Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Bingo: Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth is the first in a trilogy. The series is set in a dystopian future of Chicago, where five factions co-exist: Abnegation (which values selflessness above all else), Amity (which values peace), Candor (which values honesty), Dauntless (which values courage), and Erudite (which values intelligence). Divergent is told from the point-of-view of Tris (or Beatrice) Prior, a sixteen-year-old girl from Abnegation who chooses to switch to Dauntless.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
MTI cover)

A movie version of this book came out in theatres on Friday. I read a copy with the cover from the movie, but the original was pretty, too. I actually prefer the latter, but I almost always prefer original covers to movie covers. Each one seems to better indicate the true meaning of its book.

(picture taken from Goodreads;
original cover)

Conclusion: Roth's writing style is not my favorite. It reminded me of Meyer's Twilight, although the story isn't even vaguely similar to that vampire and werewolf fantasy creation. The explanation of this reminder lies in Roth's use of simple words and concise (rather than flowy or poetic) sentences. Also, the premise of the story seems a bit implausible in a realistic future. I'm not sure one or two generations is enough to breed almost a city's worth of people who are physically able to block out all other values for the dominance of one value in their lives, even if each person chooses that value for his or herself. Beyond the genetic side of it, I could see this happening. People would dedicate themselves to a world like this in order to avoid war, I think. My final complaint is that the story starts out really slow. Taking into account that Roth uses the beginning to introduce the reader to the world of Divergent, however, and that the slower pace gives the reader a chance to get comfortable before Beatrice chooses her faction, I can accept it.

Complaints aside, I enjoyed this book. After Tris chooses to be Dauntless, the pace picks up very quickly. I was forced to mourn in less than a moment the loss of a character's life or at least a character's purpose in life, and this motioned a definite shift in my reactions to events later in the book. I didn't really understand Tris's developing relationship with Four, but I still enjoyed it. This whole book is sort of like a roller coaster I just had to ride to the end before I could really think about it. And I think that's how it should be. After a lot of pondering, the book seems best viewed as an action and romance story rather than an intellectual one. I would recommend it if you want a quick, action-packed read, or if you prefer to read a book before seeing the movie (like me!). I'll probably read the next one in the series to see where it goes, although I'm wary from the responses I've heard at the bookstore lately. I guess I'll find out for myself!

Post-Movie Update: The movie, even more so than the book, is bent toward the action rather than the psychological side of things. I pretty much expected this, since it's harder for the actors to portray inner conflict. There were a few things cut-out or changed a bit, but most of it was done seamlessly, combining two events to save time or something of that sort. There were only three, fairly minor things that really bothered me about the Divergent movie: 1) Four is supposed to be somewhat impaired by his fears, but the movie portrays them as a much more minor part of his life; 2) Tris's fear landscape becomes a forceful, almost violent intimate situation rather than just an awkward situation where she's not ready for "follow-through," which gives the impression that her fear is Four rather than intimacy (which is her actual fear), and lots of people are watching her landscape instead of just the Dauntless leaders; and 3) toward the end of the book, Tris faces down an individual for Four, but they completely left it out of the movie. The third item doesn't play a huge role in the chain of events, but it serves as a great synopsis of Tris's and Four's relationship. Even though she's not as physically strong as Four is, Tris is supposed to be very strong of will, and she supports him when his fears are too strong. Maybe since they downplayed his fears in the movie, they didn't find this part necessary, but it was one of my favorite moments in the book. Anyway, since the book and movie were strong in the action department, it was easier for me to enjoy the movie without as many complaints as I might usually have. I went to see it with a couple of friends, and it's a good movie for that.

This book was my first "TBR Pile" choice for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. I have so many books I've been meaning to read, there won't be a lack of choices to check-off this box! Let me know what you've been reading lately or what you think of this very popular series?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Bingo: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is the first book in a series called The Grisha. I believe this is also Bardugo's first published novel, but I might be wrong on that account. In the book, a wide, cross-country strip of land (the Shadow Fold) in Ravka is enveloped in darkness and plagued by dark demonic creatures that can fly and will eat any humans who try to cross their domain. Every once in a while, units from the First Army (the king's army) and the Grisha (a group of individuals who have magical affinities with nature--controlling the direction and force of the wind, for instance, or cutting someone's skin with a motion in the air) need to cross the Fold for supplies and special training. As a member of the First Army, Alina (an orphan and a cartographer's assistant) is required to make this journey with her group in order to complete her training. But after an unexpected light show while crossing the Fold, Alina has the Darkling (leader of the Grisha), Mal (her best friend), and everyone else questioning if she is meant to be much more than a cartographer--she might be their salvation.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

