Insurgent and Allegiant

November 4, 2014 at 4:28 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I read Divergent a while back.  It intrigued me enough to know that I wanted to read the rest of the series eventually, but not enough to make too much of a mad rush to get my hands on it.  Although now I have read the rest of the series, despite many people telling me not to bother, and I’m glad I did.

InsurgentSo there’s a little too many fingers curling into shirt scenes… it might be the only way Roth has seen or experienced closeness – in the form of people tugging on t-shirts or twining their fingers around fabric in a near desperate manner.  That’s ok.  As a writer, I have a nasty habit of tucking things places.  She tucked this into that.  He tucked blah blah blah.  My editor gets on me about it all the time.  I’m surprised Roth’s editors didn’t nab her for the finger curling.  But that’s not the point…

The point is, despite the teen coming of age romance that we’ve seen over and over again, I liked one major thing about THIS romance.

AllegiantTris acknowledges that Love is a Choice.

“I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.”

After Twilight and Bella’s helpless infatuation…  After The Mortal Instruments and the “to love is to destroy” mantra…  After Hunger Games and a PTSD induced marriage of comfort… I’m glad Roth had the guts to write about another kind of choice, the kind that doesn’t happen just once, but every day in every moment.

I think that every true relationship has a little bit of all of those things: infatuation, passion, trust and comfort, and thousands of choices.  It’s interesting that in one sub-genre of young adult fiction, all released within a decade of each other, all popular enough to make blockbuster films out of them… we’ve covered such a vast array of relationships in our teen romances.  It’s good for young people to see such a variety of examples.

Even though Roth’s aren’t my favorite books ever, I like that she had the courage to write the ending no one wanted, but the one that would be expected in a world such as the one her characters live in.

I still haven’t seen the Divergent movie, but I’m looking forward to the day I do a little bit more, hoping that they stick to the books and don’t go too Hollywood with it.  I also look forward to seeing what Roth will write next.

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City of Glass

June 9, 2014 at 8:31 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

It seems even though this is my second time reading this book (my second time through the series as I prep to read the final volume!), I didn’t write proper reviews for each one.

I addressed the series, made references to Cassandra Clare’s work in many of my reviews, but City of Glass never got a review all it’s own.

So here it goes:

city-of-glass2Title: City of Glass

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult/ Teen/ Fantasy

Length: 541 pages

The book cover finally features a boy *with* his shirt on. However, the cover still annoys me. I suppose I’ll never get over how embarrassing they are. I’ve never preferred having actual people on the front covers of the books I read, unless of course they’re in some sort of Victorian garb. For some reason a person on the cover never truly embodies the mood of a story the way I want it to. I prefer buildings, scenery, landscapes, or the hint of a person.

For instance…

City of Glass 1That’s a cover I don’t mind flashing the masses, a train full of people, other moms at a public park, or I don’t know – MY KID.

Who am I kidding? In the U.S. the cover up top is the only one that is going to move copies of the book.  I’m an odd duck.  I know that.

Regardless of all that – I still adore these books. Brain candy, teen flick, romance nonsense and all. I just love them.

I love the book references, the intelligent quotes, the very teen appropriate quips.  I love that Jace (Jonathan) Wayland/Morgenstern/Herondale/whoever reminds me so very much of my own Jonathan at that age.  Clare has cocky teenage boy dialog down to an art.  Jace’s cockiness rings true and familiar, the knowledge that he is attractive and desired, edged with angst anyway.

I remember those conversations.  I remember the beautiful, desired boy flirting with me – the short, somewhat tomboyish and frumpy nerd who was always a little out of place.  Granted, I never got Luke & Leia -ed like Clary and Jace did.  But I think what makes these books so marvelous is despite the fantasy, despite the action and apocalyptic level of drama, despite the paranormal parts that drip into every aspect of the story – there’s something familiar for everyone in these stories.  Especially City of Glass, and the ever burning question so many romances have: If it’s not forbidden will he/she still want me?

This time around I re-read the first book, City of Bones, after seeing the movie. The library didn’t have the second book, City of Ashes, on hand so I just skipped it and went onto City of Glass. By doing this, I was brought to a whole new level of appreciation for the series, Cassandra Clare, and each book individually.

Even though I jumped in having skipped the second book – I wasn’t lost. Although the second book is pivotal to an epic saga of the Nephilim, I didn’t feel out of sorts by not having read it. Clare does such an excellent job of having each book stand on it’s own even though it’s merely a puzzle piece in a giant story. I love that.

