June 19, 2012

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

In short: You’ve got to read this. Seriously.

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)
In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

I’ll admit, I had reservations when I read the back cover of the novel. It seemed like something I’d read before, a formula that too many authors have used and that have failed. But Roth’s Divergent is one of the most thrilling novels I’ve read this year.

Beatrice Prior doesn’t really fit in with her life. Her brother is the good one, her father is a faction and government leader, and her mother is idyllic. She doesn’t want to blend into the background and questions her own motives constantly. 

Honestly, Tris didn’t really become a real character for me until she completed her first step into the Dauntless initiation. Before that, she just a girl who didn’t fit in. But once she was on the road to finding herself (along with many, many tattoos), Tris became a real person and I couldn’t help but cheer for her.

As to Tris’s secret…I feel like there is so much more information Roth has cooked up, and I can’t wait to find out about it. I don’t completely understand why her secret is so dangerous, apart from that she can’t be controlled. I bet Insurgent has some answers to that. 😉

Roth put a lot of thought and imagination into creating her world, giving each faction such depth that I felt like I was immersed in her world. Although I had an idea of how the novel would end, I had no idea how it would come about. And that I like!

There have been a lot of novels lately about teenage love triangles, starting with the ever popular Twilight series. She loves him and he loves her, but another guy loves her and she’s torn, yadda yadda yadda. But, as a very astute Goodreads reviewer Elle wrote : “In Divergent, Good, Evil and Tris are our love triangle. How utterly refreshing.” (at the moment, her review is the fourth down here). I couldn’t have said it better myself. It is so wonderful to watch a badass heroine fight forces within herself instead of fighting her hormones.

Posted June 19, 2012 by Ellen in the canon talks, Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 19, 2012

Teaser Tuesday!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

 Okay. I am loving Divergent by Veronica Roth. The premise kind of turned me off of reading it at first and it sat on my shelf, but I’m glad I’m trying it!

“What’s your name?”

“Um…” I don’t know why I hesitate. But “Beatrice” just doesn’t sound right anymore.

“Think about it,” he says, a faint smile curling his lips. “You don’t get to pick again.” (pg. 60)

Seriously. You need to try this book.

Happy Reading! 🙂

Posted June 19, 2012 by Ellen in teaser tuesday, Uncategorized / 17 Comments
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June 18, 2012

Review: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Finally. Finished the first installment of The Lord of the Rings series, The Fellowship of the Ring. I won’t lie, this was an incredibly difficult read for me. The book was intense, the writing very detailed and the size of the book alone was daunting to me (which I am a bit ashamed to admit =] ). However, I am very happy I finally read the book.

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)

Frodo Baggins knew the Ringwraiths were searching for him – and the Ring of Power he bore that would enable Sauron to destroy all that was good in Middle-earth. Now it was up to Frodo and his faithful servant Sam to carry the Ring to where it could be detroyed – in the very center of Sauron’s dark kingdom.

To be honest, I am really happy I watched the movie first. The novel is so detail-oriented, I could have easily gotten lost amid all the names and locations of unknown places. (The map on the back of my book helped so much.) I had faces to place to names from the movies and it made the reading much more enjoyable. 

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Frodo so far. I feel like he could man up a little bit; something about him irritates me, but I can’t put my finger on it yet. His relationship with Sam really interests me; they appear to be on the same class level (even though Sam was a gardener in the Shire) but Sam is constantly trying to serve him and refers to him as “master” and “Mr. Frodo”. I wasn’t really sure what caused this deference…maybe it is because he was a gardener? Or because he was assigned by Gandolf to be a companion to Frodo on the journey because he was caught eavesdropping?

I loved the Elves. I wish Tolkien had included images of their cities in his novels; I would love to see how he imagined them in his mind. They appear to be the most magical race out of all those introduced so far. 

I feel like this is a novel I’ll have to read quite a few times to completely understand, but I’m thrilled I managed to finish it! I have The Two Towers on my bookshelf, but it might have to wait for a bit… 🙂

Posted June 18, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 15, 2012

Review: Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Since I’m still working my way through the amazingly thick The Fellowship of the Ring, I thought I’d write about one of my favorite novels, Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. So, before I keep writing, I know a LOT of people have issues with this novel due to their perception of its accuracy/religious (or vice versa…) views/etc. I’m not here to talk about Brown’s perceived anti-Catholic agenda, his screw ups in relating his information in the story (because I’m not even close to a historian), or anything like that. I read his books for pleasure and entertainment only, not as verbatim (as they are listed under fiction).
And after that super fun bit…

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):
When a world renowned scientist is found brutally murdered, a Harvard professor, Robert Langdon, is summoned to identify the mysterious symbol seared onto the dead man’s chest. His conclusion: it is the work of the Illuminati, a secret brotherhood presumed extinct for nearly four hundred years – now reborn to continue their bitter vendetta against their sworn enemy, the Catholic church.

