Sunday, January 30, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie -Review


Last night, I finished reading Matched by Ally Condie. This book is the first of a trilogy.

Matched is a dystopian novel that takes place in a world where the Society decides everything for the people. The Society tells its people when and what they will eat, what they will wear, where they will live, what job they will have, who they will marry, and when they will die. They have also reduced all the art in the world to the 100 songs, 100 poems, 100 paintings, and 100 stories. The Society claims that they have made everyone's lives perfect because they have simplified everything and chosen the best things for them.

Cassia believes in the Society and dreams of having a perfect life with the boy she is about to be Matched to. When she sees on the screen at the Matching ceremony that her Match is Xander, her childhood friend, she couldn't be more happy. But later, when she goes to read more about Xander, something goes wrong. For a moment, she sees a different face on the screen. She knows this boy, Ky, too. The Society tells her that it was a mistake, but now Cassia can't get Ky off of her mind. Her growing love for him and a secret her grandfather gives her drive her to begin questioning the choices made for her and those around her. She will have to choose whether she goes along with what the Society has planned for her, or if she will go against everything in her world and make her own choices in her life.

This is a beautiful story about words, stories, choice, remembering, and love. Poetry played a large role in Matched, and sometimes the writing itself seemed almost poetic. I really liked this book's story, characters, and that it made me think.

Through this book, we see how dull and empty life would be without choices, and yet we must be responsible for every choice we make. We see the power of words (particularly poetry and stories in this case) and how, once they're in you, they take hold and draw out ideas that can change everything forever. And we see what risks love is willing to take and how it protects even when it is wounded or doesn't understand.

I could envision the world that Cassia lived in and I liked the way that the author chose to describe things. Like I said, there were times that it felt poetic. The characters were all unique and I think I came to love all of them for different aspects of their personalities. Yes, I even liked the "bad guys" a bit. The way that the Society worked was filled with detail. It seemed like the author had thought of just about everything. When I read this book, it felt like I was in that world with those characters, and that's what I love about reading.

I wasn't too surprised by most of the twists in the story, but it took me long enough before I caught on that I still enjoyed it. *SPOILER WARNING* I figured out early on the reveal about how the elderly die. Other times, I figured things out just pages before they were revealed, like where Ky and the other workers were being sent. *END SPOILER WARNING*

There were a few times that I noticed inconsistencies. These mostly had to do with a character suddenly knowing the name for something that they didn't know before. Thankfully, the inconsistencies were not big problems and didn't occur too often.

My favorite character was Ky. I loved the way he told stories and his quiet bravery. But even though he was my favorite, I liked both Xander and Cassia quite a lot as well. Usually in a book that has two love interests for the girl, I come to love one and despise the other. But in Matched, I like both Ky and Xander. I have my preference for who should get Cassia (Ky), but I'd actually love to see both guys happy in the end.

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Is falling in love with someone's story the same thing as falling in love with the person himself?"

I recommend this book to anyone who loves dystopian stories, science fiction, poetry, romance, or something that makes them think.

You can find out even more about Matched by visiting the book's official website or Ally Condie's website.

Becca Johnson

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour: The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin- My Review


The CSFF Blog Tour is featuring The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin this month. On Monday, I posted a brief warning about where not to read the book’s description. Today, I’ll be posting my review of the book. I just finished reading it tonight, so everything is pretty fresh in my mind and I may still be mulling over how I feel about the story as I write this.

For those of you who missed my Monday post, here’s my favorite description of the book (taken from the back cover copy):

Joran dreams of living a simple life as a blacksmith in his forested village of Tebron. But when his wife, Charris, disappears in a whisk of magic, his dream shatters as he is forced to go on a perilous journey to the ends of the world to rescue her. The goose woman tells him he must solve the riddle of the three keys, and will wear out three pairs of shoes before he battles the Moon—who has trapped Charris in a sand castle perched above the sea.

Dismayed and fearful, Joran sets out alone, but along the way finds unlikely companionship in a wolf named Ruyah, who becomes his guide and trusted friend. In true fairy-tale tradition, Joran must face daunting challenges—within and without—in order to bring Charris safely home.


My favorite thing about this book is Ruyah, the wolf. I love wolves and I love loyal characters. Ruyah is both of these things, so I had a great time reading about him. He is a beautiful picture of patience, wisdom, protection, faithfulness, and love. Joran could not have asked for a better companion.

I also enjoyed the author’s descriptions of the fantastical places that Joran and Ruyah visited. I could feel the strangeness of one, the peace of another, the beauty and mystery of another, the oppressiveness of another, and the desperation and urgency of yet another. She did a great job of conveying each place’s flavor, and her descriptions seemed to fit perfectly. For example, I would picture the Moon’s house much like she described it. No detail seemed out of place or missing in the picture she wove.

