Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Matched" by Ally Condie (Debut Author)

One of the most highly-anticipated, buzzed about teen books of the year, Matched by Ally Condie, is finally available for fans of Dystopian novels. Oftentimes, hyped books aren't as good as expected, leaving the reader disappointed. Matched lives up to the excellent word of mouth being spread about it.

Set in the future, the book takes place after global warming destroyed "our" world. Things like "angels" have become nothing more than mythology, and even something as ordinary as a compact is mysterious in this new world. Society now controls daily life to make sure tragedy doesn't befall its citizens again. Jobs are chosen for you, there is a Match Banquet to determine who you will marry, citizens die on their 80th birthday, and there isn't even a choice for the food you eat.

For Cassia, our MC, this world is safe, ordinary, comforting. She can't wait for the Match Banquet so that she'll finally be able to meet her future husband. During the Banquet, prospectives gather in their City Halls across the country to find out who their match will be. Cassia is paired with her best friend Xander, which is rare; normally, the couples are paired with someone from a different City Hall and have never met. Cassia is thrilled with the news and feels lucky to already know Xander, though at times, she has a flash of jealousy that there's nothing "mysterious" about her match. At the Banquet, the couples are given silver boxes containing a microcard full of data about one another so they can "get to know each other better." However, the day Cassia looks at her microcard, life as she knows it changes.

Society has made a mistake and paired her with a second person, Ky (also from her own City Hall). They try to rectify this and assure Cassia that she's destined to be with Xander, but she now knows about a second possibility. As she reflects on what to do and grows closer to Ky, the choice becomes harder. She finds herself caring more for Ky than she should, but also has feelings for Xander and doesn't know what to do.

Condie writes about both males in such a way, readers will care for both characters and surely pick sides or "teams." There is no conclusion at the book's end, but there are two more novels to come to tie up loose threads. We'll surely get a look at the inner workings of Society and see what is being hidden in the Outer Provinces most citizens know nothing about. The first book is predominantly focused on world-building and fleshing out the characters; more description will surely come in the subsequent novels. There is a good amount of character growth in Matched, which is a refreshing change from a lot of the flat characters being introduced in literature lately.

The book's dust jacket is also worth mentioning. The cover is GORGEOUS and relates well with the contents it protects. Cassia is wearing her Match gown and trying to break her way out of the protective bubble Society has built around her. Even the inside flaps of the hardcover edition have bubbles. Plus, the fonts used for the title and author suit a Dystopian novel. They have a futuristic edge. Matched incorporates the green color so important in the novel (and Cassia's dress) and has the right amount of blur going on and I love the way the "y" and "i" in Ally Condie are blurred and smeared as though someone ran a finger across them.

If you're a fan of the Dystopian genre, Matched is absolutely a must-read. It's one of the most exciting new trilogies to debut in Teens since Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, though it has less action and a smaller body count. It's more in-line with titles such as Lois Lowry's The Giver (its closest sibling) and Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series. It's also reminiscent of an upcoming trilogy by Lauren Oliver; the first novel, Delirium, hits bookshelves on February 1st, 2011. As a fan of the genre myself, I think this is one of the best new entries and am excited to read the rest of the trilogy.

[Review based on ARC edition]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Tangled" movie review

On Saturday, I got to see an early screening for Disney's upcoming animated movie Tangled (in Disney 3-D, no less), and so many people have asked me for my opinion that I chose to post a review here despite the fact that this isn't a book. Well, it's based on a fairytale, so I suppose that counts...?

Disney movies are always magical. I look forward to them every year. The fact that Disney is going back to both its fairytale roots and the musical is thrilling. While I'm sad that the movie is no longer called Rapunzel, the movie was still worth its weight in gold(en hair).

First off, Alan Menken. You can't go wrong with this man. True, the songs weren't as memorable as some of his earlier Disney compositions (though that could be nostalgia talking), but they were still things worth humming outside the theater. I also love the fact that Broadway Vet Donna Murphy voiced the mother; I love this woman. I was also a big Mandy Moore fan back in her heyday, and she gave Rapunzel a lively, spunky spirit. One of the best characters was Maximus the horse. He doesn't speak a single word, but his actions really make the movie. Every scene he's in is hysterical. I think he wishes that he was born a dog due to some of his behavior patterns.

The movie looked fantastic. I actually got to see it in 3-D. It was my second time watching a movie in this fashion, so I can't speak from experience, but it looked great. One thing that makes me wary of 3-D is that a lot of action movies might be too blurry and make me sick. The 3-D used in Tangled was unobtrusive and made to make it seem as though the characters had substance. There were layers on top of one another so that it seemed as though some images were further back than others. I was impressed. I also love the way the Disney animators gave a nod to old-school animation by using backgrounds that looked like paintings, though I do wish the characters themselves were drawn in the traditional 2-D animation. The scene on the water, for example, looked stunning. I was thrilled they did that with last year's The Princess and the Frog. At the same time, by using computers to render everything, the animators were able to turn their attention to finite details. Rapunzel's hair, for example, looked AMAZING. It was super-silky; I wanted to run my fingers through it. It was incredibly realistic.

