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Divergent

Book #11: Divergent
by Veronica Roth

This book was recently lent to me by a friend because they knew I liked The Hunger Games and figured I would like this series as well! Well, they were right (so far…)

Divergent has been compared to The Hunger Games series and I’ve read that it is described as being very similar. I disagree. The only true similarities are the post-apocalyptic settings and that the main character from both books is a tough girl.

I liked Divergent because I actually liked Tris. I’ve heard people say they didn’t like her, that she was mean or annoying, but I didn’t find her so. That is, yes she was rather mean sometimes but she wasn’t a “mean character” if you get what I mean. She wasn’t evil, she did mean things, but not for the sake of being mean (usually); she did mean things because she’s human.
To call her by her true name, Beatrice was a daredevil but she still had that human kindness from her Abnegation upbringing. Also, as she was a divergent she thought more about what she did than the others did, she was more methodical in her methods of training. With the shooting and knife throwing she would pay attention to things like posture and stance rather than a “pull-the-trigger-with-the-gun-pointing-at-the-target” kind of learning capacity. I admire her (not her selfishness of course, for she is selfish sometimes) but the way she stands up for her friends, and fights for what she believes. The way she makes the hard choice in life, to leave her family behind in order to follow her dreams. I admire that most, the courage to follow your dream and stand by your convictions even through hardship and opposition.

Eric was a clever nasty character, but he wasn’t an attractive nasty character. Sometimes the villains of stories can be intriguing. For example, Loki from Thor and The Avengers is a rather interesting and attractive villain (now I’m not referring to looks here, although he’s that kind of attractive too!) Eric had nothing attractive about him. He was nasty, crazy, cruel, insane, jealous, greedy, and traitorous.

Four was an intriguing  character. There’s so much we don’t know about him (although we learn more progressively through the book). He’s strange; he can be abrupt and mean, sometimes appearing cruel, he’s bossy and stuck up, although when he lets his guard down suddenly you remember, he’s just eighteen. That was something I ha a hard time accepting about Four, the fact that he was only eighteen, he seems so much older. When we discover who he truly is though… that was a plot twist I was not expecting!

Very brief summary (*WARNING: SPOILERS*)

The world has changed. After the last great war people divided into five factions by which to live in order to maintain peace and stability. Beatrice Prior’s family is of  the Abnegation faction. Abnegation believe in selflessness and devoting their lives to helping others. They volunteer, help the homeless, do the jobs no one really wants to do. This year Beatrice is sixteen and will choose the faction in which she will be initiated and live out the rest of her life. All the children her age must do this in a yearly ritual. First they have aptitude tests to determine which one of the five factions they are best suited for and then in the ceremony the next day, they make the final decision themselves. When Beatrice takes her aptitude test the results are inconclusive. She could be one of three factions, instead of being given the one suggested. She could be Abnegation, Dauntless, or Ertdite. This makes her what she learns is a “divergent”. It is dangerous to be known as a divergent, the test administrator changes her test results in the computer to read Abnegation, the faction Beatrice is from and then the test administrator warns her never to tell anyone she’s divergent. The next day Beatrice and her brother Caleb must choose their factions. The whole family expects Caleb will choose Abnegation, he suits it so well, but with Beatrice they are less sure. They can choose, Abnegation: Selflessness, Dauntless: Bravery, Candor: Honesty, Erudite: Knowledge, or Amity: Kindness. When the time comes Caleb goes forward, and to everyone’s shock, transfers to Erudite: Knowledge. Beatrice tries to convince herself to stay for her parents’ sake, but in the end, transfers to Dauntless: Bravery.
The initiation process for Beatrice is hard. She shortens her name, to Tris and, with the other fourteen initiates, some Dauntless-born, some not, she begins to fight for one of the ten spots open. If she is not in the top ten, she is left factionless, a reject, unaccepted by any faction. They learn to shot guns, how to fight in hand-to-hand combat, how to throw knives, how to plan attacks, and combat fear. At all costs they must mask fear. They are Dauntless, they are brave.
If you want to know how it turns out… well, read the book! 😉

All in all, 8 out of 10. I definitely liked The Hunger Games better, but I did read the vast majority of this book while waiting in a hotel hallway for an audition so I might have been slightly distracted 😉 Still, a very good book!

DFTBA!
– Becky

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Fitzwilliam Darcy: Gentleman

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Gentleman (3-book series)
Books #8: An Assembly Such as This, 9: Duty and Desire, 10: These Three Remain
by Pamela Aidan

Alrighty, Austen fans, flock around. If you haven’t read this series you should have. Pamela Aidan has created this three-book series to be a re-telling of the well-known Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, but in this series, the story is from the perspective of Mr. Darcy instead of (for the most part) Elizabeth Bennet.

Pamela Aidan has done a great job. She has broadened Mr. Darcy’s character to entices fans to fall in love with him even more than before (if that’s possible) and she also enlarges the reader’s view of Mr Bingley, his sisters Caroline Bingley and Mrs. Louisa Hurst,  and Darcy’s own sister Georgiana Darcy.

This review is short and late because I read the first two books of the series while I was in England a month or two ago, just know this, the books are great and any Austen fan will enjoy them immensely.  If you’re not an Austen fan, don’t worry, I’m sure your local library has a copy of Pride and Prejudice that you can take out and then you’ll be fully equipped to enjoy this lovely series. The books are a quick read and as they are written more recently than the original Pride and Prejudice, I find they are easier to read.

Spoiler-LESS summary.
The series is told from Mr Darcy’s perspective of his growing relationship with Miss Elizabeth Bennet. The story starts with Mr. Darcy’s friend, Mr. Bingley renting a house in Hertfordshire and the series ends with the infamous wedding… Whose wedding? My lips are sealed, you must read the story! =)

All in all, the series as a whole gets 8 1/2 our of 10 stars. All three books were equally well written, there was no lagging in the second book (as I find often happens in three-book series) and the story was well told. Recommended!

DFTBA!
–  Becky

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Book #7: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
by J.K. Rowling

I finally did it, I started reading Harry Potter! Everyone was telling m to for ages and the internet has loved the series since it first came out. I however had never read it, and never watched the movies. Being an avid internet-user however I knew the basic plot of the story, the main characters and a skeleton idea of how the series progressed because you can’t follow most video-bloggers or tumblr accounts without getting Harry Potter “spoilers”.

Well, I’ll just say it. I wasn’t blown away. I’m sorry avid fans, please don’t tear me apart or come murder me in my sleep! It’s just really not my type of book… I shan’t be finishing the series I’m afraid, but I can at least now say I’ve tried.
It my sound pious and get on your nerves, but I’m afraid I just couldn’t get over the whole aspect of witches and wizards being “good”. Witches and wizards are not good. They’re evil. Withcraft is evil and these books are glorifying it and making it look good.

Summary: (courtesy of the back of the book, Raincoast publication)

Harry Potter thinks he’s an ordinary boy – until he is rescued by an owl, taken to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, learns to play Quidditch and does battle in a deadly duel. The reason: Harry Potter is a Wizard!

Sorry all, but that is my biased opinion. I won’t put a rating on this one because the reason I didn’t like it had nothing to do with the writing, but the topic. The writing style was fine but it was obvious that The Philosopher’s Stone was written as a children’s book and thereby didn’t grab my attention in the same way an adult book does.

DFTBA!
– Becky.

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The Hunger Games

Book #3 (of 2012): The Hunger Games
By Suzanne Collins (young adult fiction)

Okay so here it goes,
The book: The Hunger Games
The author: Suzanne Collins

There you got all the information, now go buy it. Forget the library, there’s a reason you’ll be the 98th person in the queue for the book, just buy it and read it and then pay it forward.

John Green says something wonderful in his book The Fault in Our Stars which completely applies to how I feel about The Hunger Games, “Sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” (Page 33) There, now you know why you must read this book, the world will not be fixed until you do.

I had heard about The Hunger Games, knew lots of people liked the book, knew there was a movie coming out, saw some gifs on tumblr…eventually I decided to see what all the hullabulloo was about. Then I remembered last year, one lunch hour at school a friend in my class had been reading this book and I picked it up to read the back/first few pages. Two chapters in and at the end of lunch hour she pried it from my hands and I never remembered the author to track a copy down in the library. Then all this ruckus started with the movie coming out and I went to the library to try and get a copy.
I was 99th on the list with 6 books in the city.
The next day I was at work and saw the softcover copies were on for 40% off so I decided “What the heck, I don’t normally buy books without reading them, but if I don’t like it, for this price, I can resell it off to one of those die-hard fans!”
Ya that ain’t happening…

So Friday, I bought it.
It’s Saturday. I LOVE it. I will keep it. In fact I’m gonna go buy hard copies of all three of the books and then give away my softcover version. That’s right GIVE away, I need to give someone the opportunity to read this book without charging them.

