Tag Archives: friendship

The Divergent Trilogy (Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant) by Veronica Roth

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“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.”
-Four, Divergent

Many years in the future, the city of Chicago has been split into five factions: Abnegation, the selfless; Amity, the peaceful; Candor, the honest; Dauntless, the brave; and Erudite, the intelligent. Each faction has specific jobs and requirements that must be made in order to join. At the age of sixteen, a choice must be made: whether to leave the faction of your parents that you’ve grown up in, or to transfer to another faction. After a simulation that is supposed to show her what her strongest aptitude is, Beatrice Prior learns that she is Divergent, or has equal aptitude for three different factions. This revelation causes her to rethink her previous idea about the factions, and her decision will transform her into a completely different person.

I tried to write that summary without any spoilers, so I apologize if it seems a little vague and uninteresting, because it’s truly anything but. The Divergent trilogy is reminiscent of trilogies like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, due to the dystopian future and survival themes, and this trilogy is just as action-packed and compelling. If it weren’t for the trouble I had finding the second and third books, I would’ve had this entire series read within a few days.

Not only do I love the action and suspense in these books, but the numerous themes are also a big deal to me. It’s like Veronica Roth just decided to write about absolutely everything she could think of to try to fit the books into every category possible. And I don’t just mean that this is an action/romance/sci-fi/suspense novel, but the fact that she decided to take nearly every problem a person could be faced with and let the characters struggle with them. The ability to do all of that and still make it work, I think, is what makes this series even more incredible than it would have been.

This trilogy also has a growing fandom, and that fact is an even better reason to try out these books. Although Allegiant, the final book in the trilogy, was released only two months ago, Veronica Roth has already announced a series of short stories from Four’s point of view will be published as an anthology in February. Additionally (and yes, I realize I’ve been ending a lot of my reviews with this sort of statement, but that just means they’re good books, right?), the film adaption for Divergent will be out in March, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort (who will also be playing Augustus and Hazel in the The Fault in Our Stars film adaption) as Beatrice and her brother Caleb.

I’m going to use the end of this post to do a little promotion for the Divergent Fandom WordPress blog, in case you’ve already read the series and want to check it out. It’s a great site that you should definitely check into if you’ve read and enjoyed the series. Thanks for reading, and happy New Year!

-J

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The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

The Burn Journals

“The only problem with seeing people you know is that they know you.”
-Brent

This is my second attempt at reviewing this book, so hopefully it doesn’t get deleted like the last one. The Burn Journals is a true memoir of Brent Runyon, who doused himself in gasoline and lit a match when he was only fourteen. He spent almost a year in treatment for his injuries and depression, and over this time learns to accept himself.

The thing I really love about this book is that you can tell he wrote it straight out of his fourteen-year-old mind. The language he uses, his sentence structure, everything is an indicator that he is not at all an adult yet. It isn’t told in the “this happened to me” way; it’s told in the present tense, to emphasize his youth. Even his thoughts and actions point toward childhood, and I think it’s brilliant. Also, the things Brent Runyon included in the story that he could have easily removed to save himself embarrassment are the greatest parts of the book, since it shows you how real everything was.

The Burn Journals is definitely a painful and depressing story, and its subject matter of attempted suicide and recovery is very strong. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, even those who are considering suicide. Actually, I think it’s the perfect book for someone who struggles with depression or suicidal behavior, because it shows the repercussions suicide has on everyone around you, and that everyone can get better with proper treatment and time.

Sorry it took me a while to get this review up, but I should have another one either today or tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

-J

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Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin (with bonus songs)

Memoirs

“You forget all of it anyway. First, you forget everything you learned– the dates of the Hay-Herran Treaty and the Pythagorean theorem. You especially forget everything you didn’t really learn, but just memorized the night before. You forget the names of all but one or two of your teachers, and eventually you’ll forget those, too. You forget your junior year class schedule and where you used to sit and your best friend’s home phone number and the lyrics to that song you must have played a million times. For me, it was something by Simon & Garfunkel. Who knows what it’ll be for you? And eventually, but slowly, oh so slowly, you forget your humiliations– even the ones that seemed indelible just fade away. You forget who was cool and who was not, who was pretty, smart, athletic, and not. Who went to a good college. Who threw the best parties. Who could get you pot. You forget all of them. Even the ones you said you loved, and even the ones you actually did. They’re the last to go. And then once you’ve forgotten enough, you love someone else.”
-Grant Porter

Depending on how long you’ve been following my reviews, you may or may not remember my previous attempt to review this book. Sadly, as I had just finished writing and was about to post, the entire thing erased itself, save for the “bonus playlist” I added at the end. So here I am, ready to review this book over again.

