The June Roundup

June, June, June.  It is unarguably the busiest month of my year, every year.  Amidst a plethora of special events I somehow managed to  finish 25 books last month, bringing me two short of my year-long goal of reading 120 books.  I think I got so much reading done because of all the traveling we did!

IMG_20130606_200232

Beatriz Williams with Jess and I

We started the month off with a trip to my favorite bookstore (all together now….R.J. Julia!) to see the incandescent Beatriz Williams, author of Overseas and A Hundred Summers.   What a pleasant presentation we were treated to! Williams’ newest book, A Hundred Summers, takes place in Rhode Island during the Great New England Hurricane of 1938.  Seeing the before and after photos of the destruction caused by the storm was truly astounding.  Knowing how powerful Hurricane Sandy was this past fall, I was amazed that I could still be shocked at the extent of the damage attributed to water and wind.  Williams has some of the photos of the storm she shared with us posted on her website here.  I highly recommend checking them out.

IMG_20130608_135904

My delicious grilled artichoke and crème fraîche dipping sauce

Next up on the docket was a trip into NYC with my good friend Jen to see fellow staff blogger Adam!  Our adventure into the city took us to Eataly, where I promptly died from food pleasure.  Seriously, if you haven’t heard of Eataly please click the link above.  It’s an Italian foodie’s heaven.  After eating a ton of food we went for a walk through the city and wound up down on the High Line, a mile long park that was the site of the old New York Central Railroad that delivered goods to factories on the west side of NYC.  There were great views of the Hudson, as well as food vendors and plenty of benches to sit and take in the scenery.  We also threw in a trip to the Strand (my 2nd most favorite bookstore ever) where I picked up the entire Matched trilogy by Ally Condie.  (Staffer Sam’s review of the first book in the trilogy, Matched, sold me and I’ve been anxious to begin it ever since.)  Todd was also excited that we finally bought the second book in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park series.

IMG_20130615_155600

Todd and I on the bus for the wedding!

The next few weeks of the month flew by with a wedding for our good friends Greg and Ashley (CONGRATS GUYS!), our five-year college graduation, and our long-awaited Relay for Life event.  The wedding in Massachusetts was a ton of fun.  The bride’s aunt has a huge piece of property that they tented for the wedding.  Instead of a bar there was a boat filled with ice and drinks (SO awesome). They had all sorts of lawn games which created some great competition between the guests.  Not only was it a beautiful wedding, but it was so much fun seeing friends that we don’t see so often.  The wedding was a mini-reunion in itself and only increased my excitement for our college reunion the weekend following.

Unfortunately the time we were able to spend at reunion got cut short when our bathroom ceiling became a waterfall.  Apparently the tub in the apartment above us had a clogged pipe, as well as a rusted connection somewhere that led to our bathroom becoming a tropical rain forest.  5+ hours after the plumber arrived and figured out where the leak was coming from, we were left with a massive hole in our ceiling.  Needing to leave the hole open to make sure the leak was completely taken care, we were left with a cardboard covering across our ceiling.  Over the next two weeks the hole was patched, sanded, and repainted.  In the five years we’ve been in our building this is the first major problem we’ve ever had, so I can’t say I’m really upset about it.  Our maintenance staff was great and left me with nothing to do!

IMG_20130629_134023

Todd making liquid nitrogen ice cream!

The last weekend of the month held the event that I look forward to all year-long, Relay for Life.  I wrote a fairly extensive post about Relay last year and why the event means so much to me.  This year, the event meant more than ever.  My aunt, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2005, began receiving chemotherapy treatments this May.  I hope for a cure for cancer every year, but this year that hope for a cure is larger than ever.  The event as a total raised over $104,000 so far.  With our fiscal year closing August 31st we still have almost two more months to raise money.  I personally was able to raise just under $2,200 this year!  My team raised just under $3,300.  I couldn’t be happier with the efforts put forth by my team and the teams that make up the rest of the relay.  Todd got in on the day-of event fun this year and made liquid nitrogen ice cream for the kids.  To put it simply liquid nitrogen instantly freezes anything it touches.  So basically you mix cream, half & half, sugar, and chocolate syrup together, add in the liquid nitrogen, and viola! you have ice cream!  The event went over really well and it helped cool the kids down on a super hot day.

