Feb 18, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

I was nervous starting Matched.  A dystopian young adult novel by a local author does put a little pressure on me.  Though, I didn't like The Maze Runner very much and I don't make too much of a secret about that. When you know you will have a chance to meet the author, look them in the eye, and tell them how you liked their book it can be a little daunting.


From the moment I first saw the cover for Matched I completely fell in love.  I heard about Matched originally when it was sold and I was really excited, but then I sort of forgot about it.  A lot of people were getting Matched at BEA and it just didn't sound that good to me. I know you think I sound crazy right now, but without knowing the concept I thought it was a book about arson or something.  But the moment I first saw the cover I absolutely fell in love with it.


I find it increasingly hard to put into words all the things that I love about Matched.  I guess the most overwhelming part of the book was the world building.  I appreciated how much I knew about the world that Cassia lived in.  I have talked about this a lot in the past, but to me, dystopian fiction is more about the WORLD than anything else.  Without a good base a story can be told in any time period or setting and have the same effect.  A truly successful dystopian novel fuses together the world and the story so that one element cannot live without the other.  Matched completes this fusion to perfection.


PA303105When I met Ally Condie face to face it was an honor to tell her how much I loved the book.  Over the past few years I have read a lot of young adult dystopian novels, and I was starting to feel a little disheartened by my experience.  Especially the newer ones were not providing the kind of world building that I have already expressed is essential to a successful dystopia.  As a fan, this was very frustrating to me.  I was excited that so many books were being released but disappointed with the quality of the books.  Ally’s book was so different and so deliberate.  I liked how her words and her story really meshed together for me, the plot and the craft were important to each other.


I am struggling to push through this review. I don’t know what I want to say. I keep bouncing my thoughts off of people on Twitter trying to understand the difference between the people who have enjoyed Matched and the people who have found it lacking.  And then in a moment the exact words for how I feel about Matched came to me.  I found it subtle and perfect in a quiet way. To me the style and the characters and the slowness of action all connected with the quality and sluggishness of the brainwashed society.  What is so terrifying about Matched is that people know that they are censored, and they are thankful for it. It is this thought process that is beyond double think. Beyond knowing the world is wrong but convincing yourself that it isn’t. This is one of the many elements that makes Matched work for me, and definitely one of the most significant.


I have really enjoyed being able to share with various different people all the things I enjoyed about the book.  I love hearing with other people have to say about it, though I can’t always see where they are coming from.  It is very rare that a book gives me blinders and Matched definitely has.  I am very eager for the second book Crossed, especially since 2nd books in series have not held strong favor with me.  I also heard that like Matched, Crossed will have a poem that is strongly connected with it.  I loved the way that Ally dealt with literature in this novel, I like how my knowledge was connected with this future society.


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dylan Thomas

A Year Ago

Last year I went to LTUE by myself and had a great time.  I am here again at this BYU symposium and this time with Mr. X! It is interesting to have these things in my life come together.  Last year, shortly after attending LTUE. I dedicated a month James Dashner.  I took some notes from Brandon Sanderson on how one should treat James Dashner, just so you know! This year Brandon wasn’t at LTUE to fuel the fire AND Dashner has achieved his dream of being on the New York Times Bestsellers list. I wanted to repost my first little introduction to Mr. X because I happened to talk about Mr. Dashner quite a bit in it and it seems here we are again at LTUE.  Well James and I are here again, Mr. X is here for the first time.


First of all, what is LTUE?  LTUE stands for Life, the Universe, and Everything and it is a symposium that has been going on for years at BYU. They offer great panels, presentations, readings, and signings.  Today I got to go to a James Dashner reading and yesterday I went to a panel on Dystopia.  There are lots of different types of things to listen to and learn about.  There are panels on writing, reading, drawing, character development, the industry.  You just pick what sounds and interesting and go and listen.


Last year I had a really great experience and though Mr. X and I are both disappointed that Brandon Sanderson didn’t make it this year, it has been great to share this experience with each other. I have been taking a lot of pictures and a few notes and I should be getting some nice posts together shortly.


I will be talking about Bree DeSpain, James Dashner, Elana Johnson, Robison Wells, Dan Wells, Tracy Hickman, and a few more.  Before I went to this event I wanted to try and read The Scorch Trials and The Dark Divine, but as usual life got in the way and so far I am only 50 pages into The Scorch Trials and none of the way into The Dark Divine.  I am going to be reading The Scorch Trials more today and I am enjoying it quite a bit.


What are you reading? Have you been reading any dystopian fiction?

Repost - Mr. X

Megan, you disappeared off the face of the Earth and abandoned James Dashner and all of your loyal readers. What happened?

Well, faithful audience, I am not entirely sure what happened to me, but I blame Mr. X and maybe you should too.