Story-wise, I was impressed with the way the writers came up with reasons and motivations behind everything that occurred in the traditional fairytale. There's a reason why Rapunzel has such long hair and why the movie's villain locks her in a tower. I also enjoyed the fact that the writers took one small aspect from the traditional story (which is obviously too adult in nature for a children's film) and incorporated into the ending. It was really well-done. That isn't to say the movie was perfect. There were times when it seemed like Disney was trying too hard to go back to its roots and replicate some of its best works. There was one scene at the beginning when Flynn is on the palace rooftop that strongly reminded me of Aladdin. There's one part where Donna Murphy's character calls someone a "lug," which reminded me strongly of a line from Hercules. One of her songs also brought images of Ursula to mind. In fact, there were a few times when The Little Mermaid sprung to mind throughout the movie, especially during the "romantic" scene. That being said, for the most part, the story remained true to itself and told a beautiful version of a classic fairytale.

If you're on the fence about whether or not to watch this, I encourage you to do so. The trailer does this movie no justice. Even if you go for half-price before noon (or take advantage of whatever deals your local theater makes for seeing movies on the cheap), it's worth seeing in the theatre, if only for the attention to detail and lush settings. Go for that reason, at least! Plus, it's a princess movie. AND a musical. It's time for us to support Disney so they'll repeat this successful formula in the future!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Book Loot (1)

Here are all of my book acquistions so far this month.
(I have so much reading to do! @_@)
Most of the titles are YA with Dystopian themes. Most, not all.

What are my fellow bookworks reading right now?

p u r c h a s e d b o o k s :

* Disney twenty-three: The new issue came in the mail, complete with a free Tron: Legacy mousepad. I love this magazine and all the freebies you get if you're a subscriber. What a gorgeous cover, too! Very eye-catching :)

* Finishing the Hat by Stephen Sondheim. I'm big on musicals--and Sondheim is my favorite composer. Already looking forward to the second book! This wasn't a cheap book--$40. I was lucky and jumped on Amazon's pre-order deal, which meant the book was 46% off! I threw in preorders for a DVD of Sondheim's Evening Primrose (finally!!) and a blu-ray of Sondheim! The Birthday Concert to get 30% off each title and free shipping. Yay me! :)

*Rachael Ray's Look + Cook by, erhm, Rachael Ray. I've already earmarked all kinds of yummy-sounding recipes! Plus with a savings of 46% for preordering on www.bn.com, an additional coupon for 15% off any one item, and free express member shipping, I practically stole this cookbook!

* Pretties by Scott Westerfeld. Only 50 cents from the library! Can't beat that! I already own the final book in the Dystopian series, Extras (also a library sale find), but read all of the books from the library without ever having owned them. For shame!

*From Bogus to Bubbly by Scott Westerfeld. Another library find for 50 cents. Two more books and I'll have the complete collection!

*Rebel Angels by Libba Bray. Again, 50 cents from the library. A friend of mine LOVES this series and I always hear great things about it. I've taken these books out from the library before, but never get around to reading them. Maybe now I will...?

a r c / g a l l e y b o o k s :

*Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult. Picoult is only my favorite author, oh, ever. Plus, the new book will come with a CD, which is as innovative as when she infused The Tenth Circle with comic-book art a few years ago. She always finds a way to evolve and reward her readers in the process. Love her!

*Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. While the fallen angel genre currently exploding on the teen scene isn't my first-choice, I always like to be on top of the trends, so I grabbed this book to see if it will be the "next big thing." Time will tell!

*Vixen by Jilian Larkin. The forums on www.bn.com were giving out this book for the November Teen First Look Book Club, so being an avid reader of YA, I jumped on this bandwagon. I'm halfway through the book atm, right on schedule. It takes place in the 1920s and has flappers. 'Nuff said :)

*Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I don't have the physical book atm because someone else is reading it first (I knew I wouldn't get to it until Dec. due to NaNo...), but this will be one of THE first books I read next month. I've been looking forward to it for a long time! I also got a chance to participate in the B&N First Look Book Club back in...February? when we were treated to an early look at Oliver's debut novel, Before I Fall. Fun times!

l i b r a r y f i n d s :

*Nothing by Janne Teller. This book sounds AMAZING. It's a modern-day Lord of the Flies and supposed to be very dark and grim. Author (and former Printz winner) John Green recently stated that he thinks this book should be up for next year's Printz Award and it's been featured on a couple of the blogs I follow (especially here). This is probably the first library book from the pile that I'll read.

