Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Report Monday: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Title: Allegiant (Divergent #3)

Author: Veronica Roth

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Synopsis: One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

(from Goodreads)

My Faction(s): When I first read Divergent, I knew immediately that my friend, Liz, would be in Amity. When she finally read it, she agreed. She'd be dressed in red and yellow, farming and hugging everyone but she asked me where I would be. Given my nerdy passions and love for tattoos it was a draw. At 16, I dreamed of rebelling though I didn't have much to rebel against so I put pink highlights in my hair and tried to look tough or tortured, but usually ended up smiling and ruining the whole thing. 

Since the choosing ceremony is for teenagers, I would have chosen Dauntless. And I probably would have been terrified the whole time. If I had to choose today, I'd go with the Erudite instead. I still feel the pull of the Dauntless crowd, but guarding the fences doesn't appeal to me as a long term occupation. I just want to wear their clothes and keep my tattoos, maybe get some more. Can't I have tattoos and read books all day?

Of course, the point is that one aspect of our personality, no matter how strongly it influences us, is not all we are. No one can be a perfect fit in any faction. I may like the Dauntless style, but I have no desire to throw knives or to be involved in violence. Even my makeup is cruelty free. Similarly, my friend may have been be the poster child of Amity, but she'd object to the use of Peace Serum. Drugging people to accept the peaceful way of life is harm, albeit a nonviolent sort of harm. 

My Spoiler-Free Review: Overall, I liked Allegiant more than Insurgent. The final installment in the series is told from dual perspectives. The chapters flipping between Tris and Tobias. Tobias is an intriguing character with a dark past, impressive determination to overcome his four fears, and I was interested to see what his view would be like. 

After the big reveal at the end of Insurgent, there's plenty of anticipation to see how the information will be handled within the city. The world they've always known full of factions and rules of behavior defined by your faction has been dismantled, the world outside the fence is a mystery. 

Unlike the Hunger Games and other YA Dystopian stories, which leave many questions unanswered about how the world got to be split into Districts, Allegiant covers the history of Tris's world. In the Hunger Games, the cause of the changes between our world and Katniss's remained open to your imagination. I thought it worked because it didn't matter why there are districts or why the population is so much smaller than ours. It could happen, that was all that mattered. es to leave it unanswered. In the same way, it also makes sense for Allegiant to explain what happened as it affects Tris and her story.

Recommendation: Fans of The Hunger Games would probably enjoy this series.

For Next Week: Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Friday, October 25, 2013

Boston Book Festival 2013

Saturday was the Fifth Boston Book Festival in Copley Square. I went to hear the YA: Legends Revisited talk featuring Maggie Stiefvater, Nancy Werlin, Shelly Dickinson Carr, and Marisa Meyer. I haven't read anything by Carr or Meyer yet, though Meyer's Cinder has been on my to read list for a while and after hearing about Carr's take on Jack the Ripper in Ripped, I can't wait to pick it up. I've reviewed Stiefvater and Werlin's books on this blog. The talk focused on using pre-existing stories, myths, fairy tales, and historic events in their writing. It was right up my alley! Also, it was conveniently located near my office.

I felt a familiar sense of validation in hearing successful authors discuss their writing methods. 

"Hey, they do some things like I do. Maybe I am really a writer." 

Okay, maybe I let go of the doubt about whether or not I'm a "real writer" a while ago. Thank goodness! Still it's nice to know these women have had success and their processes are not all that different from mine. They also got me thinking about some things that could become blog topics in the future. Thanks ladies!

There were a lot of panels and readings, though I only attended that one. Outside they had booths set up for local publishers, self publishing companies, magazines, schools featuring MFA programs, and pretty much anything related to books, literature or reading. It was a gorgeous day and I was totally in the zone.

Check out the swag I snagged: a copy of Writer magazine, a SciFi Story Anthology, and a free ticket to the Boston Book Fair in November.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Report Monday: The Voyage Out

Title: The Voyage Out

Author: Virginia Woolf

Genre: Literary Fiction

Synopsis: Woolf’s first novel is a haunting book, full of light and shadow. It takes Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose and their niece, Rachel, on a sea voyage from London to a resort on the South american coast. 

“It is a strange, tragic, inspired book whose scene is a South americanca not found on any map and reached by a boat which would not float on any sea, an americanca whose spiritual boundaries touch Xanadu and Atlantis” (E. M. Forster). 

(From Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: I have a collection of her novels and short stories on my nook and I intend to make my way through them all eventually. The Voyage Out was first.

Favorite Line: "Did love begin that way, with the wish to go on talking?”

My Review: After living a sheltered life with her Aunts in England and occasionally on board her father's ships, Rachel Vinrace journeys to South America with her Aunt and Uncle. At twenty-four she's in danger of becoming an old maid and every man she meets is evaluated as a potential husband. 

While still on the ship Rachel is kissed by an excited Mr. Dalloway. At first she's excited believing, "something wonderful had happened" and feels that all the possibilities are laid out before her for the first time. But later the memory of the passion disturbs her and causes nightmares of barbarian men hunting for her. It's not clear to me whether it was guilt for given herself over the the baser instincts which women should not do or from anxiety the physical intimacy of her future which she seems to only just realize. 

Afterwards Rachel continues to approach the idea of love and marriage without much passion or thrill. Once she has a suitor, she considers marriage and decides it is not for love, but so the couple can renounce the real world and essentially hide in their marriage. 

It's worth noting that Woolf's first novel, The Voyage Out, has much less stream of consciousness narratives and dream-states which she is known for in her later works. So if you've ever read a novel of her's and that frustrated you, you might enjoy this one.

Recommendation: If you liked To the Lighthouse, you should like this too. There are a lot of parallels. 