It seems like every spring or pre-spring time speeds up for me and I move through the world in slow motion. I get nothing done but the world races around without me. Days pass, then weeks pass, and it is months later and I am still sitting on the spot on the couch.

It isn’t like I completely abandoned my life, but I definitely did not accomplish everything I wanted to for James Dashner month. See after I asked my social life to calm down, well it kind of listened and I guess I wasn’t prepared for that so I started feeling really bored and set out to find my social life again. I really want to thank all the great contributors to James Dashner Month. They really help the illusion that James Dashner is worthwhile in some way. I hope he wasn’t paying attention though cause he might go and get big headed.

Please check out my guest posts if you haven’t. I know my contributors put a lot of time into them.
Pussreboots Guest Post – Exploring the Maze
Carrie’s Guest Post – James Dashner and the Male Reader
Guest Review of The Maze Runner from The Calico Critic
Reasons Why – James Dashner Month Day 8
James Dashner Month – Day 4 – Guest Review

Then head on over to their blogs and say, thanks for your genius.
Books and Movies
Chick Loves Lit
Puss Reboots
The Calico Critic

Then head to James Dashner’s blog and say, thanks for your stupidity.

make-good-silhouette-200X200 Then ask Mr. X why he was bored by my blog when the whole month was dedicated to James Dashner and it didn’t make any sense because he didn’t really know who James was and he didn’t really care. And who is Mr. X anyway. Well, the truth is I can’t tell you. If I could tell you I would be using a name instead of just a letter to identify this man in my life. Mr. X pulled me into a time warp, made time bend into next Tuesday and made every single one of my readers disappear. Yes, Mr. X is THAT powerful.

Mr. X also single handedly allowed for the publication of each of James Dashner’s books even though he had/s no idea who James is, some how it is only through Mr. X’s existence that Mr. Dashner has achieved even a minimal amount of success.

Okay, the previous paragraph was a complete fabrication.

Also, supposedly, some day Mr. X is going to stop by the blog for a guest post or two. See, by calling him out on the blog he cannot refuse me. By protecting his identity with an amusing code name, I will fail in creating shame when he doesn’t follow through.

Goodbye my readers!
Until we meet again.

Feb 16, 2011

Triumph of the City

Edward Glaeser is the author of Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us richer, Smarter, Greener, and Happier and is also a Professor of Economics at Harvard.  And just a few nights ago he was a guest on The Daily Show. It was very exciting for me to be reading and reviewing a book and then get a chance to see the author of that edward-glaeser-227x300book on TV.  It kind of makes me feel a little bit like I am in the know. Glaeser showed a great amount of passion on the show and made me happy that I tracked down Trish from TLC Book Tours to get the opportunity to review this book.  Of course Jon Stewart does give Glaeser a bit of a hard time, but that is to be expected. You can see the interview with Stewart by clicking here


In both Triumph of the City and on The Daily Show, Glaeser shows his ability to make economics and the history of cities interesting and beyond the dry and bland analysis one would stereotypically expect.  The recent Penguin non-fiction books I have read (including Reality Is Broken) have astounded me with both their readability and their overwhelming amount of interesting and digestible information.  It seemed like at least once a paragraph I was pausing to read a part to Mr. X that I just couldn’t keep to myself. A great non-fiction book really lends itself to sharing and discussing and Triumph of the City is a great example embodying that quality.


As I mentioned earlier it is thanks to TLC Book Tours that I had the opportunity to read and review Glaeser’s book. My draw to it was understanding what this man had to say about cities and why people are drawn to them and how they will continue to be a benefit to society.  One of my interests was in seeing how what he had to say would tie in to what I know about both dystopian and utopian societies.  In a lot of futuristic fiction both the city and the government are the symbols of what is wrong.  They control and brainwash the people who follow their rules, obey their laws, and accept their teachings.  This book was particularly interesting in seeing how an ideal quest could turn into something much darker.  With all of the positive reasons people are drawn to the city for the reasons Glaeser presents it could be easy to see them going a negative way.  But my thoughts rarely strayed away from the positivity that is presented in Triumph of the City and I found myself buying in to so many of the topics he brought up.  While I definitely want to go over this book again with a comparison contrast view between cities, the future, and dystopias, I really enjoyed reading this book for it’s own ideas.


This last weekend Glaeser was also on NPR talking about his book.  Triumph of the City seems to be a book people naturally want to question and I think that is one of the strengths of it.  Edward Glaeser takes these questions and skepticism in stride, he even seems to welcome them as a way to continue to prove his case.  I think it is easy to jump to the conclusion that this book is wrong without really giving it a chance, but I think Triumph of the City has a lot to say and so many interesting factoids that it would be worth the time of almost any reader. Whether you are interested in this book or not I highly recommend you check out Glaeser’s NPR interview for a taste of what he has to offer.


I would like to conclude my thoughts about this book with a quote from page 122 of Triumph of the City that caught my interest.  The section is titled Scale Economies and the Globe Theatre and it caught my attention because theatre has long been a passion of mine.  I found it interesting to see what Glaeser had to say about it.

