Archives for posts with tag: Series

Genre: YA Dystopian Literature

Notes: 22/50 (no way I’m gonna make 50 books by the end of the year..blurgh.  The challenge continues another year)

Review: Okay, so I liked this book better than the first one of the series. Maybe because I’ve grown accustomed to the spelling and understand the political situation on New World a little more.  Plus I’ve gotten used to the NOISE.

To me, this novel (and the series) grapples with the question of “What is it to be a man?”  And it’s a question we see today.  A disturbing amount of teenage boys (and girls) think being violent and not allowing any “disrespect” is what makes a man.  In this society, men are only men if they have killed another man.  The refrain “We are the choices we make” echoes throughout the book and forces people to consider what kind of people they want to be.

Our protagonists Todd and Viola are separated for most of this book and each has to make his/her own choices.  What does it mean to be a man/woman?  What side of this war am I on?

As much as this story is about Viola and Todd and their choices, the villains in this story aren’t really villains, which makes their choices that much harder.  In the first book, it is easy to see Mayor Prentiss (now President) as a stock villain. However, book 2 explains his motives and his absolute conviction that his antics will bring peace to New World/New Prentisstown/Haven. He reminds me of the Mayor in the Walking Dead series in the way that he probably doesn’t see himself as a bad man – but he has to do bad things to keep the peace and get things done. He sees himself as a hero and as a man who has to do the dirty work no one else has the balls to do.

Mistress Coyle, the woman who is trying to overthrow him, is even more confusing.  She means well, I’m sure of it and I’m positive I would be on her side.  But she does…regrettable…things to strike back at the president’s men.  She reminded me a lot of Coin in The Hunger Games series.  A strong woman who did necessary evils, but unfortunately has all of the trappings of a dictator herself.  Even if she believes what she is doing is right, her means are no more justified than the tyrant she attempts to overthrow.

My one critique of the story lies in Todd and Viola.  I found them a bit irritating.  I can’t explain why exactly, but their love for each other and obsession with each other didn’t feel real to me. They’re 14.  It is one of the primary reasons I despise the premise of Romeo and Juliet.  They’re no overt sexual tension, but their feelings are so damn intense (maybe I’ve forgotten what it means to be a teenager already?  I’m sure my 14 year old self would defend that plenty of 14 year olds have intense feelings.  Isn’t that one of the hallmarks of adolescence?) but my jaded 24 year old self could not accept these characters were 14.  However, I will acquiesce and say that they have gone through more than most people do in a lifetime and that has aged them prematurely (they’ve killed for godsakes) and their shared experiences forged a bond stronger than most people see in their lifetimes.   And Todd just giving up because Viola “abandoned” him made me want to throw down the book in disgust.

Also, minor quibble: the font change between Todd and Viola’s chapters was annoying.  They weren’t different enough to announce THIS IS A DIFFERENT CHAPTER in capital letters.  And why do we need to differentiate them still further?  Each chapter had either TODD or VIOLA printed neatly at the top so we would know who narrated the section.  I am competent enough to follow those cues without the text changing, thanks.

Bottom Line: On the whole, good book.  Very emotional.  Very intense. It’s a little contrived and has been done before (YA dystopia, can’t get enough), but I can’t wait until I can get my hands on book 3 because this one left us with a cliffhanger!

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Genre: YA Dystopia

Notes: 18/50 books. So much teenage angst.

Review: Sigh. Divergent, like you can tell from my review, started off so strong. I liked the characters, I liked Tris, and I liked her relationship with Four/Tobias.  She seemed strong, independent, and didn’t seem like a silly teenage girl for the most part.

Oh, how wrong I was.  Tris is a silly teenage girl with angst oozing out of her pores.  Before I rail on Tris and the problems I had with the book, let’s start with what I liked.

