Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Club #2 - Matched and Blue Plate

My second book club meeting was for the book Matched by Ally Condie.

After my first book club experience I was looking forward to discussing a book I actually liked (rather than seriously hated). This book has been compared to the Hunger Games - one of my all time favorite series. And I should have known - because I've done this before - that going into a book with high expectations is a mistake.

A side note: After seeing a tweet by the ever amazing Nina Badzin I'm going to try to be fair but not mean in my reviews. I don't think I mentioned this in the first post but if you're a writer, an aspiring writer, or dream of being a writer you really should follow Nina on twitter and subscribe to her blog.
On to the review. I don't know if it's because I read this with the thought that I will be discussing it for a book club in the back of my mind or if it really just wasn't up to my expectations but I felt extra critical of this book. Matched was slow. Very very slow. When I read a book I want to connect with my heroine and for the first 300 (out of 400) pages Cassia is dull; void of personality and character. I think a good author can build up the back story at the same time as she moves the plot along. IE I don't want 300 pages of back story and explanations. I found myself being easily distracted and having to go back and re-read paragraphs because while my eyes saw the words my mind didn't register the meaning. It just wasn't keeping my attention.

My second problem is that I don't consider myself well read. Yes I read a lot but I read a lot of fluff. And one of my literary pet peeves is when authors extensively use quotes and poetry that I recognize. There are so many amazing poems out there to choose from that when I see one in a book that I recognize I think the author was not motivated enough to search from something unknown and they took the easy way out. This stems from the fact that I don't usually recognize poetry quotes because of the actual poem but because they are quoted so often by others. Condie bases a large chunk of Matched on Dylan Thomas' Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night. Who doesn't recognize the words "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Thirdly, I think Condie just tried too hard. She has a habit of repeating a sentence twice. She would take Cassia's thoughts and try to turn them into poetry. I understand she wants Cassia to be a poet and passionate but it felt forced - particularly during those first 300 pages when Cassia had no passion or personality.

But this reviwe is not all bad. After the first 300 pages Condie had me falling in love with Cassia and Ky, and even Xander and her parents. Finally everyone had fire and passion and emotions that I can connect with. I admit to crying on Trax and almost missing my stop because I was so into the story. If only she could have written like that from page 1 or even page 100. And that's where I feel like this book falls short of Tanya's standard of literary greatness. I have high hopes for the next two books. Hopefully Condie can keep the momentum and fire alive and not revert to Society dullness.

The meeting itself was GREAT! I had my doubts after the first meeting which only lasted 45 minutes, had very little discussion, and terrible food. This time we met at Blue Plate. The family took me there after my confirmation earlier this year so I knew I liked it. I'm sorry the conversation was so good that I forgot pictures. I got the corned beef and hash with eggs. True to the waiter's words the corned beef is made in house with the breakfast potatoes as the hash. They add shredded cheader cheese - which is good but unnecessary and oily. Next time I'll get it with poached eggs sans cheese. The portion is huge and I'm excited to eat it for breakfast.

Next Tuesday we're meeting at Chapin Cafe and reading Room by Emma Donoghue. I plan to take notes as I read and write up a few questions that I hope encourage better discussions and analysis of the book. Why yes I am a nerd.

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

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