similar to what you read in other works where the focus is on eating less processed foods. The detailed arguments make it easy to understand why you should change your diet and then they give you all the tools you need to do so.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone looking to lose weight, in a natural and healthy way. This book is not gimmicky but a part of a long term change.

Have you read any books that changed how you eat?

For me, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of The All American Meal was really eye-opening.

If you would like to discuss, Why Women Need Fat, you can jump over to the BlogHer Book Club where there will be a month of discussions.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

The Swiss Cheese Theory Of Life

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The Swiss Cheese Theory Of Life is a self-help book for people who normally would not be interested in self-help books. It uses the adorable metaphor of cheese (Swiss mainly, holes and all) to teach the reader practical life lessons about letting go of regret and positive thinking.

The set-up of the book is unique in that each chapter deals with a particular concept, such as perfectionism, and it outlines ways to identify if you are falling prey to this issue. It then utilizes quotes and cartoons plus the addition of real world examples from the authors therapy practices. It makes each concept easy to understand and provides lots of different ways in which you can make the improvements and identify ways you may be falling victim to that particular issue.

Concepts that stood out to me on personal level:

  • Being unable to go back.
  • Letting the past stay in the past.
  • Focusing on things that you cannot change is a pointless pursuit.
  • The chapter on positive thinking really struck a nerve. It is something that I struggle with.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Swiss Cheese Theory Of Life by Judith A. Belmont, MS and Lora Shor, LSW and took away a lot of lessons.

I have one copy of the book to giveaway. To win, please leave a comment on one time you turned a negative situation into a positive. For extra entries which you can do one each day, please share inspirational quotes or posters that helped you through a difficult time or your favorite cheese.  I will pick the winner via Random.Org on October 28th.

I was given a copy of the book to review and one for the giveaway. All opinions are my own.