Monday, January 23, 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent is a poor man's Hunger Games.

I considered just leaving the post at that but I'll elucidate a little bit...

The themes in Divergent are very similar to those in The Hunger Games. Divergent is not as good as The Hunger Games, but still a page turner. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but I would avoid social interaction to read the Hunger Games and I would not do that for it's all relative.

There is a second book, Insurgent, which will be released in May (and immediately delivered to my Kindle). I believe it's meant to be a trilogy.

Basic premise is that there was some sort of war that destroyed the US as we know it currently - this book is set in the future in what is currently Chicago. There's a fence surrounding the city - but who knows what's on the other side of the fence? Is it holding them in or holding something else out? What caused the war that got them to the place they're currently in? Society is divided into five factions - Dauntless (bravery), Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (niceness, for lack of a better word), Erudite (intelligence), and Candor (honesty). You are born into a faction but at age 16 you take an aptitude test that tells you what faction you are most suited to. You don't have to choose the faction that your aptitude test points towards - it's all up to you. If you choose to leave your family, you could potentially be saying goodbye to them forever - kind of a faux pas. Which is stronger - faction or blood? Once you choose your faction, you must undergo an initiation. If you fail to pass, you'll end up factionless, living on the margins of the city and of society itself.

There's unrest among the factions - why are things the way they are? Have they always been this way? Do they have to continue to be so?

Roth is clever and the story is very well written but it's definitely YA fiction. There's a moment you're waiting for almost as soon as the book begins, and in my opinion it takes way too long to get there. I doubt teenagers (the target audience) would agree with me, so probably a good move on Roth's part.

If you enjoyed The Hunger Games, you'll likely enjoy Divergent.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

UGH, yeah, I know...

Since I last posted...

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
yes. read this. amazing book. biography of a WWII vet/olympian named louis zamperini...but his life was (is) so exciting that it reads like a page-turning novel. have gifted this book multiple times since i read it. 

One Day by David Nicholls
meh. read it on the beach in san diego. was a great beach read, but i don't really know that i recommend it otherwise. it was made into a movie this summer - the one with anne hathaway. i never saw the movie, nor do i really intend to. the story was uninspired. the layout of the book (checking in with two characters every year for 40 years on the same date) was quite creative, but the story itself was not. 

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
True story of two young men who grew up within miles of each other in Baltimore, both named Wes Moore. One turned out to be a huge success (decorated military vet, White House advisor, author), the other ended up in jail again...and again...and again. They became unlikely friends and this book describes the two paths the young men took and the influences in their lives that caused them to end up where they did. Very interesting but maybe not interesting to those who don't live in Baltimore. 

The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Very good but not as good as the original in my opinion. Still great. Focuses more on Julia than on Quentin. If you're going to read one of the two, read the first. Don't read the second without reading the first. 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I decided to read this because I was hearing a lot about it and I needed something to get me back in the swing of reading as passionately as I had been in years past. It's the story of a mysterious traveling circus that shows up in the middle of the night with no warning and disappears in the same manner. There's a love story thrown in there, as well as an ongoing story of rivalry and revenge. There were points in the body of the text that really pulled the reader into the text - but the relative level of creativity in the end of the book versus the body was disappointing. I didn't get the big finish I expected. It was almost as if Morgenstern just said "Well...that'll do." 

Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling 
I had high hopes for this book after how much I enjoyed Tina Fey's book, but I should have remembered that Mindy Kaling (Kelly on the Office, also a writer on the Office) is not yet Tina Fey. She may never be Tina Fey, in fact. Maybe my expectations were too high. There were many funny moments, but overall I expected more. And it was disappointingly short as well. 

And finally - I reread the Hunger Games trilogy over the last few days. If you haven't read the Hunger Games trilogy yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? So. Good. Love. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bossypants by Tina Fey


I don't need to say anything else. Just read Bossypants.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Have you heard the song "Beautiful Disaster" by Kelly Clarkson?

That's how I'd describe the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. This relationship is detailed in a fictionalized account based on true events in the book The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I don't know that it really mattered to my enjoyment of the story that this was based on true events, or that it was about the Hemingways - I'm not a particular fan of Hemingway's work. Really I just picked it up because I'd heard good things and it was high on the bestsellers list.