Conclusion: Bardugo certainly knows how to keep me reading! I sped through this book like crazy, completely fascinated even by the parts I didn't enjoy. Although there isn't anything really extraordinary about Alina personality-wise, I was able to connect with her character and feel sympathy, excitement, and horror as the occasions called for them. Mal and the Darkling are such great characters! Even when I "got to know them," they still surprised me and kept me intrigued. I loved that instead of sticking with the usual ideas of setting and magical powers, she looked to Russian folk tales for inspiration. (Little disclaimer: I have read some reviews that said the readers did not feel as though Bardugo had done enough research on Russian traditions to write this book. I know almost nothing about this topic, so until I get a chance to brush up on my own reading of Russian folk tales, I am judging the book from an outside view.) Bardugo really drew me in and made me feel part of Alina's world. I'll definitely be reading the second book in this series, Siege and Storm.

I picked this up because it has been nominated for the Truman Award (one of four MASL awards) for the 2014/15 school year. There are lots of awards that we tell people about at my work (of course--it's a bookstore), but the Mark Twain Award and the Truman Award are the most important ones at the store, since they garner the most attention from students, parents, and teachers. You might remember my review of The Eleventh Plague last year, which was one of the nominees in the last batch. One of my goals for this year is to read more of these award nominees, so I'll probably mention them in other reviews from time to time.

This book is my third "Series" selection for the 2014 Book Bingo Challenge. I'm making such fast progress, you guys; I think I'm gonna' have to up my game! Speaking of which, my son has been sick (hence the lack of recent reviews). Sorry I haven't been around as much, but I have been reading a lot, so hopefully my reviews will pick-up soon. I'd love to hear what you all think about this book and anything else you're reading! Leave me comments and links! I'll see you next time!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Bingo: The Hostage Prince

The Hostage Prince is the first book in The Seelie Wars series by Jane Yolen and her son, Adam Stemple. I love Yolen's books for younger children (especially the How Do Dinosaurs... series), and I'm always fascinated by different authors' takes on the two fairy kingdoms. The story is focused on two main characters: the first, Snail, is a midwife's apprentice and the second, Aspen, is a Seelie prince held hostage in the Unseelie palace. For unrelated reasons, the two find themselves on the run together from the Unseelie kingdom. And thus begins our story!

(picture taken from Goodreads;
illustration by Antonio Javier Caparo;
design by Irene Vandervoort)

I found this interesting but not quite what I expected. I love that Snail and Aspen grow and mature so much on their unexpected trip together, and it was nice that Yolen and Stemple didn't bring romance into the picture. I have nothing against teen romance, but it's overdone and I think it's nice to see characters just be friends once in a while. There were some really creatively inspired ideas in The Hostage Prince, such as the shifting forest between the Seelie and Unseelie lands, as well as the chapters with the pregnant troll! This was an easy, fairly short read, written at the middle grade level. My biggest issue with this book is that it ends without accomplishing anything significant. I guess you could say that the main characters achieve their initial goal, but then another adventure begins and the book just...ends. It's a cliffhanger, and it's got me. I admit: I will read the second book to find out what happens. Traditionally, however, I prefer to read each book in a series both as part of that series and as an individual piece.

I read this as my second "Series" book for the Book Bingo Challenge! I hope you enjoyed this review! Don't forget to subscribe and check back for more great challenge picks!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Blind Date Raincheck

I know I mentioned a very exciting program going on at my local library called "Blind Date with a Book," but it didn't work out for me. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the book; I didn't have time to finish it! The one I ended up with was Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robuck:

(picture taken from Goodread)

I've had this book on my TBR list for a little bit, so I was excited to unwrap it. They had a requirement for me to finish the book by the end of February to review it, but there was another hold on it when my two weeks were up, so I wasn't able to renew it and finish. Anyway, so far it's interesting, and maybe at some point I'll be able to finish it. I just wanted to give you guys a heads-up so you wouldn't be wondering what happened with my blind date plan.

Thanks for coming back to check out my blog! Stay tuned for new reviews on the way soon!