I know it’s the thousandth time I’ve said this, and I shall say it a thousand times more – Well done, Cassandra Clare, Well done.

Do I feel bad about re-reading young adult titles over and over again and the age of thirty? No, not anymore.

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”- C.S. Lewis

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A Little Bit of Fad Reading

March 5, 2014 at 5:12 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

divergentTitle: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (An Imprint of HarperCollins)

Length: 487 pages

So I finally took that leap onto the [fad] train.

When I worked full time in the bookstore, chatting with customers, recommending books in person, I would have read this as soon as it was a thing for the sole purpose of finding something on the shelves that was similar when we were out of stock.  It was published in 2011, the year I left.  That last year was also one spent handling more inventory and displays as the store’s SIM than handling people and their whims and desires in the book world.   So though I was vaguely familiar with the title I totally missed the need to devour this title in a day and come back with a list of titles to hold over disappointed customers until we could get this one in their hands.

Somewhere along the road in my stay-at-home-mom life I discovered Hunger Games, and fell in love.  Though part of a huge fad, Hunger Games was no Twilight Saga or Vampire Diaries series.  Hunger Games was epic and beautiful and insanely well written.

So when I saw the preview for the movie Divergent, I thought, ‘What the heck? Let’s see if it will surprise me too.’

Color me surprised – again!  I really liked this one.  I read it in one day – nearly one sitting.  It tends to be easy to do that with contemporary young adult novels, no matter how long they are.

I found Hunger Games more moving, but I was able to relate more to the main character of Divergent more.  I’m nervous to see how they portray her in the movie, the book version is a person I feel very in tune to.  Katniss Everdean is someone I admire and look up to as a literary character, but whom I share very few similarities.  Tris’s story feels as though Roth dropped my mind into her version of dystopia.  Tris feels how I feel and tends to react in ways I am known to react.  (So far anyway.) Many of her fears were my fears at 16, actually I can’t think of one that is different.

For that it was incredibly enjoyable and easy to get into, and despite this being completely entertaining fluff fiction, I consider the hours spent reading it time well spent.

I’m interested to see how the  rest of the books go (it’s a series), as well as the movie adaptation in theaters this month.  Although I’m a little nervous that it might be too easy to amp up the cheese factor for the big screen – but I guess I’ll have to take a flying leap onto that fad train as well or I’ll never find out.

divergent-image05

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Papyrus – truly a thriller

January 21, 2014 at 3:08 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

papyrusTitle: Papyrus

Author: John Oehler

Genre: Suspense, Historical Fiction

Length: 326 pages

I’ve wanted to read this book since the second I saw its cover.  Mainly because John Oehler wrote it and I really enjoy his writing.   I read and reviewed Aphrodesia awhile back and I swear I blushed for a month, so I knew Oehler’s writing was phenomenal.  Add my obsession for all things Egyptian, and I was completely sold.

Many times this level of anticipation won’t work out well for a reader.  There’s too much pressure on the book.  How could it possibly live up?

Papyrus took my expectations in stride and out did itself.

Historical fiction all the way, there are still two different timelines – the ancient past (the 18th Dynasty of Egypt) and the not so ancient past (1977, during the war between Eritrea and Ethiopa).  I enjoyed the banter and flirtation between these timelines and the story.  It was woven together well and never missed a beat or left the reader feeling out of sorts with the rhythm of the tale.

In 1977, Oehler’s Rika Teferi is both a scholar and a warrior of Eritrea.  This was an attribute so enticing for my black belt and book nerdy self that I spent two hours in a local Starbucks devouring this book instead of watching the Broncos beat the Patriots on Sunday.  I loved her for her strength, her beauty, and ultimately for her intelligence.

Dive into ancient Egypt and Queen Tiye is completely riveting, especially since most my academic studies have focused on Hatshepsut and Nefertiti.  It was refreshing to have Akhenaten’s mother be the focus, as I don’t think she is as common a fictional pursuit as other Eqyptian Queens.  (The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Pauline Gedge’s The Twelfth Transforming – also stellar writing, but I was apparently so disappointed with the story it seems I have given that title away.)  I do not own any nonfiction work devoted primarily to Tiye either, but Oehler’s version of her offered a pretty tempting reason to go find some.