I read a quote somewhere that said Ernest had said of Hadley after their marriage ended (sorry, but I don't count that as a spoiler given that it's widely known that Hemingway had 4 wives and Hadley was the first) something along the lines of wishing that he'd not lived long enough to love anyone other than her. I thought that was such a tragically romantic thing to say, so I had to find out what happened in their story. I think that's how I'd describe the whole book - tragically romantic. Melancholy. How else can a love story be when you know it's going to come to an end? I think I just wanted to find out how it happened.

The book is wonderfully written. It really sucks you in. It makes you feel wistful and nostalgic. It would be perfect to read on a rainy Sunday, but there haven't been many of those in Baltimore lately and I enjoyed it just the same :) McLain sketches the characters clearly and powerfully. It's not light reading, but it's not heavy either. It moves quickly, and it's not hard to understand. It's dramatic and engaging.

The thing is, for all the melancholy and the drama and the tragic romance, it's not a sad book per se. Maybe because I believe it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all - maybe that's the most accurate thing to say about Ernest and Hadley Hemingway as well as this book describing their relationship.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Room by Emma Donohue


Get a glass of wine. Actually, get a bottle of wine, pour some into a glass, and then drink the rest from the bottle. The amount reserved in the glass just allows you to say that you didn't drink an entire bottle of wine yourself.

Smart, no?

Anyway. Room. Dude this book is intense. I definitely would not have picked this book up had it not been a book club selection (yes, I'm in a book club, aren't you proud of me? I say you as if anyone reads this blog. My mom doesn't even read this blog).

Room is a story told from a 5 year old boy's perspective about his and his mother's life in captivity. The thing is - he has no idea they're being held captive. Room - the room they live in - is his whole world.

The book is fascinating - but fascinating in the way the life stories of serial killers are. It doesn't make you feel happy or fulfilled. It just makes you feel...horrified? Well, it made me feel horrified anyway. The rest of my book club really liked it. It's a quick read, but again, not a happy one. It is a story of hope, so there's that, at least.

I dunno, this post is useless so I'll try to wrap it up and be more direct and concise - the book is well written, and it's interesting. I respect the work, but I don't like it. I didn't enjoy it. Take from that what you will.

Keep in mind, I hate children. Would I listen to a 5 year old talk for the period of time it took me to read Room? Hell no. So maybe I was just really annoyed at having to listen to this story from his perspective. Definitely an option.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

I attended the Baltimore book thing on Saturday and got a bunch of books - the first I chose to read was The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. I mostly picked it up because it was made into a movie last year and I like to read books then see the movies and compare them - and I figured if the movie was as popular as it was, the story must be good.

It's a quick read - only 218 pages - so if you are looking for a short one, this could be your thing. But typically if you're looking for a short read, you're looking for something light - and this isn't a light story. This is the story of a relationship between a young man and an older woman - so not the typical May/December relationship. I appreciate that fact, the attempt to tell a different story. Maybe you could consider it a serious cougar story. Basically discusses the ramifications, the ripples throughout the young man's life of his relationship with the older woman. More far reaching than I would have thought. Interesting, well written, nostalgic and poetic.

Favorite quotes from the book posted on the other blog.

Oh, and I'm not even going to mention the fact that I haven't blogged in months. Whoops.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Hands down, this should be the next book you read.

Did you know that during the Holocaust, thousands of French Jewish citizens were rounded up by French (not German) authorities, held in a stadium for a few days in inhumane conditions, and then shipped to concentration camps? That the men were separated immediately from the women and children? That the children then were separated from their mothers? They weren't sent to be held until further notice, they were sent to be executed. No work camp...just death.

Me neither.

This book is interesting enough because it educates you about a subject that, in my opinion, has mostly been hidden from public knowledge in the past. Sure, materials about it exist (See Wikipedia page here) but, much like the Armenian Holocaust, it's not something most people learn about in school. Heck, maybe it was just the schools I went to, but no one I've talked to knew anything about this particular event. Just quite interesting to me, the events from the past that get sort of glazed over in favor of exploring other horrors.

Anyway, the book is fiction, so it's definitely not an entirely accurate historical account, but as I understand it it sticks to the facts as much as possible. It's told from two points of view - one of a little girl named Sarah who is part of the roundup in 1942, and one of a female journalist in present day who discovers Sarah's particularly tragic story.

Honestly the best book I've read in a while.