First of all, I really liked this book.  It’s not the best book ever written and it’s not fair to compare it to the Hunger Games, but I like it and will definitely be reading the third.  (I’m going to guess it’s going to be named Emergent – just going with the “-urgent” theme.  Roth, I expect royalties on the title. Thanks).  We get a much better look at the factionless.  We see what motivates them, how they organize themselves, and a better idea of what life is like for the people who don’t make initiation into their faction or were kicked out due to old age (Cough Dauntless Cough.  Heartless bastards).  Plus, Roth gives us a decent look at every faction in turn – she shows their idiosyncrasies and their strengths.  However, herein lies my biggest problem with the book:

HOW AND WHY DO PEOPLE ONLY HAVE ONE ATTRIBUTE THEY FOLLOW ABOVE ALL OTHERS? Like, does not being in Erudite make you a moron?  Some of the stuff that Tris points out to the Dauntless about their plans is ridiculous.  Is she the only one who can think logically because she’s Divergent?  Like, really?  Dauntless is just a bunch of brave, screaming idiots who will rush into danger without a plan?  And the Erudite can’t not think logically?  People don’t fit into boxes and asking me to accept that in this world, people do (mostly) fit neatly into boxes is beyond absurd.  Every person should have all five of the faction traits in them – that’s the only way to be a complete human being.

In this book, Tris seems to dissolve into a teen drama queen.  She has this massive guilt trip about shooting Will (which is fair, I would too) and she’s beyond convinced that Four will leave her because she’s just that unlovable.  Barf, please.  Having some insecurities is human, but harping on them all of the time and actually driving people away is pathetic.  She battles with depression, tells herself she doesn’t want to live, but when faced with death, actually finds she loves her life.  Please.  It was like she took every annoying characteristic Katniss had when she moped around about Peeta and magnified them.  Get a grip, girl.  Don’t you see there are more important things going on?!

Bottom Line: The series is addicting, but has annoying plot holes and mediocre world building. I would still recommend it because Dystopian Literature is fantastic, but I’m still saying Hunger Games  and Katniss > Divergent and Tris.

Genre: YA Dystopia

Notes: 17/50.  Don’t judge my reading choices.

Review: This. is. my. new. series.  Love times ten. And you know why?  BECAUSE THERE ISN’T A FREAKING LOVE TRIANGLE IN IT.  No Katniss > Peeta > Gale and especially no Bella > Edward > Jacob.  I love Hunger Games, but the love triangle was a bit much.

Divergent is set in a future Chicago that has basically crumbled.  We get snippets that there was a big war, everything got fucked up, and the leaders basically created factions to keep the peace (which makes no sense, but we’ll get to that later).  Each faction has one value that hold about all others: Dauntless values Bravery, Amity values Peace, Candor values Honesty, Abnegation values Selflessness, and Erudite values Intelligence. Each faction believes their way of thinking is the key to peace in the world and each has specific jobs to make sure society continues functioning. Each faction lives separately, wears special clothing, and only thinks like their faction.  If you can’t fit into one faction, then you live factionless, which is basically living in homeless squalor.

You know why I love this book?  Because Beatrice Prior (aka Tris) is a badass.  She does some dumb things, but she takes care of herself.  Originally born into the Abnegation faction, she chooses to join the Dauntless faction on choosing day at 16.  Their initiation process is brutal (and stupid, I would never have joined Dauntless) and she learns how to fight, how to survive, and how to become the person she was meant to be.  She takes a short trip to bitch town for awhile, but who doesn’t? She rights herself in the end.  What’s special about Tris is that she’s DIVERGENT.  She doesn’t fit into any one faction well.  She actually fits into three, Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite.  In this world, being Divergent is dangerous because it basically means you can think for yourself and can’t easily be controlled – something the power-hungry Erudite won’t stand for.  Divergent are usually rooted out and murdered.

I mean, to be honest, the story has been done before.  16 year old girl has a sneaky suspicion she doesn’t belong, no one understands her, has an inner struggle, and goes on a journey to find herself.  Finds love along the way, kissy puppy love, and saves the day.  How many times do we need that storyline? Apparently a lot because girls like me eat that shit for breakfast. I identified at times with Tris because I think (hope) that I would be Divergent too.  No one can make me do what I don’t want to do.  Just try.  I’ll spite you just because I want to.