“Live performance is connected to the spread of innovation in cities because the first stirring of new artistic phenomenon are almost always performed live long before they are distributed electronically.”

This quote makes me think of the allure of Broadway, the way that seeing a play in the city can make you feel like you are part of something.  A movie will never be able to make my heart race in the same way as live theatre and the amazing experiences I had from the time I was a child all the way to this summer when I saw Phantom of the Opera with Mr. X in New York City.  I believe strongly in the ability for art to move people, to influence them, and I think influence and action can best be seen and felt in metropolitan areas.

Feb 15, 2011

Most Exciting Author at Teen Book Fest

It has been way too long since I attended the Teen Book Fest and there is so much I still want to tell you. I am hoping over the holidays I will get a chance to catch up on my intended posts.  Today I am going to talk about the author I am probably still the most excited to have met.


Part of the excitement of meeting this author was not knowing she would be there and just the sheer coincidence of it. This author has written a dystopian novel, lives in Utah, and even went to the same college as me.  She attended the Teen Book Fest as an audience member, like me, and happened to sit three rows directly in front of me.


The author I am talking about is none other than Elana Johnson, author of the forthcoming Possession.  Her book has the MOST AMAZING cover and I seriously cannot wait to read it.  Possession releases June 7th, 2011, so mark your calendars!

Here is the cover.

I love the white space, the butterfly, the tagline “control or be controlled.”
You may not know this about me, though I have talked about it previously, I don’t like to know anything about a book before I read it, besides genre and a one sentence summary.
Not knowing what to expect is essential to the enjoyment of my book reading experience.
All I need to know about Elana’s book is one word, dystopian.



Here is the visual proof that I was in the same (crowded) room as Elana Johnson. Actually, I didn’t even know that she was there yet. 


Mr. X happened to see @ElanaJ tweet “I got in!” And he asked me if I thought she was at the festival. (There was a standby line.)


Ah, once again the power of Twitter. I have never connected with someone at a live event like this and it was a weird experience.  Especially when I told Elana that I was sitting right behind her and she had to look over her shoulder and check.


Via Twitter we set up a photo op after the keynote address by Scott Westerfeld, which was very entertaining and will hopefully get a future post.  Poor Mr. Westerfeld playing second billing to Elana Johnson.  But it was great just knowing there were two dystopian authors in the same room, in the same picture even!  Though, that does reveal my obsessive side a bit. Smile


Me and ElanaHere is the picture Mr. X took of us!

I am on the left and Elana is on the right in a super awesome shirt. And Mr. X definitely deserves a special thanks for being my personal photag for the Teen Book Fest.  Meeting up with Elana was great because it was so unexpected. I love how many dystopian authors there are based in Utah.  I ever got to touch an ARC of Possession. I was so excited I just wanted to run away with the book. I took a super blurry photo of the book PA303100in my hands before giving it back.  And honestly it felt like a huge honor just to get to touch this book.  Butterflies are an image that have connected with me for a long time, and they have been trendy for almost as long.   I can say, for the most part, I don’t really get tired of seeing them on covers, though I think this one is particularly exceptional.


Holding Possession happened very early on in the festival and I just kept thinking, if I run now I won’t get to meet Ally Condie and Scott Westerfeld.  But another part of me thought it would be totally worth it.


In the end I decided to possibly do the right thing and not steal.  Also not miss my opportunity to get my ARC of Matched signed and a pile of other books by lots of amazing authors.  Basically still regretting that decision!! One of the advantages of talking to Elana was that I hadn’t read her book yet and I could just talk to her like a real person. Authors, OneI am told, are real people, but I can’t seem to act that way when I am around them.  Especially if I have read and enjoyed their books.


I stood in line behind Elana to meet Ally Condie.  Condie was basically the reason why I HAD to go to Teen Book Fest. Sure, she is a local author, but I didn’t know when I would get another chance to meet her.  And there I was standing just a few feet away from TWO dystopian authors and listening to Elana talk to Ally like a real person and thinking maybe I could do it too.


I was so happy the line was short to meet Ally because I knew I wanted to get a few moments to talk and not have to worry about rushing.  I was also shaking a little because I loved her book so much.  I was on overload after meeting Elana, holding Possession (I was still grasping it while taking this pictures), and seeing Ally.


Look at this great picture of Ally and Elana together! It is pure dystopian bliss.  They both look great and it was beyond neat for me to be standing there taking this photo.


Thanks to Elana for being a fan of young adult literature just like me and for writing the type of book I like to read. It was a treat beyond treats to be able to meet her and I am looking forward to meeting her again.


You can find Elana online:

Twitter: @ElanaJ

Blog: elanajohnson.blogspot.com

Website: www.elanajohnson.com

Official Possesion Website


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