For Next Week: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Monday, October 14, 2013

Book Report Monday: The Raven Boys

Title: The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle #1)

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: "There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

(from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it  up?: I liked the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy and this was available as an audio book at the library. It was a good length for my drive to and from Boston while I was apartment hunting.

Favorite Lines: “The journal and Gansey were clearly long acquainted, and he wanted her to know. This is me. The real me.”

“How do you feel about helicopters?"
There was a long pause. "How do you mean? Ethically?"
"As a mode of transportation."
"Faster than camels, but less sustainable.”

A Quick Review: I was surprised by how much I liked this book. Not that I had any negative expectations. I had enjoyed her Wolves of Mercy Falls series and The Raven Boys sounded interesting, but I was unexpectedly caught in the clutches of the story. I love when that happens, which is why it's getting ridiculous that I haven't picked up the sequel which just came out in September. I'm sure I will soon, I'm just trying to put a dent in the stack of books waiting to be read on my desk.

Despite the prophecy about Blue's true love in the synopsis,she is not love-obsessed. In fact, Blue tries to stay away from any temptation that she fears could lead to love as she doesn't want to be the cause of anyone's death. A lot of characters, particularly teenage ones, would be intrigued and eager to find love more so because of the danger involved. The prophecy is mentioned throughout the story and as you might expect weighs heavily on Blue's shoulders. I think her decision early on in life-to never fall in love and therefore never be  the cause of her loved one's demise-leaves her free to be more practical about romance and the Aglionby boys, who she joins forces with.

I loved how the story moved between characters and I particularly loved Gansey's voice. His passion for his quest is contagious not only for other characters but for the reader. I was rooting for him the whole time. The quest, which involves finding the tomb of an ancient king requires magic, science, a wealth of historical knowledge and it seems a decent amount of luck. Gansey's approach to the mystery is methodical and not nearly as crazed as he may seem to others who heard about his plans. He breaks the stereotype of the rich, white, prep school guy and earns your respect for being a solid human being, a loyal friend, and an interesting character. I still don't know what he's all about, but I'm eager to find out.

Recommendation: YA Fantasy fans. Fans of Beautiful Creatures will probably enjoy this.

For Next Week: The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf

Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Report Monday: Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Perfect Ruin (Internment Chronicles #1)

Author: Lauren DeStefano

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Synopsis: On Internment, the floating island in the clouds where 15-year-old Morgan Stockhour lives, getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though Morgan's older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. She tries her best not to mind that her life is orderly and boring, and if she ever wonders about the ground, and why it is forbidden, she takes solace in best friend Pen and her betrothed, Basil.

Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially when she meets Judas. He is the boy being blamed for the murder — betrothed to the victim — but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart of Internment, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find — or who she will lose.
(from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: I enjoyed Lauren DeStefano's Chemical Garden Trilogy. And her cats are pretty adorbs.

Favorite Lines: "For a moment I envy his blindness. I want to curl up in that darkness and have the city disappear around me. I want to be in a place where awful things are never seen and never known, and there's only the whir of the transcriber as the paper fills with fiction."

"He says there's nothing wrong with me, but it's entirely possible he hasn't been paying enough attention."

"I want the world that was promised to us when we were small. Uncomplicated and nonviolent."

My Review: Perfect Ruin is even better than The Chemical Garden trilogy and I really liked that series. I fell in love with DeStefano's short but profound and often lyrical sentences. Many of her passages remind me of Alice Hoffman, but that may be because of the way they make me feel, almost weightless like I'm not even aware that I'm on the couch or the train while reading them. Perfect Ruin retains that quality, but both the story and characters are noticeably more complex. It's not that I found Wither to be full of simple characters or to have a weak story. It's kind of like, when you didn't realize you were hungry until you took your first bite. I thought her other books had given me plenty, but then she gave me more. (I hope you know what I mean, otherwise someone is bound to have me classified as irrational.) Most writers continue to improve as they hone their skills more with each project. And Lauren DeStefano has obviously been honing.

Morgan Stockhour is loyal and trustworthy, the kind of character you can support right away. Still, at times she's awkwardly fifteen, she's independent despite being betrothed since birth, she's generally happy despite being shunned by most of her classmates because of her brother's actions years before.

One thing I really liked about her was her awareness. Morgan's convinced there's something wrong with her but also she seems to know there's something wrong with Internment. I read a lot of YA and a decent amount of that is Dystopian and it's a common theme for the main character to be totally shocked that the ruling body might be wrong. Morgan isn't an angst-filled rebel on page one and she is shocked by the murder, but she's smart and observant. She knows everything isn't as perfect as it seems and that there are things you don't say, because the people in charge would punish you for saying them and she seems to know to be wary of them.

Another refreshing change is the lack of romance as a theme. There is some, as I said, Morgan is betrothed. Her relationship with Basil is well developed and really sweet. They're best friends who grew up knowing they'd be married one day. And while they have some adorable moments, this story isn't a love story. I don't have anything against YA Romance but it's nice to read YA with less of a romantic focus.

As someone who strives to be earth conscious, I had a lot of questions about life on a floating city. With limited resources, no substantial bodies of water, and I imagine some kind of weight restriction to prevent the whole city from just sinking to the ground, they obviously can't have waste piling up. I was happy to learn about those pieces of life on Internment throughout the story. That might just be because I'm green and nerdy about it, but I was happy to have my questions all answered.

Recommendation: If you liked her last series, I'm sure you'll love Perfect Ruin. Also anyone who liked the Matched series by Ally Condie, is waiting impatiently for Catching Fire to hit theaters or who appreciates beautifully crafted sentences.

For Next Week: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater