Review – Allegiant by Veronica Roth

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Title: Allegiant

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books, imprint of HarperCollins

Date Published: 2013

ISBN: 9780062024060

 

In this final instalment in the Divergent series the world we’ve learned about, the restricted world in which Tris has grown up, suddenly expands and what the characters believed to be true about their lives crumbles around them. As the factions fall apart, a group called the Allegiant forms in order to seek freedom and to discover what lies beyond the fence.  What they find beyond the fence is no better than what lies within and Tris and Four are now faced with decisions that will alter their lives tremendously.

What I Liked:

This book was most definitely an improvement from Insurgent. There was purpose to the characters’ actions. It resolved the conflict that Roth establishes throughout the series (although this resolution is quite frustrating at times). I think that Roth sets up her story really well for what lies beyond the fence and she constructs quite an intriguing post-war world wherein the remnants of humanity are fighting an ongoing battle of survival. The story here is an in-depth observation of the flaws of human nature and ideas of nature versus nurture.

Tris in this book was much better than she was in the last book. She was proactive, strong, and a whole lot smarter. For once I was less bothered by her and more annoyed with Four.

The structure of the book alternates chapters from Tris and Four’s perspectives. I thought this was a really smart way to frame the story. It provides variety of perspective and kept me interested. I really liked getting into Tobias’ head and getting to know his character a little more intimately.

What I Disliked:

Oh so many things. Where to begin? Fair warning, there may be some spoilers in this section but I’ll try to avoid going too into it.

First of all, Four (Tobias) displays a complete change of character in this book and I found this extremely frustrating to read. In the first two books in the series, he is strong and determined. He’s one of the most consistently unwavering characters. I think with him, Roth was attempting to demonstrate great character development with him, but it really did flop. He does a complete 180 in this book, becoming weak, insecure, and self-doubting and this made him very annoying. He becomes a whole other person. This may be harsh, but I found him to be pretty whiney which is not in keeping with his character as established in the rest of the series.

Again, I’m going to talk about Tris and Four’s relationship. I was really rooting for their relationship to grow a little more, and it did in some ways. They finally sit down and talk to one another instead of assuming what the other is thinking. There’s growth in their relationship as they agree to be open with one another. But they don’t really communicate very well and they generally seem to smooth things over by making out with one another rather than talking things through. They make out A LOT. I began to doubt if there was really anything of substance to their relationship beyond their hormones. Ugh.

And lastly, for those of you who’ve read it, the ending just killed me. The conclusion to the series (I’ll try not to give too much away) was so unnecessary. Roth’s overly dramatic ending seems like it was added for shock value rather than being essential to the plot. There was no reason for it. I don’t know how other readers feel about the ending, but after everything that’s occurred in the series, all the violence and near-death experiences, it seemed so pointless to end in such an abrupt way. I personally read Y.A. fiction to enjoy a thrilling story with a relatively satisfying ending and I didn’t get that with Allegiant.

Final Thoughts:

Insurgent was a completely unnecessary book in this series. I would have enjoyed this whole story so much more if the second book hadn’t existed. Books 1 and 3 are both decent and there’s the potential for them to be excellent stories. But they fall a little short for me in terms of dialogue and character development. Because of this, I found myself walking away from this series with a lot of disappointment.  I read Allegiant mostly out of curiosity and because I’d invested so much time in the first two books. I had to finish the series. If you haven’t read it, I don’t know if I’d recommend it.

Review – Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitgerald

 

 

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Title: “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald”

Author: Therese Anne Fowler

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Date Published: 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-02866-2

 

 

 

 

Fowler’s novels tells the story of young Zelda Sayre through her whirlwind romance with F. Scott Fitzgerald, their marriage, and their eventual demise. Zelda is young, beautiful, and reckless when she first meets the creative and boisterous Scott. Their’s is a story of love and the dawn of the Jazz Age. They live a life of glam and excess, but is it enough to sustain their fiery romance? Can love survive success and celebrity and and endless stream of parties?

What I liked:

The author put tons of research into this story and it helped to create an historically accurate, fictionalized tale of one of the world’s most well-known literary couples. I really liked how the author acknowledges the book as a work of fiction that is based on real people and real facts. Fowler says that the focus of the text is on “the emotional journey of the characters.” Fowler uses her skills to bring Zelda to life for the modern day reader in order to share her emotional struggles and her position as a woman and a wife in the early-Twentieth Century.

Fowler does and excellent job of constructing Zelda as a well-rounded person. Zelda gained my sympathy early on, as a woman and as an artist. Her struggle to find individuality and autonomy in her relationship while still trying to maintain her position of loving and devoted wife is representative of women throughout the era as their faced with changing women’s roles and a rapidly changing society.  Zelda is likeable, vivacious, young, and very brave. She connects with the reader in the same way she connects with other characters in the book. Her story is that of small town girl meets the big city. Her romance with Scott is exciting. It’s the passionate love that people dream of, but it’s evident from the start where the cracks will form.

My criticisms:

“Z” really for me was reminiscent of The Paris Wife (which tells the story of Hadley and Earnest Hemingway). These stories were extremely similar in my opinion. Perhaps these women lived similar lives and similar marriages, but I felt a little bit like I was reading the same story for the second time. I would have liked to see greater differentiation between these two stories. The only major difference for me was that between the personalities of Zelda and Hadley. Otherwise, their thoughts and their lives are almost mirrors of one another.

Moving on to Zelda’s struggle with mental illness, I really didn’t think Fowler introduced Zelda’s mental state in a way that was conducive with diagnosis of schizophrenia (and potentially bipolar disorder). I felt like I was a little blindsided from the sudden transition from unhappy, neglected wife to mental institution patient. What could have made this plot element stronger is a closer observation of Zelda’s mental state in the chapters leading up to the diagnosis: what is she thinking? feeling? Is she demonstrating a mental deterioration? The reader does see Zelda’s struggle with Scott and her lack of freedom in her marriage. We see the missing romance and the absence of her husband, but it’s not enough for me to believe her diagnosis within the text is accurate. Even the diagnosis of bipolar disorder seems excessive for the behaviours that Zelda displays.

Verdict:

I really did enjoy this book despite my frustrations. Fowler’s writing style reads smoothly and flows well and she sparks life into her characters through her writing. She brings the height of glamour in the Jazz Age to light which carefully addressing more difficult issues of marriage, alcoholism, and female roles in society. It’s an interesting read. I think I’d give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

 

Top Ten Tuesday

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday! Today’s topic is: Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List. Where do I even begin? There are so many bookish things that I’ve come across over the past few years that I don’t think I can condense everything into one list of ten items.

1. Build my perfect library. Like any bookworm, I’ve been amassing books for as long as I can remember. Currently they’re stored between three different houses in boxes and on sad, albeit sturdy, shelves. My dream library would include floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, solid wood bookshelves. One side of the room would have a book nook with large windows and plenty of comfy seating where I could relax and read the days away. And if the sky’s the limit budget wise, I think I’ll add a nice baby grand in the centre of this room just to make my oasis perfect.

2. Own a piece of book inspired clothing or jewellery. I see lovely scarves, necklaces and earrings all the time with bookish themes. I think something like this would be a perfect addition to my wardrobe.

3. Get a literary tattoo. I’ve been dreaming of this one for YEARS. I really don’t know what I’m waiting for. Kurt Vonnegut’s quote “so it goes” has a lot of meaning for me and I’d like to have this constant reminder for myself. One of these days when I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll make this commitment.

4. Travel Europe to visit places of literary importance: Jane Austen’s home, the world of James Joyce, whatever I can find and see. I’ve backpacked Europe for tourist pleasure, but I want to return to see those places I’ve heard and read about. I want to find inspiration in the places that the greats found inspiration.

5. Pass on my love of literature to my children. So much of who I am today was shaped by the books that I read growing up. My parents were dedicated to reading to me and with me and I’d like to do the same for my own children. In today’s world when we see kids growing up reading less and less, I’d want to take the time to instill a love of reading in my own children one day.

6. Write again. I want to finish writing the manuscript that I’ve been working on for years. Although I should say finish editing it. It’s been written but rejection the first time around made it difficult for me to continue polishing this story up. I want to take the time to make this novel perfect and hopefully, one day, get it published.

7. I’d like to read all of the greats of the Twentieth Century. It’s an era of writing that I love, but haven’t read much of. Starting from the turn of the century, I’d like to make my way through decade by decade.

8. Collect as many unique editions of 1984 as I can. I keep finding lovely covers of this book that I want to own. I need to start owning them and showcasing them.