After losing a coin toss and having to go back to school to retrieve a camera, Naomi fell down the stairs in front of her school and hit her head. She awoke in an ambulance, confused and scared. By the time she got to the hospital, she discovered that all of her memory from the past four years was gone. Now, Naomi struggles to fit in and figure out everything she’s forgotten– including her best friend, boyfriend, her parents’ divorce, and the birth of her younger sister.

My review probably didn’t do this book justice, but trust me, it was a great book. It’s clear that Gabrielle Zevin did her research, because everything seemed very believable and accurate. Her character development was great, and the slow memory regaining made me not want to stop reading. I think the best thing about the entire book, though, is the tension between Naomi and the three guys she has to pick from– her boyfriend Ace, her best friend Will, and James, the boy she just met who saved her during her accident.

Since I can’t add the playlist (it’s still posted here), I’ll add my favorite song of the entire playlist in the back, which somehow didn’t make it onto the first list. It’s called “A Certain Romance” by the Arctic Monkeys, one of my favorite bands of the moment. And, just for a little something extra, I’ll add a link to the song I haven’t been able to stop listening to for about a week now: “Evolution of Get Lucky” by PV Nova on YouTube. Basically, he took the song “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams, and he did one of those “how music changes over the decades” things with it. It’s hard to explain, so it would probably be best if you just listened to it. I promise, it’s incredible.

Thanks for reading, guys, and I’ll see you soon!

-J

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”
– Mrs. Hempstock

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an unusual story told by an unnamed narrator about the childhood he has just remembered after sitting by the “ocean,” the lake in his old friend Lettie Hempstock’s yard.That’s really all I can say about the book without spoiling anything, so this will be a pretty short review for a pretty short book.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book. While I was reading, I didn’t want to stop. It was suspenseful, it was strange, and it was like I had been transported into Neil Gaiman’s little fantasy world. Sure, all of his books are unusual in a way, but this one was a little more so than the others I’ve read. And although I did really like it while I was reading, I’d become a little disappointed by the time it was over. Like I needed more, like it couldn’t be over so soon. Not as if it needs a sequel– I just feel he left too much unexplained and he should’ve  had an extra chapter or something. The ending was the only thing I really didn’t like about the book, but looking back on how odd the entire thing was, I’m surprised I even liked it at all.

And once again, like I’ve been ending a lot of my reviews lately, I hear about a possible film adaption produced by Tom Hanks. I don’t know if I can picture the book actually becoming a movie, but I’m excited nonetheless.

To conclude this review, I’d like to ask your opinion of whether I should post a review of the movie adaption of Catching Fire, which I recently went to see. Hopefully this will work out, since this is the first time I’ve ever linked a poll into a post. Vote on it below, and I’ll see you next time!

-J

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The Hush, Hush Series by Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush, Crescendo, Silence, Finale)

“Any happiness, no matter how brief, seemed better than the long, simmering torture of waking up day after day, knowing I could never have him.”
-Nora

Romance was not part of Nora Grey’s plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment. But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

I’m a little lazy today, so that summary is directly from Goodreads.com. Considering the cover art of the series pictured above, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you that Patch is a fallen angel. I mean, it’s almost screaming it at you. So, not only are there fallen angels in this fantasy world, there are also fallen angel-human hybrids called Nephilim, and that’s where it gets tricky. Basically, fallen angels can possess the body of a Nephil during the Jewish month of Cheshvan (which I’ve tried to look up and figure out exactly when it is, but so far, I’ve got nothing) if they swear fealty to the fallen angel. This will, in turn, make them immortal, like the fallen angel who possesses them. Fallen angels and Nephilim generally despise each other, not only due to the possession, but the fact that fallen angels created Nephilim.

