A review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

‘Allegiant’ is book three of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series and when it first came out in October 2013 faithful readers rushed to grab their copy and devour the juicy conclusion to the saga of Tris and Four.

Then they all jumped online and started tweeting and blogging and complaining.

I stayed away from all the reviews, I managed not to read a single word about The Ending because at that point I hadn’t read the second book and also I don’t like spoilers. I received both books for my birthday and finally had enough spare minutes strung together to read both books this month (thank heaven for school!) Oh happy January!

SPOILERS AHEAD

I don’t usually write any spoilers in my reviews, but in this case I’m not sure I can really say what I think about ‘Allegiant’ without giving some things away, so here goes.

‘Allegiant’ is different from the other two books in the trilogy in that it tells the story from both Tris and Four’s point of view – usually alternating chapters between the two. Getting to look inside Four’s head and get a better understanding of who he is and why he does the things he does, was pretty cool and I think it gives the reader the ability to look back at the whole story with a more insight. Four’s story makes more sense once you’ve been inside his head. BUT, I also found it annoying because every so often it would not register with me at the start of a new chapter WHO was narrating and then a couple of sentences would just make NO SENSE and I’d go back and look under the chapter heading and think ‘Oh, right!’

The way the story ends, being inside Four’s head is a necessity – which actually made me wonder if the ending was not determined until after the first two book were written, forcing this change in style and if the other two books could also have been from both Four and Tris’s points of view.

‘Allegiant’ follows on from ‘Insurgent’ opening with Tris pacing in her cell where she is being held prisoner for her part in the attack on the Erudite headquarters. With the help of Four, Tris achieved her goal of exposing the truth – which turned out to be a video clip revealing that there are people outside the city, past the fences where the factions had previously been prohibited to go. This was the secret the elders of Abnegation died trying to expose. They believed it was time for all of those in the city to be made aware of what lies beyond the fence. The video plays on a giant screen for all to see, and Tris hopes this will be an end to the fighting. The Erudite no longer have this secret to protect, and kill for. But with the fall of one dictator comes the rise of another and although no longer forced into factions, her people still find themselves divided and on the edge of war.

There’s a lot of fighting, a lot of conspiracy stuff, a lot of ‘who’s side are you on?’ and Tris and Four’s relationship takes a lot of damage as they both try to find their own truths and figure out what they should fight for, what they can live with, and what they should live for.

I find it tough to summarize ‘Allegiant’ because a lot of it felt like more-of-the-same which is a shame because overall, I did enjoy this series. I just grew a little weary of the conspiracies and the forming of another alliance to fight our common enemy stuff. I did enjoy the twists if you will, I liked what lay outside the city, I liked the reasoning behind the founding of the faction system, I liked that there were other projects in other places. I liked that the system out in the real world was just as flawed and that Tris had to keep fighting the good fight for justice and truth and life. I didn’t like David, I thought he was creepy!

Now, the ending drew a lot of criticism online – apparently a lot of people did not appreciate how Ms. Roth chose to finish her tale.

I loved it.

SPOILER

Life doesn’t neatly tie up all the loose ends into a sweet little bow. Stuff doesn’t always turn out how you envisioned in your rosy little dreams. ‘Allegaint’ does not finish with Tris and Four getting married and settling down to start a happy, factionless, genetically interesting family.

Tris dies. Four falls apart. Then he starts to put himself back together, and life goes on.

I loved it.

 

 

 

Finally getting to read my birthday books!

With the kids back in school I now have a little more reading time, so this week I finally got to start reading ‘Insurgent’ by Veronica Roth!

It’s been sitting on the edge of my desk since November, waiting patiently while I was too busy with visiting family members, Formula One racing, road trips to the beach and the mountains, Thanksgiving, volunteering at school parties, everything that comes with Christmas when there are three kids in the house, play-dates, movies, candy comas (me not the children) and sleeping late (oh I love when I get to do that!!!)