9. Have something book related at my wedding. I don’t know what it is, but I think books are so romantic and I’d love to incorporate my passion into my own love story.

10. Own a working typewriter. The one I own now is from the 1930s. I’d love to take the time and the care to fix this baby up and get her working again. It’s a beautiful piece of machinery, but it definitely needs some tender loving care.

Review: A Tale for the Time Being

download Title: A Tale for the Time Being

Author: Ruth Ozeki

Published by: Penguin Canada Books Inc.

Date Published: 2013

ISBN: 978-0-14318742-4

A Tale for the Time Being tells the story of Naoko Yasutani, a sixteen-year-old Japanese girl as told through her diary. Ruth, a writer,  who lives on a remote island (presumably somewhere off the coast of mainland British Columbia), finds a red Hello Kitty lunchbox in a plastic bag washed up on the beach. Inside is Nao’s story. Uprooted from her well-off life in sunny California when her father looses his job, and her family returns to their native Japan. Nao doesn’t fit in and she is teased to the point of cruelty and abuse. Through the diary, Nao shares her story and Ruth finds a bit of herself as life, death, and time itself are called into question. 

This story was a breathtaking, tragic, and heart-wrenching observation of life and the passage of time. It looks at what it means to live and die as it addresses aspects of the human condition. I laughed and cried my way through each thoughtful and incredibly perceptive page. I can safely say that Ozeki’s piece of artwork is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in a long time.

Nao is a remarkably intelligent girl for her young age. She is extremely observant and is internally contemplative. She understands her world in a clear, if brutal way. She is also an incredibly strong young woman. The ijime (bullying) that she endures in unlike anything I’ve seen or heard of before. Nao first reacts with violence and shame, but with the help of her great-grandmother Jiko, Nao learns to treat these hardships with peace and understanding. She demonstrates clarity and her perspective around her situation. I found it hard to relate with Nao having never known abuse like she experiences, but she is so open about sharing her situation with a reader, any reader, that it isn’t hard to feel profound sadness at her pain.

One of the greatest concepts that this novel tackles is the concept of the “now.” Now does not exist (which is interesting because Nao is pronounced the same way, and we don’t know if she is alive or dead, so Nao, “now,” doesn’t truly exist beyond the pages of her diary). Nao calls herself a time being, “someone who lives in times, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be” (3). She exists in the past, present, and future. This concept gives her (and everyone else) a pseudo-immortality and poses the question, do we ever really die/cease to exist? Do we continue to live on after death? Nao is further immortalized in writing. It creates a future for her beyond her death. For her, her written self is in the past, but Ruth as she reads, lives Nao in the present. The written diary shatters the idea of time. It establishes a bond between women across time, space, and culture. Nao finds a friend and companion in Ruth, although the two have never met, and probably never will meet. This book addresses very heavy and philosophical issues and although the story can’t totally be understood, Ozeki shares these issues in a way that is inspiring and truthful.

I had to read this book so slowly in order to take in every single detail and element, and I loved every second of it. This is not a quick, Sunday afternoon kind of read. It needs to be tasted and enjoyed in small doses, one delicious morsel at a time, or its rich flavour may just overwhelm you. The story is so large and vast. It is a story you don’t just read, you experience.

#RaiseSomeShell – Teenage Mutant Pop Culture from ECW Press

ARC’s are available through NetGalley for ECW Press’ “Raise Some Shell” for any turtle fan who’s interested in checking out this Pop Classics read.

Worn Pages and Ink

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Title: Raise Some Shell. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Author: Richard Rosenbaum

Publisher: ECW Press

Date Published: 2014

ISBN: 978-1-77041-179-1

Check this book out on Goodreads!
Raise Some Shell: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Taking a break from the fiction for a somewhat unconventional non-fiction, I’d like to draw your attention to the latest pop classic from ECW Press. TMNT. Doesn’t that take you back? I personally never watched TMNT, nor did I read the comics. Nonetheless, these reptilian heroes were ever present in my childhood and their influence on the comic scene certainly informs and was informed by the comics and graphic novels that I read and love today. Prepare yourself as Rosenbaum takes you on walk through comic history in his highly intelligent, witty text that is often punctuated with comically hyperbolized bias, humorous footnotes, and even the occasional knock at the modern day hipster (“Q: How did the hipster…

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Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday is “books on my Spring 2014 TBR (to be read) list. I’d like to see how many of these I’ll get through. I’ll set this goal and hopefully achieve it before summer comes around.