I can’t say much more without destroying the plot of the entire series, but that’s the main premise. Also, fallen angels can’t physically feel, so there’s the whole forbidden love thing. You get the idea. So how about the actual review?

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the series. I remember when I read Hush, Hush for the first time, I absolutely loved it and couldn’t wait to get the sequel. About a year later, I re-read Hush, Hush and read Crescendo for the first time, and I remember loving it just as much. But recently, when I got Silence and Finale and read the entire series, my feelings about them had changed. Maybe I read them too many times, maybe I grew out of them, and maybe it’s the fact that I was reading multiple books in a row. Who knows? The thing is, I really didn’t like them very much, and I struggled to finish Silence because it was so boring for so long. And once I’d finally finished that one, I didn’t even want to read Finale. I was so sick of the entire series that I was ready to just give up, write a terrible review on half of the series to emphasize my hatred with the previous book, and be done with the whole ordeal. But, I didn’t. And in a way, I’m glad I didn’t, because Finale was definitely the best of all four novels and the only one I didn’t feel like I was wasting my time reading. The suspense leading up to the main plot point is great, the training is great, and the characters have visibly matured since the first installment.

I’d say overall, not bad. Some parts were cliché, yes, but others were great. Some well-liked characters I hated, but others I liked. The series was meh, excluding Finale.

Now, a little pathetic apology note: I actually finished the series yesterday, and I don’t really have an excuse for why I didn’t write the review then. However, between then and now I finished another book, which I’m currently multi-tasking on writing the review for and getting distracted on Tumblr. It’ll definitely be up before I go to bed, though, and it’s a good one.

Anyway, guys, thanks for reading, and I’ll be back soon with another review!

-J

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

“People want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer.”
-Silas

After his family was murdered when he was just a baby, Nobody “Bod” Owens grew up in a graveyard, parented by the ghosts of a married couple and guarded by a tall, dark, mysterious man named Silas who is neither living nor dead. The man who killed his family is still out there, waiting until the time is right to finish him off as well. And although the graveyard protects him, Bod wants to explore and meet others like him– which means exposing himself to his family’s killer.

The premise of this book is mysterious and strange, but beautiful nonetheless. It’s not your average fantasy story, of course; it’s bent on showing the “good side” of monsters and creatures we were all afraid of as children, while still being extremely dark.

I really liked the book while reading it, but I think the fan theory about Silas was what made me step up into loving the book. The theory that Silas is actually a vampire never occurred to me while I was reading, but after thinking about it, it made a lot of sense (actually, after thinking about it, I felt stupid for not getting it sooner– but apparently a lot of people were in my same situation) appreciate that Neil Gaiman didn’t stick to the vampire stereotypes that circle today. He was my favorite character in the book by far, and the realization that he was actually a vampire made me love him (and the book) even more.

Although I thought the book was absolutely great, I really disagree with one of the reviews featured in the version I read, which stated it was “a book for all ages.” The novel begins with a man murdering three people and attempting to murder a baby, and the entire plot circles around Bod not being allowed to leave the graveyard in case of being killed by the same man. There are creatures in the book called the Indigo Man and the Sleer, which I believe could definitely be nightmare-triggering to some children. And there’s a chapter where Bod is kidnapped by Ghouls and taken through what seemed to be a portal to the Ghoul world, which I definitely wouldn’t recommend any children to read. Yes, I do love how they portrayed werewolves and mummies and ghosts and vampires to be the good guys, but there are still bad guys in the book.

So, in general: Neil Gaiman is fantastic, The Graveyard Book is fantastic, Silas is fantastic, and I can’t wait to hear more. And, again, I’ve heard rumors of a movie going around. According to Wikipedia:

Irish Academy Award-winning filmmaker Neil Jordan signed on to write and direct a film adaptation, which as of January 2010 was in pre-production. In April 2012, however, rights to the adaptation were acquired by Walt Disney Pictures. Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and the film adaptation of Gaiman’s novel Coraline has been chosen to direct The Graveyard Book. Like most of Selick’s other films, it is probable that the film will be stop-motion animated, although that decision has yet to be confirmed by Selick himself. However, in the wake of Disney choosing to cancel another Selick project, The Shadow King, Disney appears to be seeking another director, one possible candidate being Ron Howard.