Now, the plot holes: CREATING FACTIONS IN ORDER TO FOSTER PEACE DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. Sorry Roth, your dystopian premise doesn’t hold a lot of water.  I’m willing to forgive you though because the action moves swiftly and my 12 year old girl heart loves Tris and Four/Tobias together.

Bottom Line: I bought this book at the airport in Minneapolis on Sunday morning for my flight back to South Carolina…and finished before I landed.  Get your hands on it!  I’m reading Book #2, Insurgent, right now and #3 is slated to come out Fall 2013.

Genre: YA Dystopia

Notes: Book 16/50.  YA Dystopia is my bread and freaking butter.  I’m slightly ashamed that my reading tastes will never grow up, but then again, I don’t care.

Review: First of all, I need to stop starting trilogies.  I went to the library and this book looked interesting and, lo and behold, it is a dystopic trilogy.  This novel is set in a different world where you can hear everyone’s thoughts. Even animals.  Well, technically not everyone.  No one can hear women’s thoughts.

We follow Todd, the last boy who is not a man in Prentisstown.  Boys become men at age 13 through a ceremony that does not get revealed until much later in the book, and Todd only has a month to go. Except Prentisstown isn’t what it seems and Todd meets Viola Eades, a settler from Earth with her family (who is now dead) to get ready for the rest of their ship to land.

I really, really, really wanted to love this book.  I like it, I will read the other two, but it didn’t draw me in like most other novels of its kind do.  The writing (intentional misspellings, the Noise in a different font, Todd himself) took some getting used to, and I found it slightly annoying. Also, I don’t think Todd’s importance is explained well enough for me.  In the novel, Todd is chased by an entire army made up of thousands of men from Prentisstown and other towns along the way, and they never let up.  Ever.  But why?  Just ignore Todd and carry out your plan.  I don’t see how he makes you stronger.  It doesn’t make any sense!  Perchance I am too old to be reading these types of novels, but I still demand a well-written story.

This book did, however, give me a lot to think about.  I found it interesting that what seems to be the most religious, fanatic town (Prentisstown) is the cursed town and as Todd and Viola run to Haven (which sounds an awful lot like Heaven) with only Hope.  Hope that Haven will be able to protect them.  Hope that Haven actually exists.  Hope that they can finally stop running.  However, they are disappointed with what they find there.  (Disappointed is an understatement, but I don’t want to give anything away)  Maybe I’m reading too into this book, but Ness doesn’t seem to be a fan of religion and how far off track it can get.  People can do anything in the name of religion and call it right – even if they are committing murder.  And Haven’s lack of a Haven for Todd and Viola crushes any hope you have for this fictional world.  Frankly, quite a few YA books have this similar theme.  A theme of balance and thinking for yourself instead of letting other people make decisions for you – even if it is in the name of religion.  It’s an interesting and sticky subject, especially with the political battles going on today.

Bottom Line: Ness likes to give you hope and then stab you through the heart.  Can’t we all just get along?

Genre: Fantasy

Notes: Book 12/50.  This book is enormous. It tops out at 1,016 pages. Getting through the  Song of Ice and Fire is an undertaking to say the least. Curse you, Martin!

Review: Finally, we get the other half of the story that Martin begins in A Feast for Crows.  Arya, Tyrion, and Jon add their voices to this incredibly complex web of stories.  And, since they’re my favorite characters, I highly anticipated reading this book.

Lesson #1 I have learned while reading Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.  No. One. Is. Safe. Also, Martin is a dick.

A Dance with Dragons does not disappoint in the intrigue realm.  I love the power struggles, the constantly shifting alliances, and Cersei finally getting something of what was coming for her.  But, honestly, it feels like nothing happened in this book.  Oh, sure, all of the characters are strewn across the globe and Dany gets stronger and more and more queenlike every day, but on the whole, nothing happened.  I don’t even know what thread I’m supposed to follow.  What is the key narrative of this behemoth? Methinks I should follow Dany, but I’m not even sure of that anymore.  So many loose ends!  How will Martin tie them up?  I hate infinite waiting periods.  Plus, Martin looks like this and may not last long enough to write another 1,000 plus page book.  He began the series in 1991 and his wikipedia page says the series will run at least 7 volumes.  Hang in there, George!

