“Divergent” by Veronica Roth

The cover does make me think Hunger Games.
The cover makes me think of Hunger Games.

As with Vampire Academy and Beautiful Creatures, it’s the movie that sparked my interest in this book. I enjoyed watching the protagonist, Beatrice “Tris” Prior, develop from a shy, reserved girl into a confident, fearless young woman. I was drawn to the slow progression of her relationship with Four and, of course, I loved it when Four (played by actor Theo James) ripped his shirt off to show Tris his tattoo (…well, he didn’t exactly rip his shirt off but in my mind he did). Wanting to know how similar the novel is to the movie, I decided to purchase the book to find out.

Quick summary (spoilers):

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, where all that remains are structural skeletons of our present society. The city is surrounded by a huge, electric fence that’s guarded by a security patrol. Something beyond the city threatens it and citizens are warned not to venture far beyond its limits.

Within this barricade is a society organized into five factions—Dauntless, for the brave; Erudite, for the intelligent; Candor, for the honest; Amity, for the harmonious; and Abnegation, for the selfless. Tris’ family belongs to Abnegation but Tris yearns to break from the restrictions of her faction. She doesn’t feel as if she fits in. Instead, she is attracted to the Dauntless and often wishes to run free with them but her loyalty to her family leaves her ashamed of such thoughts.

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“Eragon” by Christopher Paolini

EragonEach time we revisit a text, we approach it with a new perspective because we’re always changing. While some may see rereading as a waste of time, I enjoy revisiting texts to observe how much my views and enjoyment of it has changed. It’s highly unlikely that my reaction to the reread is the same as my initial read. My enjoyment of the text shifts either because I can better understand and appreciate the author’s craft and message; or because I am able to spot the faults in the story, which curdles my enjoyment. Sometimes my reaction to the text is altered by experiences that have changed my outlook on certain issues. Other times my involvement with people and other media influence me toward certain opinions that may affect how I interpret a story.

Since I reread A Game of Thrones a while back, I decided to reread Eragon as well. Actually, it was under the duress of being late for work that caused me to grab this book from my shelf. I did not have time to mull over a decision so I grabbed the first thing I thought would be pleasing. I enjoyed reading Eragon the first time so I’ll enjoy it as much this time, I thought.

Quick summary:

A fifteen-year-old boy name Eragon discovers a mysterious blue stone on one of his hunting trips into the forbidding mountains of the Spine. He carries it home to the farm where he lives with his uncle and cousin on the outskirts of a village, and tries to determine what type of stone it is. Stumped, he shows it to his uncle who determines that the stone must be of great value because of its peculiarity and decides they should trade it. However, because of the harsh conditions in the country (called Alagaesia) caused by urgal attacks, it’s impossible to trade the stone, which no one knows the value of.

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Best Friends to the End: “Vampire Academy” by Richelle Mead

The is the movie poster. I prefer it to the book covers.
The is the movie poster. I prefer it to the book covers.

Watching the movie before reading the book seems the best way to go. I first tested this theory with Beautiful Creatures. I enjoyed the movie so much that I forced myself through the first pages of the story to discover a book I enjoyed. Again, the theory proves true for Vampire Academy. The movie was entertaining and Zoey Deutch, who played Rose, was funny (after reading the book, I realized that she did a great job of capturing the character).

Quick summary:

Rosemarie “Rose” Hathaway and the princess, Vasilisa “Lissa” Dragomir, are best friends connected by a one-sided psychic bond that allows Rose to access Lissa’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences. They attend St. Vladimir’s Academy, a boarding school for vampires (moroi, the good vampires) and their guardians (dhampir, half-vampires that protect the moroi from strigoi, evil vampires). When the novel begins, Rose and Lissa have been on the run for two years. St. Vladimir’s is no longer a safe place for the princess so Rose, who proclaims herself Lissa’s guardian, hatched a plan to ditch school and seek protection in the wide, unknown world.

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“The Fault In Our Stars” by John Green

The Fault In Our Stars bookWhen my cousin told me he was reading The Fault In Our Stars I quickly copied him and did the same. I had avoided the book for a while though it’s blue cover beckoned at me from the shelves at Barnes & Noble. While I was curious to know what all the hype was about (it’s a bestseller and certain media outlets claim John Green knows what goes on in teenagers’ heads), I shied away from it because I was told the story is sad and I hate to cry (a silly reason). My cousin didn’t cry (so he says) but he enjoyed the story so I purchased the book.

