Review of the Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie

Reached by Ally CondieI recently finished reading the third and last book in the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie. I began reading this series because it was described as a readalike to the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Well, it is…kinda. It is a YA dystopian novel set in a future where society has become corrupt and unreasonable. There is a lot that the Matched society has in common with Wells’ 1984. Society is always watching, listening, and controlling. Society tells you what your job will be, who you will marry, and when you will die. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that obviously the three main characters form a love triangle and succeed in overthrowing Society’s control by the end of the third book. That’s a common theme in dystopian YA. I will say that I enjoyed the first book much better than either of the two the followed. The second book indeed lived up to “second in a trilogy” stereotypes by being the least memorable. The conclusion was interesting, but entirely too perfect. All loose ends were tied up, all questions were answered, and everyone was happy.

I would recommend this book to people who found the romantic conflict within the Hunger Games trilogy highly interesting.

One Year

This month I celebrate one full year as a librarian. I officially began work as the Director of Innovative Family Services at the Fayetteville Free Library on September 1, 2012. Since then I have been involved in a great many things. I started two afterschool clubs for middle schoolers around STEAM subjects, I created LEGO robotics programs, I planned and ran the teen summer reading program at my library, I presented professionally on 6 occasions, was invited to join an ALA Committee, I pushed for a Minecraft server for the library, mentored an intern, was interviewed twice by MLIS students at Syracuse University, coached a First LEGO League team through our very first competition, managed 8 collections, and I can’t even remember what else. I could never have done these things if it wasn’t for the supportive and positive team environment at the FFL. Thank you guys!

I’ve done a lot, but it hasn’t been all work and no play. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of play (because who wants to plan a program for teens that won’t be fun to run). In fact, here you can see some teens playing video games at the Library Overnight end-of-summer-reading party. These boys were playing Let’s Dance and singing along to Katy Perry’s Firework.

Don’t think that I’m done yet! Oh no! I’ve still got a lot of ideas that haven’t been fleshed out yet and I am constantly being inspired to do more and better.

School Visits

Featured imageIt’s nearing the end of the school year here in central New York and that means it is time for school visits. As the teen librarian at a public library, I reached out to the middle and high schools trying to arrange either for me to visit the school or for the students to visit the library to learn about what resources we have and to talk about the summer reading program. Ideally, I would love to collaborate with the local schools on our summer reading program. In all, I was able to arrange for four 6th grade classes to visit the library. That’s it. I will be trying harder much earlier next year. So anyways, at these visits, Heather gets up and talks about responsibilities of library card ownership and then together we talk about the fun and awesome things you can do in the library over the summer (and all the time).

The four classes that visited the library came to the library knowing about books and dvds and music, but they left knowing they can use a 3D printer, play video games, volunteer, borrow an iPad, and play Minecraft. Mission accomplished: 107 minds blown. I know this is a little weird, and a lot of other librarians and human adults in general will not believe me, but, I like middle school aged teens. They are so cool. They have so much potential for enthusiasm without being too weighed down with the politics of student social hierarchies.

They also really loved the idea of earning badges by participating in our summer reading program. More on that later…

Review of Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross

by Kady Cross

And here we go with the third book in the Steampunk Chronicles, The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross. Not too long ago I read the first two books in this series and reviewed them. This one I received as an advance reader copy from the publisher.

Description from Goodreads:

When mechanical genius Emily is kidnapped by rogue automatons, Finley Jayne and her fellow misfits fear the worst. What’s left of their archenemy, The Machinist, hungers to be resurrected, and Emily must transplant his consciousness into one of his automatons—or forfeit her friends’ lives.

With Griffin being mysteriously tormented by the Aether, the young duke’s sanity is close to the breaking point. Seeking help, Finley turns to Jack Dandy, but trusting the master criminal is as dangerous as controlling her dark side. When Jack kisses her, Finley must finally confront her true feelings for him…and for Griffin.

Meanwhile, Sam is searching everywhere for Emily, from Whitechapel’s desolate alleyways to Mayfair’s elegant mansions. He would walk into hell for her, but the choice she must make will test them more than they could imagine.

To save those she cares about, Emily must confront The Machinist’s ultimate creation—an automaton more human than machine. And if she’s to have any chance at triumphing, she must summon a strength even she doesn’t know she has….

When reading the first two books in this series, I did a lot of ignoring the weird way the characters just seemed to take for granted the unusual things that happened around them and the baseless trust they showed in near strangers. The fast pace of the story and the intriguing plot do a lot to make up for the shallow characters, and the same is true in this book. Cross is an excellent storyteller, knowing just the right time and place to leave suspense and build tension. I might personally have been a little happier with a little less time devoted to the characters’ inner romantic turmoil, but I do see how the romantic developments helped drive the story along. I’m still not completely over the moon about the Steampunk Chronicles, but I will continue to read them just to find out what happens next.

Review of Mortality by Kellie Sheridan

Mortality, by Kellie Sheridan, is the first book in a proposed series titled The Hitchhiker Strain.

MortalityDescription from the publisher:

After surviving a deadly plague outbreak, sixteen-year-old Savannah thought she had lived through the very worst of human history. There was no way to know that the miracle vaccine would put everyone at risk for a fate worse than un-death.

Now, two very different kinds of infected walk the Earth, intent on nothing but feeding and destroying what little remains of civilization. When the inoculated are bitten, infection means watching on in silent horror as self-control disappears and the idea of feasting on loved ones becomes increasingly hard to ignore.

Starving and forced to live inside of the abandoned high school, all Savannah wants is the chance to fight back. When a strange boy arrives with a plan to set everything right, she gets her chance. Meeting Cole changes everything. Mere survival will never be enough.

I enjoyed this book. It is the first zombie book I have read in a while and I really enjoyed the new perspective it gave. In this book, zombies were caused by a virus. The government then rushed through a vaccine against the virus that made things worse. The original zombies are reanimated corpses walking around, decaying, and eating anything. The second generation Zs were never dead, they are vaccinated people who became infected but now attack and eat other living things. Since they aren’t dead rotting corpses, they are a lot stronger and faster. So… you’ve got your slow shuffling traditional zombies and the super scary fast ones (I dunno about you, but horror movies with fast zombies are so much scarier!).

This book tells two stories concurrently which finally converge in the end. The two protagonists are Savannah and Zarah. I won’t tell you any more about them because that would be spoiling the fun. One thing I will say is that I really enjoyed how Sheridan added a new dimension to her zombie book by giving the zombie perspective (no, I haven’t read or seen Warm Bodies though I will eventually do both). I thought it was refreshing and added a new scope to the zombie apocalypse storyline.

Review of The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite is the second book in the Selection trilogy by Kiera Cass. It continues right where the first book left off. Of the 36 girls who were originally part of the selection, there are now only six remaining.

Description from Goodreads:

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

While I wasn’t sure I would like this series, since it seemed to me like a weird cross between reality TV, dystopia, and fairy tale, I actually ended up really enjoying the first book, The Selection. It had all of the things that turn me off of reality TV, but I found myself not minding so much as the story progressed. In the first book you have America, a reluctant participant in a competition to become the next queen of Illea who is only playing along so she doesn’t have to go home (for many reasons including a broken heart). As you learn more about the prince and the other girls in the selection, you start to recognize the usual tropes of “females in a competition to win a boy’s heart,” including the Bitch, the Quiet One, the Sweet One, and the Normal One.

Going into The Elite I was hoping that there would be more action involving America’s own private selection (Maxon or Aspen) and more plot twists with the other girls, I wasn’t  disappointed but I wasn’t satisfied either. In fact, it was America herself who let me down. In The Selection she seemed to have a much better handle on her own feelings than she displayed in The Elite. She kept deciding one way and then changing her mind a chapter later. She had extreme reactions to some minor occurrences which made her mood swings more apparent. The main event where America completely (and with reason) flips out, she shows a complete lack of sympathy to the prince afterwards which is out of character. When this is resolved in the end of the book, I feel like the author was just giving her readers a pacifier for having so cruelly abused her characters.

I think The Elite is probably just suffering from middle-book-in-a-trilogy syndrome and the third book, The One, will be all that I hope it will be.

If you read and liked the first book, I would still recommend that you continue on and read this one. I am still emotionally invested in the characters and I want it all to turn out all right in the end.