Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Everything is perfect in 17 year old Cassia Reyes’ world. And everything is perfect because everything is decided for her: what she will wear, what she will eat, what she may read, what her career will be, who she will marry: just as it is for every other citizen in the Society. She doesn’t question it. Not until the morning after her Match Banquet, at which she was assigned her life partner, chosen because his genes perfectly complimented hers and ensure healthy children. Cassia was lucky enough to be Matched with her best friend, Xander. The odds against it are staggering; it has been years since someone was Matched to a person they already knew. But when she puts Xander’s card into her portscreen at home, it isn’t his picture that appears; instead Cassia sees another boy. Another boy she knows.

Worry consumes Cassia. There must have been a malfunction, a glitch in Xander’s card. Why else would she have seen her neighbor, Ky Markham, instead? The Society does not make mistakes. It cannot make mistakes. Her fears are allayed when a high level Official tells her not to worry, that it was simply a malfunction. Ky could never be her Match. He will never be anyone’s Match. He is an Aberration, a lower caste and not permitted to mate.

But Cassia’s seed of doubt grows. A mistake has been made by the government she grew up believing infallible. What if Ky is supposed to be her Match?

A frightening cross between Huxley’s “A Brave New World” and our own, Matched dunks the reader into another reality, one that is conceivably not too far from our own. It is alive, it breaths, and before long Matched has the reader so pulled in that it isn’t hard to believe the Society actually does exist. It’s the strongest, most vivid character in the book. “They are giving us pieces of real life instead of the whole thing…” Cassia complains, wanting more than she has been allotted. For Cassia, scraps aren’t enough. Not after their mistake.

She is a compelling character, Cassia Reyes: curious and cautious, book-smart and street-ignorant, submissive and rebellious. Just the right blend for a teenager pushing her boundaries and deciding if it is worth the price she must pay to break them. But all the time it feels like Cassia is holding back, like we only get to view her through the portscreens in our homes, impersonal and impossible to touch. But the promise is there, the promise of so much more from Cassia and all of the others she interacts with.

Matched doesn’t bring quite the same intensity to the arm chair as The Hunger Games, another dystopian young adult novel, but the sentiments and themes it portrays are just as moving. No one should ever say that there is nothing to be learned from fiction. Novels like Matched show in graphic detail why we must fight for our freedoms, for the rights we take for granted and stay true to ourselves while doing so. To paraphrase Dylan Thomas’s poem, we cannot go gently into the good night.

Matched is told in first person with Cassia as the narrator.

My Thoughts:
This book felt like it went very slowly, yet I didn’t want to put it down. I would have loved to have felt more connected to Cassia and Ky, their relationship to each other and those around them. Perhaps this was partly due to the nature of their Society, the withholding of yourself because someone is always watching. Oddly enough, Xander was the character I understood the best. His motives were clear, as was his joy or pain. Over all I would say that it holds a great deal of promise, of things to come in the sequel. I just wish I didn’t have to wait to see how everything pans out.

Favorite Scene:
Cassia breaking the frame. Her thoughts on what it would sound like, the musings of someone who has never heard glass shatter, struck me as completely honest and perhaps one of the best written scenes I’ve come across. This line, in particular, has stuck with me because of the hope, loss and beauty contained within it: “I think the glass would make a glittery sound when it broke; I would like to see it burst into a million pieces and shine all the way down.”

Who this book is best for: 13 years old and up.

Stars: 3.5 of 5, edging its way up to 4 stars (despite its flaws) the more I think about it.

Violence: 0 of 5

Friday, June 11, 2010


Title: Mistwood
Author: Leah Cypess
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2010

The Shifter was born from the mist in the Mistwood. She can take any form she wants and move faster than the human eye can follow. She’s immortal, soulless and emotionless, sworn to protect the king of Samorna. Oh, and she’s lost her memory. Some time has passed since she last protected a king, and the Crown Prince has come to retrieve her from her home in the Mistwood. Because during peaceful years, sometimes twenty to a hundred years, there has been no need for the Shifter. But that’s not what happened last time, and peace isn’t the reason the Shifter returned to the Mistwood.

Isabel, they call her. She doesn’t correct them. They may be right; she can’t recall. And she can’t shift. Something has gone terribly wrong for the Shifter. She can still move faster than sight, grab a dagger or an arrow out of the air before it hits its target. But something’s wrong. When it comes down to a battle, will she be able to protect her prince? Will she even know who her prince is?

Rife with choices and confusion, Isabel screams off of the page; her uncertainty is as endearing as her desire to know the truth. Coupled with the reader’s desire to understand the strange currents around the throne of Samorna, it is a powerful mix. The choices Isabel makes and the desires she feels are just as new to her (she’s not supposed to have feelings, she keeps reminding herself) as they are to her audience. The shifting tides of the court and the loyalties and betrayals that everyone hides makes Mistwood an enthralling, if surprisingly light, read.

Mistwood is told in third person, mostly from Isabel’s point of view.

My Thoughts:
I wish this book had been longer. The story was delicious, but it wrapped up quickly. It’s an easy one-sitting sort of book that left me longing to know more about the Shifter, her country, her past and her future. Hopefully there are more tales from Samorna to come.

Favorite Scene:
I really enjoyed the shocker Isabel finds when she goes back to Mistwood that first time.

Who this book is best for: Girls will resonate with Isabel far more than boys will. Ages 11 and up.

Stars: 3.5 of 5

Violence: 0 of 5


Book Dame apologizes for the lengthy time since the last update! 2010 is obviously the year of crazy.

Title: Runemarks
Author: Joanne Harris
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2008


“Seven o’clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the End of the World, and goblins had been at the cellar again…” is the first line of Runemarks, setting the stage for a world where Order and conformity is everything. No one wants to dream for it is shameful, and to have a ruinmark (a glowing birthmark) on your person is the worst sort of disgrace that can be imagined. This is the world that Maddy Smith was born into, and she’s never fitted in. She loves hearing stories, but no one will tell her any because having an imagination is a terrible crime. So she makes up her own, branding her as an outsider even more than the ruinmark on her palm does. Maddy’s only friend, the only person who has been kind to her in her fifteen years of life, is a wanderer. He’s only ever in town for a month or so and he won’t tell her his name. He lets her call him One Eye. And he has a ruinmark, too.

Maddy, and the friends she makes along the way, proves that life is full of phenomenal surprises and that it shouldn’t be gone through like a sleepwalker. That’s what you’ll do in Death. Trust her, she’s been there. Maddy is imaginative enough to turn her mistakes to their best advantage, learning to think on her feet and daring to stay outside of the traditional role she grew up in. (Not that she has a lot of choice. She did accidentally flood the cellar and get fired.) The Nine Worlds around her are full of wonder and magic, and deserve something in between absolute order and absolute chaos. But does Maddy have the courage to save the Old Gods? And can they stop squabbling enough to save her?

Runemarks is told from third person omniscient, switching regularly between characters to fully flesh out an amazingly constructed world.

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed this book. It has a catchy intro that doesn’t let you down…much. I lost interest a little when One Eye was chatting with the Parson and Examiner, but it picks up again fairly quickly. Maddy is fun and engaging, an interesting take on the person who gets to (has to?) restart creation. This romp through Norse Mythology after Ragnarok is one of the most enjoyable telling of legends I’ve come across.

Favorite Scene:
I loved when Loki and Maddy are seeing what Thor’s nightmare is. So surprising, and the dialogue is great.

Who this book is best for: anyone who likes Norse myths will get a kick out of Runemarks. It is entirely suitable for children older than 10 or advanced readers.

Stars: 4

Violence: 2 of 5 for some threat of torture and an army of undead.