As always Oehler handles the story arch with such grace and ease – I am jealous.  He writes stories where things happen. Not just anything, but powerful and exciting things.  Foreign countries, different times, bombs, planes, diplomats, ancient manuscripts, tombs, revolutionaries, romance…!  His books are award winners with good reason and he is one of Houston’s best kept secrets.  It is amazing to me that this was Oehler’s first novel.

tyre44

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The Booktacular Book Club – July 2013

July 19, 2013 at 2:15 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

A really awesome twelve year old and her mother came to me and asked if they could start a book club at Half Price Books Humble.  Of course! Customer led clubs are definitely welcome, especially from the next generation of readers.  Having a twelve year WANT to be in charge of a book club is, in my opinion, one of the coolest things ever.

So, with a little bit of guidance, the girls laid out a plan.  Each month they will select a series.  Book one of the series will definitely be discussed and each member can read the rest of the series if they are interested or choose to only read the one title.  This gives everyone a lot of leeway to discover new things.

Our roster so far:

July’s Discussion = The Cry of the Icemark/ The Icemark Chronicles by Stuart Hill

August’s Discussion = Over See, Under Stone/ The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper

September’s Discussion = The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe/ The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Of course, I’m reading as much as I can with these girls as though I were a full-fledged member of the club… and along with that, providing my reviews of both the book and our discussions.

The Cry of the IcemarkTitle: The Cry of the Icemark

Author: Stuart Hill

Publisher: The Chicken House

Genre: Fantasy/ Adventure

Length: 472 pages

For me, this book had a lot of promise, a great story, and not quite as much follow through in the delivery.  It’s good, I would recommend it to 12-15 year old girls who love fantasy, but I kept falling asleep.

I honestly believe it is something I would have devoured in the back seat of my parents’ van on vacation had I gotten a hold of it at age 12, I would have craved more and collected the series.  But my 29 year old mommy-self felt disconnected from the story and, frankly, was made tired by it.  Where Susanne Collins reminded me of my younger girlish desires and dreams, and plopped me right down in the middle of a fantasy I could get lost in, with The Hunger Games – Stuart Hill and I kept playing an awkward dance of “This is awesome and now I shall remind you that you aren’t Thirrin, you’re just reading…”  Mostly, I think in the internal dialogue.  The characters would start telling me what they were thinking too often and it threw me off.  A healthy reminder not to do that in my own writing, because I think it is something I might be guilty of.  I would rather decipher a character on my own, thanks.  Remembering my 12 year old brain, however, I wonder if this would have bothered me then… would I even have noticed it?

I hoped to include the girls’ reaction to this book before I posted it.  But alas, on the third Thursday of the month at 6:30 pm, I was sitting at the table all alone.  I wonder if they lost interest in the club they just started, or if some miscommunication in days occurred.  We shall see next month.  Either way, I AM glad I took time out of my life to read this, even if it wasn’t my favorite.

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The Hunger Games Series

May 10, 2013 at 10:20 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

The-Hunger-Games-TrilogyTitle: The Hunger Games Trilogy

1. The Hunger Games

2. Catching Fire

3.Mockingjay

Author: Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games movie came out on Netflix and my husband really wanted to watch it.  But I have a rule in my house about watching movies before I read the books, which goes like this: I don’t.  I did want to see the movie, but I feared the series a little bit.  I didn’t want to read something out of obligation to curiosity and book pop culture and then feel let down like I had with Twilight.

I enjoyed Twilight, but I felt as though I had killed off more than a few brain cells by suffering through the commitment of all four books… but Twilight was a paranormal romance adventure… The Hunger Games is a dystopian society… there, there it is again “dystopian society” that little phrase that sucks me in every time!

the-hunger-gamesSo this week began project Hunger Games.  I wanted to at least get through a chunk of the first book before movie date night, and I did get through a bit, but I did not have the book completed when I watched the movie.  I tell you what though, I went through the movie and all three books in three days and I’m blown away.  It was pretty awesome considering what I was expecting.  The series is more comparable to Harry Potter than Twilight, in my opinion.

When I finished Mockingjay, I closed the book with a shake and had to go take a shower to wash the invisible grime off my skin and bask in the happiness of the epilogue.  It was perfect.

A lot of people say the third book wasn’t good.  I admit I was thoroughly disheartened about halfway through, and the emotional disconnect of some of the primary characters lasted way too long.  But it was appropriate.  It made the end that much sweeter.

On to the highlight of the purpose of my post:

triangleThis is the most intelligently written young adult love triangle ever.

Love triangles in young adult novels are pretty much a staple plot line.  Everyone has them.  They are always melodramatic, fitting considering the angst of being a teenager.  But Collins wrote a tip of an iceberg beauty that I will actually be proud to share with my daughter.

Why?