There was one thing that bothered me while reading the book. Ruyah often quotes the sayings of wolves, but these sayings are actually taken from people like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. A few other characters also quote famous people. I wish that the author had written the ideas in her own words, or had even written them so that they were in terms that a wolf would use when Ruyah said them. I think that would have been a nice touch. For me, reading the quotes was occasionally frustrating because they sounded so familiar or because I could identify them immediately. Even if I didn't know where I knew them from, I knew that they were from somewhere else. It was like being repeatedly pulled out of the story and into our world. It might not be that way for people who wouldn't recognize the quotes, but it bothered me. One of the many reasons that I read is to find a new way of looking at something. I wish that the concepts in the quotes had been reworded so that I would have been forced to look at the familiar ones anew.

The book provided a clear picture of what things like anger can do to a person and to a life. I liked how it showed the spiritual side of that in a tangible way. It’s a very important warning to all of us about letting anger and other negative emotions take root in our lives. I also liked the way it showed what it required for Joran to overcome each of the negative influences in his life and to “loose the three keys.” Each of those moments was depicted in powerful, beautifully triumphant scenes.

I look forward to reading the next book in The Gates of Heavens series. It should be a wonderful read.

If you're interested in reading more about The Wolf of Tebron, you can check out C.S. Lakin's website or her blog. Also, please take a moment to visit the other blogs participating in the CSFF Blog Tour:

Noah Arsenault
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
John W. Otte
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

Enjoy the adventure!

Becca Johnson

CSFF Blog Tour: The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin- A Musical Thought


The CSFF Blog Tour's featured book this month is The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin. My review is coming next, but I wanted to post this music-related thought separately.

Tonight, I was reading the last third of the book, swept up in the adventure and wanting to reach the final chapters so I could know how everything was resolved. As I was nearing the end of the book, I grabbed my iPod so I could listen to music while I read. I felt like listening to RED, one of my favorite bands, so I selected a song of theirs that sounded good. I chose “Shadows.” And once it started playing, I realized how good it was for what I was reading. After listening more closely to the lyrics, I wondered if C.S. Lakin had ever heard this song. Some of it reminds me a lot of the story. If you’ve read the book, you might see what I mean when you read these lyrics:

The sun has set
I close my eyes
I pretend everything’s alright
Drowning in anger from all these lies
I can’t pretend everything’s alright
Please don’t let me fall forever
Can you tell me it’s over now?

There’s a hate inside of me
Like some kind of master
I try to save you but I can’t
Find the answer
I’m holding on to you
I’ll never let go
I need you with me as I enter
The shadows

Caught in the darkness
I go blind
Can you help me find my way out?
Nobody hears me. I suffer the silence
Can you tell me it’s over now?

I’m holding on to you
I’m holding on to you


What do you think, those of you who've read the book?

Becca Johnson

Monday, January 3, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour: The Wolf of Tebron by C.S. Lakin -Day 1


This month, the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring C.S. Lakin's The Wolf of Tebron. I'll be posting a review on Tuesday or Wednesday, but today I just wanted to post a quick warning about where to read the book's description.

When I first heard about the book and wanted to see what it was about, I searched for it on Amazon and Goodreads and read the description they both had there. The description got me interested in the book, but it also gave away something that would happen in the book. And the thing it gave away was very important. It made me feel cheated of a surprise that would have meant even more if I hadn't seen it coming.

So, if you're interested in the book and want to know more about it, I recommend reading the back cover copy:

Joran dreams of living a simple life as a blacksmith in his forested village of Tebron. But when his wife, Charris, disappears in a whisk of magic, his dream shatters as he is forced to go on a perilous journey to the ends of the world to rescue her. The goose woman tells him he must solve the riddle of the three keys, and will wear out three pairs of shoes before he battles the Moon—who has trapped Charris in a sand castle perched above the sea.

Dismayed and fearful, Joran sets out alone, but along the way finds unlikely companionship in a wolf named Ruyah, who becomes his guide and trusted friend. In true fairy-tale tradition, Joran must face daunting challenges—within and without—in order to bring Charris safely home.


Doesn't it sound like an intriguing book? You should check it out. You should also check out the blogs of the other people participating in the tour. They should have some fun information about the book or its author and some good reviews. Here are the links to their blogs:

Noah Arsenault
Amy Bissell
Red Bissell
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
April Erwin
Andrea Graham
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Shannon McDermott
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
John W. Otte
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler

Becca Johnson