Divergent by Veronica Roth

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After about a week of reading an extremely dull and boring book (blah summer reading), I was eager to pick up something a little easier and more enjoyable to read. I’ve been wanting to read Divergent for awhile, and when I saw it on the bookshelf of my friend’s house the other day, I decided to finally give it a try.

Divergent is yet another dystopian young-adult novel, set in Chicago, Illinois. At this time, society is divided into five different factions based on personality: Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), and Abnegation (the selfless). Our main character, Beatrice (Tris) Prior belongs to Abnegation. On one day each year, every sixteen year-old takes an aptitude test to show which faction they are more suited to. When Tris’ results are inconclusive, she must decide whether to stay with her family or stay true to herself.

I really admired Tris. I thought she was a really great, relatable character. Despite her love for her family, she always struggles to stay true to who she really is, something I think everyone can relate to. She was strong, brave, smart, selfless… I think she could have been part of any faction. I also loved Four. I loved how mysterious he was and really enjoyed how Tris played off of his actions. To be honest, I loved everyone, even the villains. Of course they were evil, but they all had a lot of depth to their character.

As for the plot, I was a little on the fence. Overall, its a really interesting storyline. But I don’t think it was carried out as well as it could have been. I just wanted more the entire time. How did the factions get started? Are we going to learn more about others, like Candor or Amity? How did Janine evolve into such a ruthless person? I also thought the whole political attack on Abnegation was completely out of the blue and not very well touched upon. That part of the story was just scattered around the novel and when it really came up as a major part of the book, I was confused and a little thrown off. However, I did enjoy the fast-paced nature of the end. I just wished that it had taken off a little bit earlier.

All in all, Divergent was really entertaining. I’m probably going to read Insurgent within the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, it will answer some of my burning questions!

photo: http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1327873996l/8306857.jpg

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

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After many days and nights of turmoil, confusion, and chaos I have finally finished the much anticipated sequel of Discovery of Witches.

Shadow of Night picks up right where DofW left off (*SPOILERS* to those who have not read the first book). Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont (de Clermont? Roydon?) land in 16th century Elizabethan England and embark on their quest to find a teacher for Diana and uncover more information about the mysterious manuscript Ashmole 782. There, they meet up with many historical figures, such as the infamous members of the School of Night, and so many queens, emperors, and duchesses that I could not keep track of them.

I had super high expectations for this book, and I have to admit that they were not quite reached. For starters, the book is so LONG. And usually, I don’t mind long books. Sometimes I prefer long books so I never have to stop reading. But this was not only long, but dense and complex. Most of the time, I had no idea what was happening. Alchemy is a key element in the All Souls Trilogy, and I feel that Harkness expected us to know what they all meant, never really explaining the term or concept. The number of characters were overwhelming, despite the character index in the back. And finally, there were so many plot twists and secrets revealed that I couldn’t keep them straight! My head was always spinning and my mind was always reeling.

That being said, I was never bored. I always wanted to keep reading, even though my head was hurting. The only dull part was at the beginning. It took awhile to get into, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. You were just immediately thrown into the plot at the beginning with not even a brief recap, so it took me several chapters to remember anything from the previous novel. I HIGHLY recommend rereading the first one for a refresher before picking of SofN.

Of course, I loved the characters. Matthew is so charming and sweet and protective of Diana. I can’t wait to see who plays him in the upcoming movie adaptation. He better live up to my expectations. And Diana is so admirable. Unlike Bella of Twilight, Diana Bishop can actually fend for herself. She’s strong, smart, and determined – someone you can look up to. I also enjoyed most of the other smaller characters – Pierre, Jack, Mary, George, Walter, Henry, Thomas, Goody Alsop, Phillipe… the list goes on and on.

Overall, Shadow of Night was a fairly good follow-up to a great novel. I prefer Discovery of Witches, mainly because it was a lot less confusing. I think SofN is just really setting up for the last installment, which is probably going to be extremely epic and amazing. Mark my words.

photo: http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320604137l/11559200.jpg

Update!!

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I have finally finished Shadow of Night!!!!! Ten points for Gryffindor!!!