As a reader and aspiring writer, Martin constantly surprises and impresses me with the depth of his characters.  I even had moments where I felt bad for Cersei, and she’s probably the biggest douche in the series.  But, Roose Bolton can die a slow, painful death by flaying.  He is probably the most despicable, hated, and atrocious characters to ever grace this series.  I mean, he captures women for sport and sets them lose so he can hunt them.  If they give him good sport, he slits their throats before he flays them.  If not, he doesn’t.  And the really good ones get a dog named after her.  Awesome.  I would have killed Bolton by now if I were Theon Greyjoy.  Or killed myself.  One of the two.  And poor Jeyne Poole!

But, again, it felt like nothing happened.  I feel no closer to a resolution and I feel no advancement of the plot.  Brienne is still out searching for Sansa, Arya is still in Braavos as a temple servant, Tyrion became briefly enslaved as a part of a dwarf comedy troupe (which isn’t as interesting as it sounds), and Jon is still trying to hold the wall.  Westeros is still divided among like a bajillion kings all vying for the throne.  The novel is sprawling and incoherent at times, with only brief moments of beautiful clarity.  I am curious how Martin is going to wrap up the series (because I can honestly say I have no idea where he’s going) but I wish I hadn’t spent 1,016 pages stuck in what seems like it fits squarely into the middle of a gigantic story.  Nothing moves forward, but somehow, somewhere, these events will be important.

Bottom Line: If you’re a fan of the series and hopelessly invested like me, you don’t really have a choice.  You have to read this book.  But you might not love it.  It lacks the punch of A Storm of Swords.

Genre: Fantasy, epic, Lord of the Rings-ness

Notes: Book 11/50.  I’m behind.  Stop judging me.

Review: Fuck you, sir, for only giving me half of a book

When I finishedStorm of Swordslike months ago, I was trolling Amazon on my kindle to buy the fourth book.  But all the reviews were like “This book sucks” and “Be prepared to be bored.”  One reviewer broke the book down and said Cersei had over 1/5 of the book – which was why it was so gouge your eyes out boring.  So, needless to say, I put off reading this monster book. Which was stupid, BECAUSE THIS BOOK WAS GREAT.

Is it wrong I love Jaime Lannister? Amputee, incestuous, Jaime Lannister? Good, because I love Jaime Lannister. It’s kind of sweet how devoted he is to his sister – he remains completely faithful to her while she basically whores around and is generally a terrible person.  (I’m not saying people who have a lot of sex are bad – I’m saying it’s bad when you do it manipulate people into doing things you want)  Jaime is actually a gallant knight!  I even suspect there may be some feelings brewing beneath the surface between him and Brienne, even though the book constantly harps on how ugly she is.  And, with her mishap in A Feast for Crows, she will now be completely disfigured.  Slash she might have **SPOILER ALERT** died. But then again, I thought Arya died in the last book and she clearly didn’t.  So I’m going to wait until A Dance with Dragons to be sure.

For those of you who liked the other books, George R.R. Martin does not disappoint.  He’s like the American Tolkein with a story that could possibly go on forever.  There are so many plot lines, so many stories interwoven into the fabric of this novel, that the series could theoretically never end.  Kind of like Star Wars and the immense amount of fan fiction that only an original movie trilogy has spawned.

However, as the book wound down (all 980 pages of it), I thought to myself “Where’s Jon Snow?  Where’s Tyrion?  Where’s Dany and her dragons?” And, finally, on the last page, I saw Martin’s note.  He decided to write the whole story for half of the characters rather than half of the story for all of the characters.  So Jon, Tyrion, and Dany all have their voices in A Dance with Dragons. And like, I’m fine with “To Be Continued,” I really am, but I wished I had gotten some prior warning.  Don’t let me get 900 pages in and be like, “Yeah, I know.  I had to cut the book into two.” I can’t judge the whole book because it feels like the book is coupled with A Dance with Dragons. I only have half of the pieces and pawns in this story and don’t have the whole picture.