Now, this is probably silly but I do love to smell and caress books. I guess that makes me a book-fondler or something. The Fault In Our Stars (TFIOS) has a smooth, thick jacket. I often rub and run my fingers across it while reading. My hands are sensitive to texture (which means I hate touching corduroy and velvet) so touching such a surface was all the more enjoyable. The pages are also thick, which I was a bit surprised to see since the paperbacks I’ve purchased are of a cheaper quality with thin leaves within that my highlighter sometimes bleed through. But TFIOS’s were of such great quality that I could easily cut myself on them. See, reading is dangerous. Anyways, on to the story.

TFIOS quote 3

I’ve tried many times to summarize this story but I’m unable to do so without falling short in some way. I think the best way to relay this story is to tell everything that happens. To simply state that it’s a story about a girl and a guy who both have cancer and falls in love but one dies is to fall short of the scope of it, the questions it raises, and the emotions it evokes. So instead of a summary (you can read one in one of the related articles below), I’ll jump right into my reflection.

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“The House of Hades” by Rick Riordan

Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore.
Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore.

And so we’re back with Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. This time, we’re racing along with the heroes, trying to get to the House of Hades in Greece to close the doors of death! Many obstacles stand in our way and things can go horribly wrong at any minute. Percy and Annabeth are stuck in Tartarus for the while, trying to navigate the underworld and stay alive as they plod on towards the doors of death. If they are not careful, they can be vanquished at any time by one of the numerous monsters that pop up all over the place since Tartarus is their turf.

Then there are the other demigods aboard Argo II. They all have their issues and insecurities and love interests. They’ve battled mountain giants/gods, weird-looking cow monsters, pesky dwarfs, and frigid opponents. Still, they always find the time to say how much they admire/love/care for each other, seeming to never get pissed off at each other’s fuck-ups while they continue on this stressful journey.

And then there’s Nico, off in a corner, lonely, tortured by unrequited love. Poor kid. Back in the states, the demigod camps are gearing up for battle because that’s what they do. They have nothing better to think about as Gaea threatens to end the world. Apparently, it’s better to eliminate each other now so Gaea can easily cross that task off her list.

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“The Hero and the Crown” by Robin McKinley

Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.
Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

It seems that once I read a novel by Robin McKinley, it remains forever imprinted in my mind, floating around in my memories, and tantalizing me at random moments with traces of the story. That is what drove me to re-read Spindle’s End and to discover The Blue Sword. I had forgotten the name of a tale about a girl with vivid red hair who defeated a dragon and mistook The Blue Sword to be the book I sought because of its cool title and obviously the girl would need a sword to defeat the dragon so why not a blue one. I passed over The Hero and the Crown, judging the book by its title and wrongly thinking that the great story I read years ago could not have had such a simple title.

Oh, to be deceived by simplicity.

If I had taken the time to read the blurb on the back cover or even to skim the first few pages, I would have found the book I was searching for. Nevertheless, finding The Blue Sword was a wonderful misdirection that took me on an absorbing read. The Hero and the Crown was just as great but I love The Blue Sword’s story more (though, The Hero and the Crown was a more enjoyable read. I just love the imagery in the story). This is interesting because when I first read The Hero and the Crown back in high school, I could not find another story that I loved more (except for Rowling’s Harry Potter and Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series). Now that I’ve read both books almost back-to-back, I can tell why the younger me loves The Hero and the Crown and the older me enjoys The Blue Sword.

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“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” by J.K. Rowling

The 2005 cover by Mary GrandPré. I still like it.
The 2005 cover by Mary GrandPré. I still like it.

I forgot what grade I was in when this book came out but I know I was in high school, probably a junior or senior. Harry Potter was such a craze back then that almost everyone would try to sneak a read in class, especially if the teacher had assigned a video for the class to watch. We would hold the book under the desk and attempt to read in the semi-darkness of the classroom. That’s exactly what the majority of my psychology class did. We were all reading as quickly as we could because it was rumored that someone important dies in this installment. But one day my psychology teacher got so frustrated with us reading and not paying attention to the lesson that he gave away the ending: “Look. Dumbledore dies now stop reading!”

“What?!” was my reply, “why Dumbledore?” Of all the people in the novel, why did Dumbledore have to die? This question pestered me when I first read the series. Back then I couldn’t grasp the meaning of Dumbledore’s death. I saw it as just another horrible occurrence in Harry’s life. Now that I’ve re-read the novel and seen the movies numerous times, I think I now know why Dumbledore had to die: he knew too much; to throw readers off; and he is a crutch.