On the bookish front I mentioned before that I finished 25 books.  That consisted of books from the following genres: crime, romance, new adult, historical fiction, young adult, erotica, and paranormal.  I really ran the gauntlet last month.  My top read of the month was definitely Making it Last by Ruthie Knox.  I’ve been looking forward to this book since it was announced.  When it popped up on Netgalley (as available to request) I did a massive SQUEEEEEEE and promptly requested it.  The wait for approval consisted of some of the darkest days of my life (this is of course an extreme over-exaggeration, but you get what I’m saying.)  I also discovered two series this month that while not new, are new to me.  Of course, I became obsessed and read all the books in both.  The first is Lydia Dare’s Regency Vampyre Trilogy and the second series is Marie Force’s Fatal series. Damn friends, I was HOOKED.  I’m going to start a “series spotlight” that will discuss all the new series I’ve been finding lately, and eventually I hope to get you guys as into them as I am.

Until next month…..happy reading!

Sam’s Review of Matched (Matched #1) by Ally Condie

matchedYou wake up in the morning and dress in the same outfit you wear every day. You come downstairs to find your family dressed identically, in a house identical to all of your neighbors. As you exchange good mornings, your breakfast arrives in a slot near your kitchen. Each meal has the name of the family member to whom it belongs. The calories have been counted carefully, the nutritional value balanced so that you may stay healthy, fit, and strong. After your meal you grab your pill container. It’s small, holding just three tiny pills.

Blue, you have been told, will help you survive for three days should you run out of food and water. Green helps calm you down if you are feeling anxious. Finally, Red, the mysterious final pill which no one seems to ever remember taking. It is rumored to bring death. But why would The Society want to do that?

With your pills safe at hand, you head out the door to an air train station where you meet all of your friends, with whom you head to school. Your classes are carefully prepared and planned, all containing the same curriculum: the 100’s. 100 poems, 100 songs, 100 paintings, 100 books. All have been pre-selected by the origins of society as the only works needed. As you work and play you are being watched. Always watched.

This is life for Cassia, a teen growing up in Oria under the restrictive rule of The Society, the ruling party in Ally Condie’s dystopic novel Matched.  Everything is decided for Cassia. Her every move is recorded by The Officials so that The Society might find her the perfect Match. The Matching Ceremony is the most important of all functions of The Society, as it makes the rest of one’s life possible.

For her matching ceremony Cassia wears a spring green dress and carries a valuable and prized possession, an artifact. It’s a silver compact that once belonged to her grandmother in the times before The Society. Such things are rare in Cassia’s world. Sameness is not only encouraged, but demanded. The Matching Ceremony is the only occasion where it is appropriate for citizens to dress elegantly, so Cassia’s bright green dress is in sharp contrast to her parent’s plain clothes.

The Matching Ceremony is truly a special occasion. Boys and girls from all over the country gather in halls fitted with large screens to await their match. The screens give the first glimpses of the person they are to spend the rest of their lives with. Once your match is revealed, you receive a micro card with all of the data you need to know about your match. Everything from physical appearance to favorite color. Then come the chaperoned digital meetings, carefully planned by The Officials, until finally, you meet in person. All of this excites Cassia as she nervously awaits her match.

As the screen pulls up the face of her match, she is shocked to see her very best friend Xander staring back at her. It is a statistical improbability to not only know your match, but to already be so close. After the shock, Cassia is happy that The Society has made such a perfect choice for her and she can hardly wait to get home and look at the micro card to see if there’s anything she doesn’t already know about her beloved friend. But as she puts his card into her computer port, a very odd and unexpected thing happens. The face of another boy, Ky, pops up on her screen. Ky Markham also lives in her town, and also attends school with Cassia. Could there be a mistake? Is Ky her match? Can the Society even make mistakes? And thus Cassia begins to do the very thing The Society never wants; she begins to question.

She seeks out Ky Markham, gets to know him, and finds out all she can about him. She realizes just how much they have in common, how happy she is when they are together, and how much she wishes that she had the power to choose.

In Matched ( the first book in the trilogy), Ally Condie sets up a world we all hope will never exist. A world where computers and data dictate our every move. A world where the illusion of free will is being passed off as the real thing. Together, Cassia, Ky, and Xander begin to question the world they have grown up in, in the hopes of finding others who are doing the same.

I really enjoyed the concept of this book. It is dystopia at its most extreme. As readers we are introduced to a world that seems to function perfectly on the surface. So long as the citizens never question, never wonder “what if,” it all proceeds smoothly. Once that seed of doubt is planted though, everything begins to unravel in an exciting way!

I also have to say, as a girly girl at heart, I was a complete sucker for the romance aspects. It was sweet, innocent, and completely heartwarming. If you’re interested in a healthy dose of teen romance with your dystopia, Matched is your book!  And if you’re anything like me you’ll be happy to know that there is no need to worry about waiting for the next two to come out! All three books (Book 2 is Crossed and book 3 is Reached) in the trilogy have been released.

5 out of 5 Stars

Matched by Ally Condie
Penguin Group (2011)
Paperback: 400 pages
ISBN: 9780142419779