Bottom Line: Read it!  It takes awhile, but I am beyond sucked into the world of Westeros and Braavos.  Sansa Stark is still an idiot, but she’s learning.  Even though methinks she’s going to have to hold Peter Baelish off of her or run away sometime soon.  Her pretend “father” is getting a little too close for comfort.

Genre: Sci-Fi.  Out the assssssss

Notes: 8/50 books for the year. Slightly ashamed I read fan fiction, but it wasn’t bad.  And makes for a good blog topic.

Review: Fan fiction.  Let’s talk about it.  On the whole, Karpyshyn’s book wasn’t bad.  I’m not about to go and get more Star Wars books, but he penned an interesting story of the Old Republic and the battle between the Sith and Jedi.  If my research is correct, Karpyshyn is the creator of the Star Wars Old Republic video game.  His strength lies in the visual realm and not particularly the written realm.  He has the amazing ability to create a solid story, but doesn’t have the writer tools to take it to that next level.

For example, one of my biggest pet peeves is when authors repeat themselves.  Not in literary tools like alliteration or metaphors, but in like literally repeating a rarely used word within the same page or two.  In this book, Bane “sauntered” back to his house from the mines.  And then, in the next paragraph, “sauntered” to the bar.  Really?  I rarely saunter, and when I do, I only do it once. 

Reading this book brings up an interesting discussion about fan fiction.  Legit?  or not?  I have absolutely no facts to back this up, but I feel like the Star Wars franchise has spawned the most fan fiction.  I mean, from one trilogy to three more prequels to side stories about the sith.  How do these authors get published?  Are they self-published (like a lot of authors are doing nowadays) or is there one publishing house that runs all of these Star Wars spinoffs?  I mean, can I just slap some Star Wars shit together and sell it under that brand?

Confession: when I was like 11 or 12, I literally could not wait for the next Harry Potter to come out.  I had read the first three and couldn’t contain my excitement for the fourth. So I started writing it.  I don’t remember what I wrote (and I don’t think I kept it) but I wrote like a solid 30-40 pages before I lost interest in the project and became content to wait.  I’m sure it was awful.  Even to my nerdy 12-year-old self, something about using J.K Rowling’s characters as my own felt wrong.  I was, like..stealing.

Aren’t characters created by the author intellectual property?  I mean, if I went through all of the trouble to create this alternate universe and come up with all of the laws of the land, you better not profit off of my creative genius.  I’m flattered you chose to imitate me, but a significant chunk of those earnings better end up in my pocket.

According to wikipedia (Legit source, I know.  Shut up.  The page is surprisingly well researched):

Fanfiction is not infringing if it constitutes fair use of the underlying copyrighted work. In determining whether a particular use constitutes fair use, courts consider the following four factors:

  1. “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

However,

Fan writers who argue that their work is legal through the fair use doctrine use specific fair use arguments in the context of fan works, such as:

  1. Fan works do not deprive the owner of the source material of income
  2. Fan works may work as free advertisement and promotion of the original source material
  3. Fan works are usually non-profit.
  4. Fan works do not copy, or attempt to substitute for, the original work

To which I say, fuck you, sir.  Your book would not exist without my idea.  Therefore, any profits you make off of my idea are mine.  I may be coming down too harshly against fan fiction, but I firmly believe an author’s creation (especially something like Star Wars) represents a life’s work.  It is not easy to create something out of nothing.  The fan fic author is not creating, he is piggy backing on the shoulders of a giant.  What do you think?

Bottom Line: I felt my nerd-ometer go up exponentially reading this book.  And even more when I talk about it.  However, Darth Bane’s story is almost as interesting as the history of Darth Vader – the anti-hero rises again!