Basic spoilerLESS (that means no plot spoilers) summary:
The Hunger Games is a post-apocalyptic novel about North America, after, (wait for it) the apocalypse. (high fives for cap’n obvious there!) What remains of the continent is the Capital, Panem, and it’s outlying districts, of which there are twelve. Originally there were thirteen but years before the book takes place there was a rebellion among the districts against the capital and the capital struck back, destroying district 13 and leaving the other districts quite aware that they were little better than slaves. As a reminder that rebellion is a bad idea the Capital hosts the annual “Hunger Games”. In these Games each district sends in two “tributes”, a boy and a girl to compete in the arena in the capital. The twenty-four 12-18 years olds chosen through a draw are then put in an arena and forced to kill each other for the entertainment of the citizens of the Capital who watch through televised  broadcast off of the cameras that are hidden throughout the arena. The last tribute standing wins and (get this!) gets to live and be provided with food (because food is scarce in many of the districts and starvation is not uncommon). The story follows two of the tributes as they go from their district to as far as they can get in the Games.
**From here on I do not apologize for spoilers; consider yourself warned.**

I love Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is the female tribute from district 12 (the lowest of the districts) I love how we start seeing her vulnerable with Prim and with Gale while hunting with him, and then we see her possibly giving up her life to keep her sister safe. I love that she thinks, she’s clever, she’s a survivor. I like that she is so humble about her skills, they’re just there, they’re nothing to boast about but she’s confident in them; she doesn’t boast about them, but she’s well-aware of them. Somehow she manages to be so likeable while being unlikable and sullen. I like that she doesn’t give up and that when she has an opportunity to win with Peeta, she goes for it, even though he’s wounded and will slow her down and make her an easier target herself. She works so hard to treat him, she works for that broth and medicine from the sponsors. I like being able to watch her slowly get confused about how she feels for Peeta. As the reader, we’re sure she’s in love, but she is utterly confused… Also, before the games her delight about the dresses that district 12’s stylist, Cinna, creates for her makes her seem more girly and watching her slowly become (more or less) friends with him is also neat, we see that Katniss doesn’t trust without time and reason to.

Peeta Mellark is also a wonderfully thought out character. He’s utterly charming in the sweetest way possible. He loves Katniss, this is something we learn along with Katniss very suddenly and rather surprisingly during his pre-Games interview, but it’s something that once we know it, clicks into place and makes perfect sense. Of course Peeta loves Katniss! How could it have been otherwise!? But Katniss…does she love Peeta or Gale? Or either…? Peeta is open and real and sweet and yet in the Games he’s strategic and clever. He keeps Katniss safe by appearing to side with the “careers” (the term used for the tributes from the better cared for districts where the tributes are trained for the games as careers). Then, once he’s injured, he continues to think of her and worry about her. Once she finds him, all he wants is for her to survive, he’s doesn’t care if he lives Peeta just wants Katniss to win the Games. He is very humble and very caring even when it puts him into danger. We, as the reader, feel his pain at the end of the book when he realizes most of Katniss’ affection for him has been strategic, to keep herself (and partially him ) alive. We understand how hurt he is by this, he thought it was real, and Katniss herself is completely unsure if it is or not. Even through that “betrayal” by Katniss though, Peeta doesn’t get angry or bitter, he’s hurt, that’s obvious, but he’s not going to hate Katniss for it. That’s admirable.

I also feel that Haymitch deserves an honourable mention. He’s district 12’s only living previous Games winner (they’ve only ever had two though…) and is the town drunkard. He makes a fool of himself at the district’s “reaping” (the drawing of the tribute’s names in each district) and manages to stay drunk until Peeta and Katniss take a stand against it. As their “mentor” he’s a big factor in how things go for them in the arena. He arranges sponsors to send them gifts during the games (food, or medicine, something they might be needing) and he decides when the things get sent. When he sees them take a stand against his drinking I think it wakes something up in him. He realizes they haven’t given up on themselves and that they want a running chance in this so he agrees to stay sober (enough) to be of help to them and in all fairness, he ends up being a great help to them. Katniss and Haymitch don’t openly get along, but being very similar they understand each other. When he allows “gifts” to be sent her in the arena or withholds them, she is able to work out why they’re been sent or kept back. In this way they are able to strategize, and in the end, keep Katniss and Peeta alive.

All in all I’d give this book a 9 1/2 out of 10. It’s a wonderful book, but I didn’t cry. Now granted, I may have read it too fast, but as it stands, it didn’t catch my emotions the way some books do. Still a great book though! Well worth the read!

DFTBA!
– Becky

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The Fault in Our Stars

Book #1 (of 2012): The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green (Young Adult fiction)

How can John write such fantastically, yet terribly sad books? He must cry writing these, I don’t care that guys want girls to think they don’t cry. A guy would be INHUMAN not to cry reading this book.