In Rome, the college of cardinals assembles to elect a new pope. Yet somewhere within the walls of the Vatican, an unstoppable bomb of terrifying power relentlessly counts down to oblivion. While the minutes tick away, Langdon joins forces with Vittoria Vetra, a beautiful and mysterious Italian scientist, to decipher the labyrinthine trail of ancient symbols that snakes across Rome to the long-forgotten Illuminati lair – a secret refuge wherein lies the only hope for the Vatican.

But, with each revelation comes another twist, another turn in the plot, which leaves Langdon and Vetra reeling and at the mercy of a seemingly invincible enemy…

Somehow, Dan Brown manages to create novels that completely entrap me as a reader. In my mind’s eye, I follow Robert Langdon through the halls of Havard and overseas to a merry chase in Rome. Having a faint background in the Catholicism, I enjoyed the different view of the religion, and was inspired to learn more about how the inner workings operate. Viewing this as a story only, I found it a great setting for Brown’s story.

The villain was so completely merciless, I couldn’t stand it, but yet I couldn’t shut the book. I had to know how his mind worked, how he rationalized these actions in his mind. I loved seeing Langdon’s POV, especially watching how his mind fit the different pieces together to solve the mystery. 

That really is my favorite part of any novel. If the characters are interesting enough, I will see them through even the most absurd situations. And even though Robert Langdon and company come across quite a few hard-to-believe situations, I will continue to read this book. It envelopes me makes my train ride home from school go so much faster!

Most of all, I like the question this book presents. Do religion and science belong side by side? Can they be meshed together peacefully in the world? Thought-provoking.

Posted June 15, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 13, 2012

WWW Wednesday!

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. Finally getting into all the action! It’s difficult reading, but it is worth it to finally be reading this series.

Recently Read: I loved the books I just finished. Cinder by Marissa Meyer (read the review here) and The Search by Nora Roberts (here). Both books were amazing and I definitely recommend them!

Reading Next: I think I might take a break from heavy duty stuff like LOTR and read Insurgent by Veronica Roth or A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd, haven’t decided yet!

I’d love to know what you’re reading & thanks for stopping by!

Happy Wednesday!

Posted June 13, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized, WWW Wednesday / 6 Comments
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June 12, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

Finally getting around to reading the fabulous Lord of the Rings series! Have to say I am really enjoying it, but the beginning was a little bit slow. I think I might have to read it again to fully understand all of the lore Tolkien presents, but for now, I really want some action!

I regret to announce that – though, as I said, eleventy-one years is far too short a time to spend among you – this is the END. I am going. I am leaving NOW. GOOD-BYE!” (pg 39).

It isn’t as much a teaser as my favorite part in the novel! 
Happy Tuesday 🙂

Posted June 12, 2012 by Ellen in teaser tuesday, Uncategorized / 6 Comments
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June 11, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Classics: The Phantom of the Opera

My first introduction to The Phantom of the Opera was actually in high school choir. For our last concert of the year, my teacher chose for us to perform selections from The Phantom of the Opera musical, along with other amazing songs. Anyway, as a part of our introduction to the story, we watched the film version. 
I fell in love with it.
A few years ago, I finally decided to read the story, and the little black paperback book hasn’t left my favorites shelf ever since. 

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)
The Phantom of the Opera lives under a famous opera house. A mere chorus girl, Christine Daae, becomes, under his guidance, a well known singer with a beautiful voice. But her old child hood sweetheart, the Vicount Raoul de Changy, has also entered the picture. The past comes back to haunt her, the future ahead is uncertain, and the present is undecided. Who will win the heart of Christine?; the handsome, rich Raoul or the masked Angel of Music? A story of romance, murder, sacrifice and sadness, this riveting, seductive tale will keep your emotions high until the very last page of the shocking conclusion.

I loved the mystique of the opera – all the dirty little secrets everyone kept (or didn’t keep). It all lent to this wonderful air of mystery and legend surrounding the opera, especially the ghost. I find stories like that irresistible.

Like a lot of people, the relationship between Christine and the Angel of Music is especially creepy. Her blind obedience in the first part of the novel gave me the willies and made me want to yell at her to grow a backbone (bit of a culture clash there….). But when the reason for her deference was revealed, it all made a little more sense to me. 

Christine herself I mostly liked, but the Phantom was the star. His psychological issues were so extensive, the mental damage caused to him so extreme, that I couldn’t help but want to find out why he become who he was. 

The Phantom of the Opera is a wonderful read also for the different point-of-views it uses. The audience jumps from Christine to Raoul to different people within the great workings of the Opera. My favorite are the letters the opera managers receive from the Ghost.