No but actually it was a super long book. Anyways, you can definitely expect a post on that either tomorrow or the next day!

Second, since I have about a month left until school begins again and still many many many books left to read so the Summer Book Bucket List will either turn into my School Year Bucket List or my Summer Book Bucket List of 2013. Who knows?

Finally, can we talk about A Very Potter 3D: A Very Potter Senior Year???? If I had a genie I would wish to go to LeakyCon to watch it. I’m literally obsessed with A Very Potter Musical and the sequel. I’m just obsessed with anything Harry Potter!!

So, to conclude, my review on Shadow of Night will be up this weekend, my deadline for my books will have to be extended, and Darren Criss, Joe Walker, Lauren Lopez, and all other StarKid actors rock.

 

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

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This book was definitely not what I was expecting. And I can’t quite yet decide if that’s a good or bad thing.

The Leftovers takes place after an event known as “The Sudden Departure,” when millions of people disappeared randomly with no explanation. It takes place in a town called Mapleton, with five central characters: Kevin, Laurie, Jill, Tom, and Nora. These five people each go through different ordeals in coping with the “Departure”.

First, I want to talk about the characters. I actually really liked all of the characters. I enjoyed how each chapter was centered around a different character, giving his/her own account of how they are dealing with the disappearances of loved ones. I specifically liked Laurie’s story. Laurie joins a cult known as the Guilty Remnant, where everyone must take a vow of silence. She ends up training and befriending a new inductee named Meg. At the end, though, some weird turn of events happens that I thought was strange and a little bit confusing. I guess you really have to read the book to know what I’m talking about, but when you do, I think you will be as confused as I was.

Second, the writing. Tom Perrotta is an excellent writer. While the story could be a little humdrum at times, his style of writing somehow kept me engaged. It’s simple, allowing the story to go by quickly. Even though its simple, you can still sense the heaviness of the plot.

Oh, the plot. It must have taken Perrotta a long time to devise all the cults and followings in the book that form after the “Departure.” It made me wonder if I would join any of the groups if that had happened in real life. And like before, I liked how each chapter was a different character. It kept the story moving quickly when it got a little monotonous. However, I felt that the story took too long to reach its most exciting point. By the time it reached the climax, I was bored and uninterested. But I have to say, I loved the very end. I loved how its open to interpretation and doesn’t really give a definite ending.

But there was something missing from The Leftovers. I thought it was kind of strange that the characters didn’t focus more on why everyone left. If I were a citizen of Mapleton, I wouldn’t be spending my time grieving the loss of others, but wondering where on Earth they went! I guess I was expecting it to be a little more science-fiction. But despite this, I thought The Leftovers was an overall well-done, insightful story.

photo: http://www-deadline-com.vimg.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/The-Leftovers-by-Tom-Perrotta__120628071341-275×416.jpg

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

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I’ve been seeing reviews for The Age of Miracles in every magazine that I’ve read recently. It’s gotten fantastic reviews from all different critics, and I just want to say, that it lived up to its expectations.

The Age of Miracles is narrated from the point of view of Julia, an eleven year old girl, as the Earth’s rotation suddenly begins to slow down. As wildfires and erratic weather occurs, Julia still struggles with the normal troubles of a soon-to-be teenage girl.

This is my second end-of-the-world book I’ve read this summer, along with The Road by Cormac McCarthy. But I can’t compare the two because they are so vastly different. For starters, in TAOM, the world hasn’t really ended yet. And it’s also not as dark as The Road. 

I loved Julia’s character. Her emotions and pains of being a young girl are so relatable that you can’t help but feel attached to her. Her loneliness and being rejected by her friends reminded me of myself when I was her age. I also liked Walker’s choice to have a child narrate the story rather than an adult. With Julia narrating, it was more than just a science-fiction novel; it was also a story about coming-of-age.

Walker’s writing was fantastic as well. She did a great job clearly expressing what the world was like after the slowing of the Earth. I was worried at first that I wouldn’t be able to comprehend what it would be like to have 72-hour days, but with her clear descriptions and the voice of Julia, understanding the harsh conditions on Earth were a little bit easier.