Love is presented very clearly as a choice.  In a world that is completely out of Katniss Everdeen’s control, in times when her family’s safety is based on how she behaves towards others, in a time when the choices don’t seem to be hers at all but a manipulation tactic from the authorities in her life… who she loves and how she loves them is still her choice.

I’m so exhausted of whirlwind romances in young adult novels that are out of the teen’s control.  They fell in love… they were destined… they were fated…. blah, blah, blah.

ÀμâI believe that everything happens for a reason, I do.  I believe that God has a plan, I do.  But I also believe that loving others and how we show them that is a choice every step of the way.  What I like about Collins’ book is the importance one simple choice leads to another choice to another and another and steam rolls into larger choices.  The whole book is about the importance of weighing consequences, realities, and feelings within the scales of logic, need, and want.  Sure, events out of the characters’ control changes circumstances, but given new circumstances what is the new ‘right’ choice.

I love it.

If you haven’t read the books, I tried to write this in such a way so I would not overwhelm you with blatant spoilers.  I hope you understand my meaning without clear cut examples.  Maybe when the dust settles I’ll write a spoiler alert review.

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Not So Legendary

January 18, 2011 at 8:23 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

A Review of Legends of the Fall, a novella by Jim Harrison

I only read The Legends of the Fall novella of this book, not the other short stories and novellas.  That being said, I was disappointed with this short piece.  After growing up watching the sweeping epic film, the novella felt too quick, there were no moments to pause on the beautiful despair of it all.  Although they are almost exactly the same (aside from the fact that Tristan and Susannah were actually married in the book and there was a lot of time spent on Susannah’s mental instability) I feel as though the film makers did well with the screenplay and turned mere 80 pages into something amazing.  Obviously, kudos to Jim Harrison for his awesome original storyline – but when it comes down to it – I’ll hypocritically watch the movie on repeat before I re-read the book.

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What’s Up With Those Templars?

February 15, 2010 at 9:41 pm (Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , )

So in Fall of 2009 I started a discussion thread in my book club about The Templars and Freemasons, and all those other secret societies that seem to have become lumped into one cohesive thought over that last few hundred years. I thought it would be fun and interesting (not unlike the Darwin study I’ve been doing lately). No one joined me.

My Book List was to Include:

Foucault’s Pendulum – Umberto Eco (fiction)

The Holy Bible – I am still using the Archaeological Study Bible put out by Zondervan (religion) as well as another version called ESV.

The Masonic Ritual or Guide to the Three Symbolic Degrees of the Ancient York Rite – Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons at San Antonio, Texas (religion/secret societies/ Freemasons/ occult)

Adoptive Rite Ritual of the Order of the Eastern Star together with the Queen of the South – arranged by Robert Macoy (religion/secret societies/Freemasons/ occult)

The Amaranth – Robert Macoy (religion/secret societies/ Freemasons/ occult)

The Templars – Piers Paul Read (history/religion/secret societies/ Freemasons/ occult)

The Meaning of Masonry – W. L. Wilmshurst (religion/ secret societies/ Freemasons/ occult)

Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott – (fiction / literature)

also for fun…
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown (fiction/ mystery)
The Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens (fiction/ literature)

Out of those, I read Foucault’s Pendulum (which was brilliant, as are all things Umberto Eco) and I just finished the book by Piers Paul Read.

Why did it take so long?

Piers Paul Read has an extensive history that spans three or so centuries – parts are fascinating and I couldn’t put the book down, and other parts were dull and I couldn’t wait to put the book down. What I discovered upon completion of the book, though, is that I was just being made more and more aware of how many interesting people there are in history that I should be reading biographies on! Eleanor of Aquitaine is mentioned a bit right around page 140 or so… There’s a picture of Richard the Lionheart in battle featured in the ‘centerfold’ pictures. I should know more about these people who are so well known among historians that every day people recognize their names too. Its not enough for me to recognize them – I want to KNOW them.

I noticed too that I tended to plod slowly through this book (and this topic in general) because it seems to create more questions than it answers. There is so much documentation of so many conflicting ideas. Were the knights actually crusaders for Christ? Were their actions even remotely compatible with the teachings of Jesus? Or, were they really devil worshipers like so many throughout history convicted them of being? Can the documented confessions be trusted? Or was it all just a a little too similar to events such as the Salem Witch Hunts?

The discussion thread for the book club is still open – join and add your thoughts there: http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32350/discussions/136727/Knights-Templar-Books-

Or, just tell me your opinion below. Also, if you’ve read something interesting on the Templars or the Freemasons, share the book and your review of it as a comment. I plan to continue my studies on the topic.

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