My head aches from crying. Normally when I cry reading I just have tears silently streaming down my face, I exaggerate and say I bawled. This book, I don’t need to exaggerate. For the last third of the book I had to put it down every few pages to cry, to crunch my body into a tight little ball and cry and cry. But then I had to pick it up again, you can’t put it down until you’re more composed because the tears, the sadness, they are all part of the experience, part of the book; they add to it, they make it real.

The characters aren’t all depressing though, they’re not what make the book sad. They’re funny, they have brilliant personalities, they have hilarious humours and they’re fun. This is the kind of book where one page you’re bawling and the next you’re laughing through your tears =)

John writes such believable characters with Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac; they’re so human, so humany-wumany. They’re people that I would love to meet, to hang out with, to know. John has written a story about kids with cancer, but never once did I find myself pitying them because of their cancer. I felt bad for them because of the normal events that happened but not once did I think, “Oh poor Hazel, she has cancer”. It’s made them people, not their disease. This is not a book about kids with cancer, this is a book about friendship, about love, about life, oh-and-by-the-way, the main characters have cancer.

I finished the book and turned on my camera to try and record my immediate reaction. I opened my mouth and no sound came out. There is nothing to be said. This is the best book I’ve ever read. I suspect I said something similar about Paper Towns, but you see, I hadn’t read The Fault in Our Stars yet at that point.

I was unsure about buying this book, unsure if it would be a book I’d want to own. I didn’t know the basic plotline, the reason I bought it was because the bookstore near my workplace had signed copies and I wanted one.
I’m really glad I bought that pink J-scribbled book.  I feel like people who haven’t read it are robbing themselves of a wonderful experience, but like Hazel says, “There are books like [The Fault in Our Stars], which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.” (TFIOS Page 33) That is why I will impersonally advertise the book, through text on a website, it will keep the special feeling of TFIOS being my book, not to be shared.

PLOTLINE WITH SPOILERS! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ THE BOOK! SPOILERS ALERT!

Hazel Grace Lancaster is sixteen and has cancer. It means she has to be hooked up to an oxygen tank all the time to keep enough oxygen in her infected lungs. For now she’s stable, cancer is controlled and she can live a more or less normal life. Well, for a cancer-patient. Under the recommendation of her doctor and the insistence of her mother she attends a weekly support group that meets in a nearby church. She has one friend here, Isaac. He only has one eye, the cancer took the other. One day Hazel is again forced to attend support group but comes to find Isaac has brought a friend who is a cancer survivor (although it took one of his legs), Augustus Waters, a long, lean, hott seventeen year old with a smooth sexy voice. After support group they’re introduced and Hazel ends up going to Augustus’ house to watch V for Vendetta, as he thinks she looks like Natalie Portman.  They talk about books, Hazel tells him her favourite is An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten, his favourite book is The Price of Dawn, based off of his favourite video game. He agrees to read her favourite on the condition she read his, which he lends her then and there. They’re both true to their word and end up enjoying each other’s books.
Hazel and Augustus begin dating, Isaac’s cancer returns and he ends up loosing his other eye and being left blind. His girlfriend dumps him before the surgery though, which really, really cuts him up. Hazel and Gus stick by him though and try and help him through.
The two of them both write to Peter Van Houten (the author of An Imperial affliction) about his “unfinished” books and Augustus (who emailed) gets a reply. He decides to use his cancer-Wish to take Hazel to Amsterdam, where they’ve been invited to meet Van Houten where he’s living in seclusion.  It’s all being planned when Hazel has a relapse. Things look pretty bleak but she recovers and they manage to take the trip and go (with Hazel’s mum) to meet the one and only Peter Van Houten, Hazel’s favourite author (who *SPOILER* ends up being an alcoholic jerk). While in Amsterdam Augustus tells Hazel that around the time she had her relapse, he found out his cancer had returned. Everywhere. His whole body was an inflamed mass of cancer. (This is about halfway/two-thirds through the book and, warning, this is where I started to cry. I didn’t stop until the book finished, even a little bit after it finished…)
They return home and gradually Gus’ cancer gets worse and worse. He’s dying and there’s no way around it. Hazel visits everyday, she still loves him, he loves her and he wants to write her a sequel to An Imperial Affliction after Van Houten refuses to explain the unfinished ending to them. He can’t though, he’s too weak. They both agree they want each other to write their eulogy for their funerals.
One evening Augustus calls Hazel and asks her to write a eulogy and meet him at the church where they had the support meetings. She does and finds him and Isaac there. Gus has arranged a prefuneral so he can hear his best friends’ eulogies for him. (This scene is heart-wrenching, the kind of crying where you scrunch your body up trying to make the pain go away as you’re crying in gasping breaths, trying to blink back the tears because you can’t stop reading).
Eight days later, he dies.
His funeral happens, Hazel writes a different eulogy to read, less personal. Then a while later she visits Isaac and they try to distract themselves playing video games. At some point Isaac mentions that Gus was writing something for her and she immediately thinks of the promised An Imperial Affliction sequel. She tries to find it, asks his parents about it, looks in his room, on his computer, doesn’t find anything. His parents eventually find a notebook that was by his hospital bed but the first four pages are torn out and can’t be found. When Hazel’s friend Kaitlyne calls, she suggests that he mailed the to her, or, perhaps, they weren’t for Hazel at all.
With the idea that the pages weren’t for her in mind Hazel contacts Van Houten’s (former) assistant in Amsterdam and she goes to Van Houten’s house and finds, sure enough, Augustus has sent the pages to Van Houten. Van Houten, reads them and says to send them to Hazel.
It’s a eulogy.
Augustus wrote her the eulogy she wanted. The gorgeous heartfelt, personal eulogy from her boyfriend. Gus had mailed it to Van Houten with the hope that he could turn his notes into a well versed eulogy, but he didn’t change anything, he just sent it straight to Hazel and it’s beautiful.