And finally, FINALLY – I pick it up and think ‘oh yeah Tris and Four,  Dauntless, the simulation, oh her parents… so what’s going to happen now?’ and I read a couple pages and then I think ‘crap, I don’t remember these other people… who is Susan? who is Peter? what are the other factions called again? where are they going?’ so I had to go grab my copy of ‘Divergent’ and skim through, reacquainting myself with that world.

So now I’m all ‘Peter GRRR! and Marcus GRRR! and oh Will *sad face* and hmmm Amity? water supply? WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN NOW????!!!!

I can’t wait for school pick up time because I go ten minutes early and I sit outside and read. *evil grin*

A review: Inkheart

Finally finished rereading ‘Inkheart’ by Cornelia Funke and it’s still firmly holding on to its place as one of my all time favourite books.
Even the second time around, this story does not disappoint.

‘Inkheart’ is the story of Mo, the book doctor who repairs broken spines and loose pages, and his daughter Meggie, a girl with a treasure chest full of her own favourite books.

Meggie and Mo live in a small cottage filled to the brim with books, they often travel together when Mo has to fix books for people who live far away. Their lives are filled with books, but Mo never reads aloud.

One rainy night a stranger arrives at the door, a stranger named Dustfinger who seems to know her father. Meggie is used to her father packing up his tools and taking her along on a job, but this time it feels like they are running away. Dustfinger is back, keeps calling Mo, Silvertongue, and he insists on going with them.
They head for Aunt Elinor’s house, a relative Meggie doesn’t remember. The house resembles a library with bookshelves floor to ceiling in every room. Mo has a book he doesn’t want to show Meggie, one he asks Elinor to hide, one that Dustfinger seems anxious to get.

Meggie soon finds herself in the kind of adventure she’s only ever read about – and adventures are much more fun when you can turn the page to stop being scared.

Meggie’s father has a secret, when he reads aloud the story comes to life and characters can come out of their books. He used to read to Meggie when she was small, until one night when Dustfinger appeared in the living room, and Meggie’s mum disappeared. Dustfinger wasn’t alone, the bad guy from his story, Capricorn, came too.

Dustfinger is homesick wants to be read back into his book. Capricorn, wants the magician, Mo, to read more of his companions out of the story and into this world, where there is treasure to be stolen and new victims to terrorize.

For nine years Mo has moved his little family of two from place to place, hiding from both Dustfinger and Capricorn. He doesn’t want to read out loud ever again and risk losing Meggie.

‘Inkheart’ is a wonderful book with a main character who spins such magic when he reads that the story comes alive, something which Cornelia Funke also does with her words.

Good guys, bad guys, magic, fairies, adventure, books, more books! A lovely, smart, brave, female character, a lonely, homesick, cowardly, fire breather, an old aunt who values books above people, except when people value her and a villain whose heart is as black as the ink used to write him in to existence.
‘Inkheart’ has everything.

A review: The Racketeer by John Grisham

In the interest of full disclosure I must admit up front that I am a huge John Grisham fan. Huge.
I started reading Grisham books as a teen and found them to be the perfect thing to fill the void after watching all the episodes of Matlock, Quincy, Murder She Wrote, and Columbo my TV had to offer.
In other words, I do enjoy a good detective/murder/mystery story. Grisham is usually a little heavy on the courtroom-lawyer side of things – that’s okay (see I liked Matlock already) but there’s still some good suspense building throughout his stories which is yummy and delicious. His characters are so very real – and there’s always someone that’s fun to root for or against.

The Racketeer is the first Grisham I’ve picked up in ages and it did not disappoint.
Malcolm Bannister is a convicted criminal, serving 10 years in a low security facility for a crime he swears he did not commit. He doesn’t waste his time filing appeals and arguing his case to the warden, he was a lawyer and he knows how these things work. He knows he would only be wasting his own time – and he has five years left.

Malcolm adopts the attitude that he just has to get through one day at a time. He just needs to survive, and the best way to get through each day is to find some way of passing the time.
He works a the prison librarian, he reads a lot and after successfully helping another inmate secure an early release, Malcolm becomes the resident prison lawyer. He devotes time each week to his fellow prisoners, looking through their legal papers, promising to help where he can. He hears a lot of claims of innocence, a lot of pleading for freedom. He hears one story that might help him walk out of prison a free man, with a new identity, a clean slate and enough money to start a new life. He just needs to make some deals and tell some stories of his own.

For the most The Racketeer is a fairly straight forward story, there are twists but nothing too crazy and you can see most of them coming. What makes the story so good though is the building tension, the game of cat and mouse, the sitting on the edge of your seat as you read wondering if Malcolm is about to get caught, if his whole concocted scheme is about to fall apart on the very next page.

A review: The Witch of Little Italy by Suzanne Palmieri

  I found Suzanne Palmieri’s debut novel through Twitter – by stalking, I mean following writers and agents and reading their every word on what good stuff is coming out soon. Seriously, Twitter is a great resource for avid readers looking for a heads-up on what to read next.

 

  The Witch of Little Italy is about a young woman, Eleanor Amore, who has lost all the memories from her childhood. She doesn’t know what happened, only that her memories start with her standing outside the home of her mother’s crazy aunts – aunts that they never visit.

  Eleanor has a difficult relationship with her mother, who has never attempted to explain what happened, to help Eleanor understand why she lost her memory or to give any hint as to what their life was like before Eleanor became a ‘blank slate’.

  When problems threaten to overwhelm Eleanor in her adult life, she suddenly feels the urge to return to her estranged family. The old building is both welcoming and worrying, her aunts are strange indeed and the boy who lives upstairs just might be the love of her life. There is magic and mystery surrounding Eleanor’s past and present and she hopes that understanding it all will bring back her memories and bring purpose to her life.

   I enjoyed reading The Witch of Little Italy, it has a lot of great elements. There is magic and romance and even a little mystery. The three aunts are wonderful characters, the kind of little old ladies you would love to meet and have tea with (actually be careful if they offer you tea!) and their mother, the matriarch of the Amore family looms large throughout the story, a very real and wonderful presence.

  I was somewhat disappointed with the main character, Eleanor. She’s rather wishy washy at times, which I know is how she is actually described in the story – something of an insubstantial soul due to her memory loss, the cause and the consequences – but I failed to connect with her, and she wasn’t all that likeable. She made a bad choice, but it wasn’t her fault because she is ‘damaged’ and she kind of leaves that situation, but kind of doesn’t, she’s just hiding from it and then almost sucked back in to it. She  kind of floats through the story and is never really in control of it.

The memory loss is interesting because there is some mystery surrounding how it happened, but the discussion of the memory loss between Eleanor and the other characters is very repetitive. There are conversations where it is stated over and over that Eleanor lost her memory. It’s a little bit like this paragraph where I’ve written ‘memory’ three times, it’s annoying and no new information has been gained.

The twist – the big dark secret! – is rather predictable, but still nicely dealt with and with the exception of the part where Eleanor races through a mental hospital and then to a library, searching for information on her family tree when she has no idea what she is looking for or why and there’s no real reason for her needing any family history anyway, the story wraps up smoothly.

Overall I liked The Witch of Little Italy, it’s rather whimsical and fun and I will look out for Suzanne Palmieri’s other titles in the future.

 

Book for the summer (or not)

I picked up ‘Feed’ by M.T. Anderson last time I was at the secondhand book store after seeing it mentioned in ‘Writing Irresistible KidLit’ by Mary Kole.

The end of school was fast approaching so I knew I wouldn’t be able to dive right in, but I placed ‘Feed’ on my desk ready for those brief moments of downtime (aka the kids are asleep and the husband is gaming.)

I finally picked it up last week and tried to get into it… and failed. I’ve only managed seven pages and I can’t bring myself to struggle through any more. This is (almost) a first as I try very hard to get to the end of each and every book I start reading. (My only other failure-to-finish books being ‘Gerald’s Game’ by Stephen King and the infamous ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by E.L. James.)

What is the problem with ‘Feed’?

Well, it won an award (Los Angeles Times Book Prize) and is held up as an example in Mary Kole’s excellent book on writing, there are also many good reviews to be found so other readers have enjoyed it.  I’m not saying it’s a bad book. I can’t even say if it’s a good story or not because I haven’t made it far enough in.