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“The Woman Who Rides Like a Man” by Tamora Pierce

Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.
Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

A quick summary:

On her first adventure as a knight, Alanna and Coram visit the Great Southern Desert, where she runs into one of the Bazhir tribes called the Bloody Hawk. After a tense meeting, where she was shunned by the Bloody Hawk’s shaman, she and Coram are inducted into the tribe. They call her “Woman Who Rides Like a Man” since she goes unveiled, wear breeches, carry a sword, and literally rides a horse like a man. While residing with the tribe, Alanna and Faithful, her cat, are adopted by three children—Ishak, Kara, and Kourrem—, who were made outcasts of the village by the shaman because they have the Gift (magic). After the shaman dies due to his own stupidity, Alanna begins to train the three children to become shaman of the village.

Prince Jonathan and Myles also visit Alanna while she resides with the tribe. George sent his spies. After winning their acceptance, both Jonathan and Myles were inducted into the tribe. Myles uses the opportunity to adopt Alanna—both magically and legally—as his heir. Jonathan and Alanna rekindle their romance and there is talk of marriage, which leads Alanna to again ponder what it is that she wants. She yearns for adventure but she also loves Jonathan. However, committing to Jonathan carries responsibilities such as marriage and producing an heir for the kingdom as soon as possible. Still, she does enjoy George’s company. She hardly has much time to ponder this since she helps to train her young shamans as well as others who visit the Bloody Hawk, which marks the budding of a new school of magic. Also, she tends to the Voice of the Tribes, a spiritual figurehead, who is frail and sick. The main reason for Jonathan’s visit is to become the new Voice of the Tribes. It’s a controversial move since the Bazhir tribes and the king of Tortall are at odds but the Voice of the Tribes believes that by making the prince the Voice, the rift between the king and the tribes will mend.

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“In the Hand of the Goddess” by Tamora Pierce

Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.
Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce was a great read. I completed the books a couple weeks ago but I am behind on my posts. I decided to re-read the series because I wanted to once again experience reading a favorite book for the first time. Of course, this was a silly plan doomed to fail since I am no longer the person I was when I first read these books and, obviously, this is neither the first, second, or third time that I’m reading them. I first read Alanna’s story when I was a freshman in high school and her story resonated with me. Alanna is a headstrong girl who defies the ethics of her land by posing as a boy so she could become a knight. She does not allow her circumstances to dictate who she should be. She decides that for herself.

The younger me and the present me both admire this trait. Back then, it stood out to me because I was at the point in life where a child’s family begins to prep and prod her in the direction they believe it best for her to go. My family had great intentions and their prepping and prodding were positively beneficial but I wanted to decide for myself. Now, as I try to assimilate to adulthood, I still find it alluring because I realize that it takes a lot of guts to go against the norm and do something unexpected. It takes guts to chase your goals and not allow circumstances or anything, rather, to hinder you from attaining it. Therefore, it took guts for Alanna to continue with her plans to become a lady-knight at a time when such an idea was not easily accepted. She must really have madness in her family, as she often mutters whenever she does something crazy.

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“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Loved it. I am glad to have picked this up. It kept me totally engrossed to the point where I was walking around my house with my nose in the book. Charlie’s voice drew me in and made me curious about his life. But I wondered why he is so innocent for a teenage boy.

The story opens with a letter from Charlie to an unknown receiver that discusses his last year of middle school and the death of his close friend. It ends with Charlie mentioning that he is apprehensive about beginning high school. His first day of high school was actually not bad despite Charlie being attacked by a bully. But Charlie comes out on top by defeating his bully, using fight moves he learned from his older brother, and later crying about it. Charlie cries a lot.

Other than this, everyone at school simply passes by Charlie, not acknowledging him. He is a wallflower. Simply there, observing what’s around him but revealing none of what he knows. He sees many things – his sister getting hit by her boyfriend; the quarter-back of the football team kissing Patrick (Charlie’s friend); his father crying – and in all those situations he is asked to keep silent and he usually does. I guess it’s because he’s silent about so many things that he cries so much or maybe he is autistic, which many readers claim. The story never says if he is or not. The story simply lists symptoms – crying a lot, very smart, withdrawing into self and not interacting – and readers draw their own conclusions. Apparently, this is also due to a trauma experienced during Charlie’s childhood.

It’s hard to walk away from Charlie’s voice and his clear observations of the muddled lives around him. Charlie’s detachment from the events around him enables him to see things for what they are. Despite this, Charlie is unable to discern the muddled elements in his own situations. He was unable to tell that he was in a relationship or was even entering one with Mary Elizabeth. But that’s simply who Charlie is – there yet detached.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a great read and is now one of my favorites. I’m in love with the way it is written. It’s memorable. My only problem with it is that at fifteen years old, Charlie acts and thinks younger than his age. And he cries too much. Otherwise, great story.

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