Overall: Ten out of Ten. So sad, and I wish Gus hadn’t had to die, but he did or the story would have been all wrong. It’s beautiful. John Green, I salute you.

DFTBA
– Becky

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The Three Elizabeths

Book #10: The Three Elizabeths
By J.M. Page (fiction)

See what a terrible person I am? Almost two weeks ago I told you that I would write up another post immediately, and yet here I am just writing it now… naughty, naughty… =D

This is a book I have reread at whim since I was about ten. I loved it then and I love it now. It never gets old and it’s still just as cute at eighteen as it was when I was ten.

I love Elizabeth, the oldest of the “sisters”/cousins and how she bosses the younger two around (much like I do my siblings). Elspeth, the bookworm who loves English and history like me. Beth, the youngest, naughty and curious…

I was last worked on this on November 23… So I’m not gonna finish this post, just know that this is a great children’s book, it’s got a good story line, very sweet. Not intense or anything, but sweet, first love, new families, happy endings =) Good stuff… 8 out of 10 stars.

C’EST FINI!!

I have made one of my new year’s resolutions to read 30 books in 2012. This one doesn’t count =D

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Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball

Book #9: Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball
by Donita K. Paul (Fantasy/Romance/Christmas/Inspriational)

I read this book the day after the last review I wrote, I just never wrote a review for it so…here’s a really brief one, again. Sorry!

This book is written by, again, one of my favourite authors, Donita K. Paul! =) My mum was picking up Dragons on the Valley from the library for me and saw this book and thought i might like it so she picked it up too! This one doesn’t take place in a fantastical world, it takes place in earth, but that being said, it is fantasy, there are wizards and disappearing/reappearing locations and stuff, but it’s fun, good characters.

This book is also filled with Christian stuff, much more openly than the full-on fantasy books that Donita writes. Cora (main female character) is a relatively new christian and Simon (main male character) and his sister Sandy come from a Christian family. Simon’s family encourage Cora as she grows in her faith and Simon chats with his pastor who gives him advice and jokes around (nice guy, not a main character though).

I really liked the characters, they were likeable and they were real, like they weren’t fake people or unrealistic people. They got angry, they misunderstood each other, they were nice, they worked overtime, they were paranoid, they had messed up family lives, they doubted themselves, they were real. Cora and Simon were good characters, nice people, cute couple, but Simon’s special needs sister, Sandy, was the one who made the book for me. She was adorable =) She said what she thought and noticed things others missed. She was the best, very loveable.

Okay I’m stealing an unspoiler-filled summary from Donita K. Paul’s website because I don’t feel like writing my own on right now.

“In a sleepy, snow-covered city, Cora Crowder is busy preparing for the holiday season. Searching for a perfect gift, a fortuitous trip to Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad’s (a most unusual bookshop) leads to an unexpected encounter with co-worker Simon Derrick. And the surprise discovery of a ticket for a truly one-of-a-kind Christmas Ball.

Every year, the matchmaking booksellers of the Sage Street bookshop host an enchanting, old-fashioned Christmas Ball for the romantic matches they’ve decided to bring together.

This year, will Simon and Cora discover a perfect chemistry in their opposite personalities and shared faith? Or will the matchmakers’ best laid plans end up ruining everything this holiday?”

Overall:  8 out of 10 stars. It was a really sweet book and I quite enjoyed it, but I don’t think I would buy it.

I’m going to write another review immediately so that that book doesn’t get forgotten like this one almost was. Okay, doodle-loo!
– Becky

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