Read this with some humor in mind; it took me a couple reads to figure that one out. It makes the language and conversations come to life so much more vividly, especially those with the prima donna, Carlotta.

Still one of my absolute favorites (tied with the movie =] )

Posted June 11, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 9, 2012

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

A retelling of the favorite Cinderella with a robot heroine set in the future? Seriously? Amazing premise by Marissa Meyer. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I found the novel on my library’s “Lucky Day” shelf, but boy oh boy, was it my lucky day.

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, the ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

If we compared Cinderella from the Disney fairy tale to Marissa Meyer’s heroine Cinder, Cinderella actually has it better off. She has a collection of household animals to help her, a fairy godmother, and a lovely pumpkin coach to drive her to the ball. Cinder, on the other hand, slaves away in the market as a mechanic for Adri, the evil stepmother. She finally gets to replace her too-small mechanic foot, but has to hide her half-cyborg status from the rest of the world. Her only companions, Iko the android and Peony the lovable stepsister, can’t protect her from the wrath of Adri. But Cinder can handle this life; she has her mechanic work. When Crown Prince Kai comes in search of a mechanic to fix his beloved cyborg, Cinder’s life changes forever.

I loved the changes Meyer made to the classic tale, modernizing it for today’s youth. The addition of the Lunar Queen Levana as a cruel vain monarch creates even more troubles for Cinder. It took the first few chapters for me to get into the novel, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. 

The politics of the future were especially interesting. The prejudice against the cyborgs seemed undeserved, but the hatred against those of the Lunar race appeared to be warranted. 

Gah. I want to talk about the ending, but I really really want you guys to read it instead! It was amazing! : )

Posted June 9, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 8, 2012

Review:The Search by Nora Roberts

Finally! A Nora Roberts book I haven’t read yet! (Well, just finished.) This one has been looking at me in the library for a long time, and I’m really excited I finally got the chance to pick it up and read!

Synopsis from goodreads.com

To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life-a quaint house on an island off Seattle’s coast, a thriving dog-training school, and a challenging volunteer job performing canine search and rescues. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare…

Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf serial killer, who shot and killed Fiona’s cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona found the peace and solitude she needed to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He’s the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy, foisted upon him by his mother. Jaws has eaten through Simon’s house, and he’s at his wit’s end.

To Fiona, Jaws is nothing she can’t handle. Simon, however, is another matter. A newcomer to Orcas, he’s a rugged and in-tensely private artist, known for the exquisite furniture he creates from wood. Simon never wanted a puppy-and he most definitely doesn’t want a woman. Besides, the lanky redhead is not his type. But tell that to his hormones.

As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona’s life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands.

A bit of a long synopsis, but it definitely sets up the story well! 

I loved Simon’s entrance into the novel. I know all about puppies misbehaving (mine is terribly fond of my slippers) and the description of Jaws gnawing away at the truck’s headrest made me laugh. Simon’s character was lifelike, but unlike a lot of Roberts’ heroes, he didn’t have a dark, mysterious past. He was just a woodcutter. I honestly liked him better that way. 

Fiona didn’t become a real person to me until I saw her with her dogs, and sometimes even then she and I had troubles. When she talks about her own dark, deep, mysterious past or when she is working with the dogs, she becomes a true character. My favorite scene with her is easily the first and the one in the prison near the end. (Hope that isn’t too much of a spoiler =] )

Roberts’ villains are extra creepy, mostly because a) there are two of them and b) one’s already in prison. I love the extra POV from the villains’ perspective; it makes the story much more vivid to see the thoughts running through their heads.

Even though The Search follows the basic plot line of Roberts’ murder/crime novels, I very much enjoyed it. Roberts always picks a fascinating occupation for her hero/heroine and I learn about a topic I knew zilch about before (like that in search and rescue, some dog handlers say “find” for a missing person and “search” for the deceased). As always, her choice of setting is amazing – I want to visit the islands off of Washington state after reading this novel. 

If the time presents itself, I would definitely read this one again.

Posted June 8, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 6, 2012

WWW Wednesday

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: The Search by Nora Roberts and Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos. I love Nora Roberts, and her story about a search-and-rescue dog trainer with a dark past is absolutely captivating (so far). Mr. Darcy was a random pickup in the library. So far, it’s very light and fluffy.

Recently Finished: One Day by David Nicholls. Check out my review of it here

Reading Next:  Cinder by Marissa Meyer and  The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien. 
I heard great things about Cinder and managed to find a copy at the library (yay!), and I have been searching for a copy of The Lord of the Rings for ages! So excited to finally find one. 🙂

I would love to know what you guys are reading! 
Happy Wednesday!

Posted June 6, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized, WWW Wednesday / 10 Comments
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