MY problem with this book is the language used, I can’t follow it! Maybe if I gave it more time and spent that little bit more energy figuring it all out, I would understand what the author is trying to say and enjoy the story. But I don’t want to do that. When I pick up a book I want to fall into that other world, I want it to welcome me with open arms and show me all of it’s charms. I don’t want to feel like I’m studying.

‘Feed’ is set in a future where humans have a ‘feed’ directly into their brains which tells them what they like, what they should buy, what they should think. The main character is a teenage boy named Titus and the opening scene has Titus and his friends heading to the moon for a vacation. Sounds pretty interesting so far, yeah? The back cover of the book tells me that things change for Titus when he meets a girl who wants to fight the feed. It sounds great! I really wanted to read this story and see what happens, but to me the language used is so convoluted I just couldn’t get in to it.

The MC is a teen, so he uses slang. The problem is that he uses future world slang which means nothing to me, so I read a few lines and then have to decipher what it means. Which to me, feels like this:

We were all going to *made up word* but then she *made up word* and that was really *made up word* so then we just *made up word*.

 

A Review: A Game of Thrones

George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Game of Thrones’ is the first book in his series ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ (There’s also a cool TV series on HBO)

King Robert Baratheon rules from the Iron Throne in the city of King’s Landing, his wife Queen Cersei  of House Lannister, at his side, protected by the kings guard and advised by the lords who sit on his council. There has been peace in the kingdom for many years.

When Jon Arryn, Hand of the King, suddenly dies – his wife and young son leave the city in secret. They take refuge in The Eyrie, the impenetrable castle in The Vale, the lands held by the Arrryn family, cutting off all contact with the outside world.

King Robert rides north, away from the comforts of his palace, through the lands he knew as a boy, to Winterfell, home of Lord Eddard Stark, Robert’s best friend. Robert appoints Lord Stark as the new Hand of the King, a title Ned does not want but feels honor bound to accept.

In a land where summers last for years and winter brings more than darkness and cold, Lord Stark fears that winter is coming once more and is loathe to leave his home, but Robert was his best friend and is now his king, and so he must travel south.

When Robert and Ned last rode together, they killed the mad king and wiped out the entire Targaryen line, save a young boy and a baby, who were saved from death and sent across the seas. Robert took the throne and the Seven Kingdoms, joined as one, enjoyed peace under his reign. But with the death of Jon Arryn, all that will change.

Ned’s wife Lady Catelyn Stark, sister to Jon Arryn’s widow Lysa, is sent a secret message hinting at murder and treachery in King’s Landing. Tragedy befalls the Stark household and Lady Catelyn must remain, while Ned rides south with the King determined to find the truth and do his duty to his king. He must investigate Jon Arryn’s death without raising suspicion, he must keep his family safe despite the separation, he must advise and protect King Robert, and he must return home to Winterfell, because one thing is certain – winter is coming.

When I first started reading ‘A Game of Thrones’ I immediately thought of both ‘Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R. Tolkien and ‘The Stand’ by Stephen King.

LOTR, because this is an epic tale. A new world is waiting within the pages, a world of kings and knights, duels and sieges, loyalty and honor, dragons and dark magic. (yes, there are dragons!) There are castles and entire lands, all richly detailed, and a history so real you’ll find yourself believing it to be true.

The Stand, because there are SO MANY CHARACTERS! Seriously, there are a dozen important players whose thoughts, words and actions you must follow throughout the novel and they all have family members, friends and enemies (and pets!) that are important to the overall understanding of the tale. Like The Stand, you have to put some effort in to keep everyone straight, (wait, was that the same guy that that other guy was talking to?) but when you do, it’s well worth the effort.

George R.R.Martin has created a world that pulls you right in, the characters are rich and interesting, some you root for even though you know it’s fruitless, they are doomed, others you despise but you turn the pages eager for the next encounter.

The game of thrones has many players, who shall prevail? You have to keep reading.