*Truancy and Truancy: Origins, both by Isamu Fukui. First and foremost, the author was FIFTEEN YEARS OLD when he wrote Truancy. FIFTEEN. Amazing! Plus, the books are Dystopian and the series is said to be a mix of Lord of the Flies and Battle Royale (um, so was The Hunger Games, and look at how amazing that series is!).

*Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Saw this on my friend's blog and thought it sounded AMAZING (and creepy)!

*Skinned by Robin Wasserman. I keep seeing this series at B&N. It sounds like a mix of Scott Westerfeld's Ugly series and Meg Cabot's Airhead series. What a combo!

*Witch & Wizard by James Patterson. Initially, I didn't care to read this book. I like his other YA series, Maximum Ride, but this series didn't get me one way or the other. I really don't read a lot of supernatural fiction. I took a second look at the title when it appeared on an If You Liked The Hunger Games... table at B&N in Aug/Sept. Plus, one of my co-workers LOVES this book. I might as well read it now before the second book comes out in Dec. and it's wait-listed at the library, right?

*Gone and Hunger by Michael Grant. This was another series that I didn't really think twice about. I forget what brought it to my attention recently, but it sounds interesting, so I snagged the first two. If I like it, I'll go back for the third book.

*White Cat by Holly Black. This book is about a family of curse workers. Plus, it's based on the fairytale of the same name, and we all know that I'm a sucker for this genre! Sounds awesome! Why didn't I give it a closer look earlier this year...?

*EON by Alison Goodman. Yet another book I initially overlooked. It's been getting good buzz online, though, and a lot of people are looking forward to next year's sequel. PLUS there's a recommendation on the cover from the always-awesome Tamora Pierce. I also like that it has a strong Asian influence a la Avatar: The Last Airbender. Color me intrigued.

I'm sure some of these titles won't make it onto the blog. They're not all that new. Then again, Unwind was first published in 2007, and while I've seen the author's books on the shelves before, I've never read him. I probably wouldn't have given this book a second glance if it hadn't been for reading that review. So maybe reviewing backlist titles isn't such a bad thing...? So far, I've held off. IDK, what do you guys think?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ones to Watch: November 2010

Welcome to the launch of a new blog feature, fellow bookworms! At the beginning of each month, I'd like to point out some upcoming titles that seem worthy of being read. Granted, this is just my opinion on books that I personally want to read.

DISCLAIMER: I'm all over the place when it comes to genre, so there will most likely be books that don't appeal to you. There might also be something you're looking forward to not on the list. We're sure to have some titles in common, though! (There's also a good chance I won't get to every book I want to read, so if doesn't show up as a review here, it doesn't mean I didn't care for it! Plus, there are some books that I may want to look at due to a summary or cover image but may decide not to read because it's not *my* personal type of book, and that's okay, too. Still pointing them out early!)

S P O T L I G H T O N : M A T C H E D B Y A L L I E C O N D I E

This is THE book I've been looking forward to since the summer. I'm really into Dystopian Teen Fantasy right now, so to me, Matched sounds AMAZING.

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.
(from www.bn.com)

o n e s t o w a t c h ( N o v . 2 0 1 0 )

N o v . 2 :

(New Robin McKinley? PLUS a book about a pegasus? Yes, please! Not to mention, an awesome-looking cookbook by Rachael Ray and the Bartimaeus prequel!)

N o v . 9 :

(Another mermaid book for my collection, and two others that sound interesting...)

N o v . 1 6 :

(I don't know anything about this, but it seems intriguing. Plus, I enjoyed reading another Japanese novel translated into English, The Book of Heroes, earlier this year...)

N o v . 2 3 :

(I love Diane Chamberlain. If you like authors such as Jodi Picoult and Jacquelyn Mitchard, you'll like her, too! I haven't read Orson Scott Card in a while, but this book sounds pretty awesome--and it's teen fantasy!)

N o v . 3 0 :

(Okay, so I know Jane Eyre is not new by any stretch of the imagination, but this edition of the book IS. And with a cover that gorgeous, I *HAVE* to own it!! Plus, Matched. I talked about it earlier...need I say more? Number One Must-Read of the Season! Hopefully it's as terrific as I want it to be!)

So, which books are you looking forward to this month, Bookworms? Any of the above? Something I totally missed? I want to know! (Ah, it's so sad that if all goes well for NaNo, I won't be reading ANY of these (save for the Rachael Ray, but as a cookbook, it doesn't count in quite the same fashion as the others) until next month--or later if I'm on a roll! ;_; Actually, my "reward" if I complete NaNo will be allowing myself to read Matched as my first book in a month (followed by two highly-anticipated ARCs: Delirium by Lauren Oliver and Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult, though for obvious reasons, I won't have reviews of either up here until closer to publication next year...)