A possible stop-motion film adaption in the future would be brilliant, in my opinion, as I loved Coraline and I could definitely see another of Neil Gaiman’s novels shining in stop-motion, especially certain characters.

Okay, well, I think that’s mostly it. Sorry about the delayed review once again– I was so caught up in the Doctor Who marathon and 50th anniversary episode that I didn’t even remember I’d finished this book. (By the way, Doctor Who— wow. I know I shouldn’t be discussing it here, and no spoilers for any fellow Whovians out there, but seriously… wowI’m absolutely thrilled.) I should have the review of the Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick up either tomorrow or Monday, so I’ll see you soon!

-J

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars

“That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”
-Augustus Waters

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Once again, I’ve used the easy way out in copying the description from the book sleeve, but it’s just to be on the safe side. This is truly an amazing book, and I wouldn’t want to spoil anything in it.

I know I’ve said this before, but John Green is one of my favorite authors. Even before, when all I had read by him was Looking for Alaska, he was still good enough to be one of my favorites automatically. Now, reading The Fault in Our Stars has just intensified my adoration for his books and writing style.

There aren’t many books that can actually make me laugh out loud. Not saying I don’t laugh at anything, it’s just that most humor in books fails in making me laugh. So far, I’ve only found two exceptions: the Harry Potter books and John Green’s books. The wittiness of Isaac and Augustus, and some of the weird metaphorical conversations between Hazel and Augustus are just great.

And, once again, I’m excited to say that the film adaption comes out sometime next year. I don’t totally agree with the cast that has been chosen, but I refuse any more judgment until I actually see the film, which I’m sure will be nearly as incredible as the novel.

Until next time, my dears.

-J

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The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver

“They were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.”

The Giver tells the story of Jonas, an eleven-year-old boy living in a utopian society. Each year at the Ceremony of Twelve, all Elevens receive their career paths, but Jonas has an important task– he is to train with the Receiver of Memory, the most respected Elder in the community who has the job of storing all memories of the past. But as Jonas gets further into his training, he discovers all of the secrets his society is hiding, and how nearly all of the community is living in a black-and-white world (literally).

I hope that was an adequate summary– this is one of those books that is really hard to describe without excessive spoilers. I really enjoyed the book: the symbolism, the foreshadowing, everything. My only problem with the entire book was the “big twist” that I “definitely wouldn’t see coming,” which I suspected from the very beginning.

The thing that came as a big surprise to me– and probably what made me love the book so much– wasn’t a turn-of-events or anything like that; it was the thing about color that I alluded to in the description above. You really have to pay attention to detail to pick up on the fact that everyone in the society is completely color-blind. The way the author uses words like “dull” and “colorless”– they aren’t just plain adjectives, they’re literal. The way the author talks about sometimes Jonas sees things change— he’s seeing small glimpses of color. It’s crazy, and it’s subtle, but it becomes a major plot point later on in the story.

Also, like many other books I’ve been reviewing lately, I’ve just found out a film adaption is being made. (You’d think with a book from 1993 that’s so popular, there would already have been a movie.) It stars Jeff Bridges as the Giver, which I’m extremely excited about, and as soon as I see the movie (which won’t be until sometime in 2014… sigh), you guys will hear about it. See you soon!

-J

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The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner (The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure)

maze-runner-trilogy

“If you ain’t scared… You ain’t human.”
-Alby, The Maze Runner

First thing’s first, I apologize for not posting in nearly a month. The review for The Book Thief was supposed to be up next, but it somehow disappeared right before I posted it, and I wasn’t about to spend another hour rewriting. So, no review for that one for now. Within the next year I’ll probably end up re-reading it, so you’ll see one eventually (and one for the movie 😉 ). Also, a quick note before I get to the review: when I got these three books from the library, I also got The Kill Order, which is the prequel to this trilogy, but I’ve decided not to post it right away for a few reasons. And now to the review.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

(Summary courtesy of Goodreads.com.)