Finally, the plot was extremely well done. It was a perfect blend of sci-fi and coming-of-age. I was never bored or weary of the story. I was always wanting to know what would happen next. It made me think about what would happen if the Earth really did slow down its rotation.

I honestly don’t really have anything bad to say about it. I know that the film rights have already been sold or optioned or whatever, and I can’t wait until it is complete. It’s the perfect summer read that is also enjoyable in the fall, winter, and spring.

photo: http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1322844130l/12401556.jpg

Coming Home: A Story of Undying Hope by Karen Kingsbury

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This book wasn’t on my original Summer Reading Bucket List. I added it because I knew I couldn’t wait to read it after the summer. I had read every single book in this huge faith-based series, and I was determined to read the final volume the day it was released.

It all started with the Redemption series. Five books told the stories of the members of the Baxter family, all of them more heart-breaking and depressing than the last. There are affairs, murders, drownings, terrorist attacks, cancer – you name it, the Baxters have overcome it. But I read the books not for the disasters, but for how this rock-solid family bounced back. Their faith in God is amazing and enviable. I know for a fact that this series has made my faith stronger.

Anyways, there’s also the Firstborn series, the Sunrise series, the Above the Line series, the Bailey Flanigan series, and finally, this last book, Coming Home: A Story of Undying Hope.

It tells of a Baxter family reunion for John Baxter’s 70th birthday. But, keeping with the tradition of all the Baxter books, a disaster shatters the celebration.

It’s going to be hard to talk about this book without talking about the major event, so there will be a spoiler section at the end. But for now, this is a spoiler-free zone.

First, the characters. I love them all, and I wish that they could all be in my family. They’re all so strong and wise – they’ve learned from all the awful events that have occurred in their lives. Second, the writing. Kingsbury’s writing doesn’t necessarily match up to fellow Christian writer Francine Rivers’, but I don’t think it needs to be. Her simple writing balances out the huge, whirlwind of a plot. Speaking of let’s talk about the plot. Extremely sad, yet hopeful at the end, albeit predictable.

For the dislikes, I’m going to have to talk about those in the spoiler section. But all in all, I really enjoyed the final chapter in the Baxter’s life. I don’t know what I’m going to do now that it’s over! The Baxters have been a major part of my life for the last four years. It was hard letting them go.

Okay, now on to the SPOILER SECTION. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ AVERT YOUR EYES!!!!!AVERT!!!!!
AVERT!!!

Ok, spoiler section. I just want to say that I knew Erin was going to be involved in the disaster from chapter 2. Erin was the only Baxter who never got a whole book to herself, therefore, we never got to really know her. Also, she moved to Texas while the rest of the family lived in Indiana, therefore, we never got to see her. Finally, none of the siblings ever talked about her, therefore, we never really got to see how others perceived her. And all of a sudden, Erin was in the second chapter of the final book? I knew that Erin was going to be in a car crash on the way to the Baxter reunion.

And guess what? I was right.

Also, I really felt like her death was really unfair. We never even got to know Erin and then she dies? Low blow Karen Kingsbury. Honestly, Erin was one of my favorites. I thought her story with adopting her daughters was engaging and heartbreaking. And when I saw that the birth mother of her daughters was going to make another appearance, I was really excited to see how it would play out. But the way that it did play out really disappointed me. Of course Ashley and Landon were going to get custody of Amy Elizabeth! At least if Erin were still alive, the custody battle would have been a little more interesting.

But I’m glad in a way that was the last book of the series. I don’t think I could read any more Baxter books because all I’m going to be thinking about is how Erin Baxter Hogan got the short end of the stick.

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier

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I was really excited to read this book. I recently took a class on art history, so I was somewhat familiar with Vermeer and his paintings.

GWAPE tells the fictional backstory of Johannes Vermeer’s most famous painting, a portrait of a young girl wearing a pearl earring with her hair wrapped in a turban. Some call it the “Dutch Mona Lisa.”