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Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

I have a fascination with this era. I don’t mind Scott Fitzgerald’s writing, but I’ve never read much about Zelda. After reading The Paris Wife, I’ll read almost any book that features this group of people.

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The Enchanted

I’ve heard so much about this book and so I currently have it sitting in by chapters.indigo.ca shopping cart. I find the narrator, a death row inmate, to be a strange and fascinating choice for a speaker.

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Frog Music

I fell in love with Emma Donoghue’s writing with her first novel, Room. I really can’t wait to pick up her latest novel.

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This One Summer

I’m always seeking out the next graphic novel that I want to add to my collection and this one fits the bill. I’m super excited to pick up a copy of this one.

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Half Bad

I heard about this one from More Than Just Magic. I’m always up for a good witch/wizard story. Plus, I think the cover is pretty cool.

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The Tyrant’s Daughter

War. CIA. Rebel factions. What’s stopping you from picking up this book?

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The Museum of Extraordinary Things

And returning to my favourite time period (the early Twentieth Century), I can think of nothing better than diving head first into the pages of New York City’s magically romantic, bootlegging,, mystical society.

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We Were Liars

The Goodreads description grabbed me on this novel. I’m so intrigued. The description reveals very little about this book, but I do know there will be secrets and plenty of lies.

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The Summer I Wasn’t Me

This novel sounds like a very touching and heart-wrenching story. It addresses a difficult subject and is really about a girl trying to find acceptance for who she is.

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Panic

I’m curious about this one. A lot of people seem to be comparing it to The Hunger Games. We’ll see. I’d like to find out what it’s like for myself.

Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Cress Title: Cress

Author: Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel and Friends, imprint of Macmillan

Date Published: 2014

ISBN: 978-0-312-64297-6

In the third instalment of The Lunar Chronicles series, we meet Cresent Moon, aka Cress, a lunar girl who’s been held captive in a satellite orbiting Earth for seven years and has been forced to work as a hacker and spy for the Lunar queen. Her loyalties shift after years of captivity and she establishes contact with the fugitives Cinder, Scarlet, Thorne, and Wolf. The group is split during a rescue mission and they must work to reunite in order to rescue the Commonwealth prince, Kai, from his deadly marriage to Queen Levana.

What an exciting book this was! It’s action packed from start to finish and holy moly, why must I wait so long for the final book, Winter, to come out? I don’t know how I’ll stand the anticipation! I was so tense reading each chapter, hoping for the best outcome. I literally was on the edge of my seat sometimes. The threat that the characters face is very realistically portrayed and the reader is carried along as Cress and co. evade capture.

Meyer does a brilliant job of keeping her female protagonists so independent from one another. Cress’ story is tragic having been separated and isolated at such a young age because she is a shell. Still, she is brave, intelligent, resourceful, and willing to fight for what is right, even if she is a little odd. The budding romance between her and Thorne is endearing, especially as we get to know Thorne more as he experiences a period of great character development. Cress proves herself to be mature, open, and accepting while her connection with Thorne strengthens. Her judgement of him based on the person he truly is, and not the persona she built up in her head, creates a pure and truthful relationship. Each character possesses a strong and distinct personality. I admire Meyer’s ability to make so many unique and independent characters. Each is bold and active and in their own way. I would have liked to see more of Scarlet. She has a strong presence in the book, despite her absence and Meyer does give us a little window into her story, but I think it would have been beneficial to give the reader a little more than a taste of Scarlet’s plot line.

My main frustration in the book is with Wolf. Upon separation from Scarlet, he becomes vacant and despondent, to the point where he cannot act without Cinder’s control. He is the most useless (But don’t get me wrong. He’s not totally useless. Maybe I should say he’s the least involved.) member of the team, which is a HUGE change from the Wolf that we are introduced to in book two. I found this quite inconsistent. I tried to be understanding that he is in a tough situation that anyone might struggle with, but I hoped that he would become determined and driven to remedy his bleak situation. Alas, this is not the case. Even when he does make a greater effort to assist the team, he is reluctant. I was a bit annoyed by the end of the book, but I expect we’ll see a significant turnaround with him in the concluding book.

I’m in love with this series, so if you haven’t read it, I’d strongly recommend you check it out. I’d love to hear what you think!

Check out on Goodreads:
Cress