I believe that is the same summary found on the inside cover of the book. I knew I couldn’t do a summary of the first without giving away any spoilers, so it’s probably best to let someone else do it for me. I won’t give summaries of the second and third books because of spoilers, so I’ll just go right into the review.

These books reminded me of something that The Hunger Games fans would like. It’s definitely a survival story, and that becomes even more evident in The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. Thomas does remind me a lot of Katniss, in his attitude and independence despite what others tell him to do. And a lot of the other characters between the books compare to each other, like Chuck and Prim, and Janson and President Snow. You’ll even find tons of results after looking up “similarities between The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.” But in my opinion, the first book in each series are the only ones with real similarities.

If I had to describe this trilogy with a few words: action-packed, scary, vengeful, and sad. It’s like a survival thriller mixed with sci-fi, with zombies thrown in. (Well, they’re not exactly zombies, but they’re pretty close.)

One thing I love about this series is the variety of characters. You’ve got the good guys and the bad guys, the people you aren’t sure about, the people you think are bad guys and end up being good guys, and vice versa. There are big debates about love/hate relationships with certain characters, the love triangle that starts in The Scorch Trials, and more. All I can say is, in order to spark so many interesting debates on these topics, James Dashner must really know what he’s doing.

And finally, the movie. Whoever casted for this movie did an awesome job, in my opinion. I’m not totally happy with who they picked to play Frypan, but other than that, everything is perfect. And the photos that are already up on the IMDB page– wow. It looks like it’s going to be an incredible film adaption, and I can’t wait to see it when it comes out.

Well, folks, that’s all for today. I’ll be back with another full-series review soon, and possibly a Halloween-themed post before that. Until then!

-J

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby

“Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.”
-Nick

So, after just recently learning that a.) my school doesn’t teach this book and b.) the movie just came out, I went to the library and checked out The Great Gatsby. Already I knew it was one of those “classic literature” books that English teachers love and students hate, which immediately made me think, “Well, this is going to suck.” I just finished it last night, and I think I’ve waited enough time to let it soak in before writing the review. So here it is: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I’m not really sure how to give a summary for this one. There’s undoubtedly a lot going on in this book, so it’s hard to decide which point to focus on. I guess I’ll say it’s about Nick Carroway, a 1920s-era businessman who moves into a home next door to millionaire Jay Gatsby. This summary, taken from a reviewer on Goodreads, seems to sum everything up much better than I can:

Told from the perspective of Nick Carroway, a young man who lives in the house between Gatsby’s mansion and Tom Buchanan’s home across the Sound.
The 1920’s….a time of women becoming independent, of ravish parties and of young people losing themselves in the magic of the night. Outstanding parties, a war of love, the eyes above the ash pile, drinks and cars, oh my!

Gatsby is mysterious, trailed by constant rumors (“I believe he was an Oxford man.”, “He once killed a man.”, “He’s a gambler!”) and a murky love life. His parties are meant to please while he observes, quiet and unassuming in the background.
But do people really care for the man, or do they just like his ever-pleasant hospitality and abundance of drinks?
Behind his daring ‘get-togethers’, Gatsby is simply a sad man whose mind is glued to the past.

Daisy…the woman he loves is married to none other than Tom Buchanan, a brute of a man (not to mention racist and sexist) whose suspicions of Gatsby run deep.
Nick Carroway befriends dear Gatsby and is the calm observer of this affair. After five years of not seeing one another, Nick gets Gatsby to speak to Daisy again.

This is a story the delusion of dreams, and that of a man who has gone down in history as….”The Great Gatsby

Okay, so to the actual review.

Honestly, I’m not sure what to say. After about the first chapter or so, I realized, surprisingly, that I liked the book. It was interesting, mysterious, and I definitely wanted to keep reading. After Nick goes to Gatsby’s party, I started to realize how badly I wanted to see the movie already. But then it started to get slow. It was repetitive, hopping from affair to scandal like there was nothing else going on. And although it ended with a bang, but I’m still unsure of how I feel about it as a whole.

I am thoroughly surprised I liked it as much as I did, though. This is definitely not my kind of book, and yet I’m so excited to rent the movie this week. I might write a review of the movie adaption and add it onto the next review I post, or depending on how long it is, make it a separate post, so watch out for that. Thanks for reading!

-J

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