To be honest, I didn’t love the book. For starters, I strongly disliked the protagonist of Griet. I thought she was snobbish, stubborn, and a little whiny. From my standpoint, she was extremely difficult to admire and relate to. Also, the writing was a little on the weak side as far as the descriptions went. In my opinion, Chevalier did not do a great job on describing Vermeer’s paintings so that I could visualize it in my head. In fact, in order to understand what Griet was seeing, I had to look up the painting on the internet.

Despite the weak writing, Chevalier has a brilliant imagination. It was incredible how she came up with the plot of the novel. If I were reading it without any knowledge of it being a fictional story, I would have thought that events in GWAPE actually took place. The plot was believable and realistic, albeit a bit monotonous at times.

The tension between Vermeer and Griet was greatly written and conceived. You could always sense there was something going on between them on a deeper level. There was one scene with the two of them working on the painting in the attic that gave me goosebumps just by reading! I’m looking forward to seeing the movie adaptation to see if the chemistry between Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth (*swoon*) is like I imagine in the book.

All in all, it was a pretty good book. While it was a little dull and sometimes boring, it wasn’t too difficult to get through. It was creative and eye-opening, making you wonder about the stories behind the great masterpieces of famous artists.

photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/71/Gwape_first_edition.png

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

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TCIOTDITNT (too many words, too little time) just happened to be one of the books required for summer reading at my school. So I decided to knock it out early and spend the rest of the summer reading books at my own pleasure.

Incident is told from the point of view of Christopher, a teenage boy living in Britain with some learning differences. One night he discovers Wellington, the dog of his neighbor, has been murdered. He makes it his mission to find the murderer and, along the way, he finds out many interesting things about himself.

I didn’t hate the book. But I didn’t love the book either. To be honest, I was a little bored the entire time. It was kinda a chore to finish it. There was no true excitement to it. The big twist that occurred was predicted by myself long before it happened. So no surprise, no “action”, no big thrills.

However, I loved the narration. While Christopher’s actions didn’t really appeal to me, his thoughts did. My favorite chapters were the ones where he would digress (even though he knew he wasn’t supposed to) and discuss previous events or views on the world. He would explain how he saw and how he perceived things. Haddon did a magnificent job capturing the voice of Christopher and relating it to the readers.

I read somewhere that a stage and film adaptation are in the works and I have to say, I’m not really looking forward to either. Not because I didn’t love the book, but because I don’t think the adaptations are going to capture Christopher’s views. His thoughts were my favorite part of the book, and if they left that out of the movie, I would actually be furious. But how can you incorporate his thoughts into a screenplay? I have no idea which is why I think TCIOTDITNT is best left in book form.

photo:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/03/Curiousincidentofdoginnighttime.jpg

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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I have to admit I was EXTREMELY reluctant to read TFIOS after being disappointed by Looking for Alaska, but I had nothing to worry about because this was one of the best books I have EVER read.

Ever. Period.

True, the storyline is so cliché and overused. It’s about a girl named Hazel, who has cancer and goes to this support group for cancer kids. One day she meets a boy named Augustus Waters at one of the sessions and they fall in love.

Yes, it sounds so predictable and overdone. But the plot isn’t what drove the story.

It was the characters.

I feel like I say this about every book, but this time I truly truly mean it. Hazel and Augustus are both so likable and relatable, even if you aren’t terminally ill. It’s like they were made for each other. The way they interact is so entertaining to read. Their conversations played out so perfectly in my head that I could actually visualize them speaking. John Green has written a nearly perfect dialogue. If this book gets made into a movie (fingers crossed), I will be mad if he does not write the screenplay.

Although the book was sad (hello, its a book about cancer!), I didn’t feel it was depressing. Yet, it wasn’t overly inspiring either. Which is NOT a bad thing. At all. In fact, I think it made the book what it is. It was so realistic and unidealized, which made it so enjoyable. I liked reading a matter-of-fact book without any unbelievable or imaginative feats accomplished by a sick or dying person (not that I don’t like to read about those, but I have read an awful lot…)

Anyways, I recommend this book to just about anyone. In fact, after I read it at camp, I lent it to three other girls in my cabin who loved it just as much as I did. Warning: tears will be shed, but once its over, you’ll be glad you read it.

photo: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/a/a9/The_Fault_in_Our_Stars.jpg