Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this first book in a new YA dystopian series! It grabbed me right away and didn't let go until the end. Although there were flaws, I gave this one 5 stars for keeping me engaged & not wanting to put it down for a moment. It's a great read with excellent pacing.

I was impressed with how well-written and engaging this novel was ... the characters are fantastic, very interesting and believable. The plot moved fast and the story itself was quite good. I was also impressed that Roth created a romance here that I thought was fairly good for a YA novel - most YA novel romances are cheesy and annoying. Not this one. I actually really liked this couple and how their relationship played out. It felt fairly honest and real to me.

I really like the world that Roth created in this novel - the factions & the political implications of the world were interesting and thought provoking. I would have liked even more details on the world of the novel - how it came to where it was, etc. I do think the book ended fairly abruptly ... which was disappointing but I am able to overlook that, given that I knew its part of a trilogy.

But, all in all, I think its a fantastic read - fast paced and wonderful! A book that you won't want to put down and will be sad when it ends! Looking forward to the next book in the series!

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Fire (The Seven Kingdoms, #2)Fire by Kristin Cashore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book! I didn't want to put it down and ultimately spent most of the day, curled up, reading it. It's a fantastic, compelling read.

I think that I ultimately liked this book a tiny bit more than the first although they felt quite different to me so its difficult to compare. Well, they are different and they aren't different. Let's face it, Kristin Cashore has used basically the same plot for each book, just changing up the characters and the details. Her formula apparently works because I really enjoyed BOTH of the books. But, the primary reason that I didn't give this one a 4 is that its pretty much identical in scope to the first book, with different details.

I really liked the character of Fire. Even more than Katsa from the first book. I found Fire to be very interesting and complex - Cashore has a way with writing strong yet vulnerable women characters. I enjoyed watching her develop her relationship with Brigan and seeing her journey throughout the novel. I was happy that the Fire/Brigan relationship developed slowly and that each of them had to find themselves & their own journey's before coming together as a couple. It was nice that Cashore didn't fall back on the whole 'love will make it all OK' storyline. I liked that they had their own journeys to take and their own things to work out before they were ready to come together.

I was surprised that this book, although technically part of a series, was not tightly connected to the first book. Since its more of a prequel, I was disappointed that I didn't get to revisit any of the characters that I liked so much in Graceling. There are certainly connections to Graceling but they were not tied in the way that I expected. Perhaps that wouldn't have been disappointing, had I realized before reading it that it would be a prequel.

All in all, the world that Cashore has created is rich and detailed. I really think her character development is stellar. I really thought the ideas around monsters created in this world (particularly the specifics such as the vibrancy of color and intensity of appetite) was unique and compelling. These things literally jumped off of the page for me, conveying a complex and interesting world.

Although technically Young Adult, I'm not sure that its easily categorized as YA. It's much more than YA. It's just good fiction - with fantastic world and character building! I definitely recommend this one!

View all my reviews

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was intrigued by this book after so many of my bookish friends were raving about it. I am also a bit fascinated by Hemingway and was interested in learning more about him. I have read a couple of Hemingway's books (and A Farewell to Arms is one of my all time favorite novels) but I didn't really know a lot about him beyond how he died, the names of his novels & that he'd won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

What a nice surprise this book was - it is a really well told story about a fascinating time and some really interesting people. More than anything, this book really gave me incentive to do some research about Hemingway, his life, his novels, his colleagues and well, his wives. Fascinating! I kept finding myself switching over to the web on my Nook Tablet as I was reading to research some detail or person mentioned in the novel. If nothing else, the reading experience was very informative to me. But, its also just a good story. I don't think its a 5 star book ... there was a slowness in the book that was annoying to me at times which brought it down to a 4. But, it's a strong 4 and definitely worth reading!

This novel brought Paris of the 1920's come alive and I felt like I was sitting right there, observing the goings on of the Hemingway's and their friends. In many ways, this was a heartbreaking novel because it tells the story of how a relationship changes over time and how experiences and other people can come into your life & change everything in ways that you could never have imagined. There were times that I was very frustrated with Hadley & the decisions that she made and didn't make but, in the end, I could understand her motivations and, although I didn't agree with them, could see why she struggled with certain things.

I found this novel to portray a very balanced view of marriage and love. It showed the nuances of relationships in a multifaceted way that really spoke to me. There was a balance that McLain found in telling the story of these two people falling in love and what happens to them during their marriage. I think that balance gave the entire story its depth and made it feel very raw and real.

The only negative thing that I have to say about this novel is its pacing. There were entire passages and sections of the novel that felt very stiff and tedious - as if the author were so focused on getting the 'history' right that the storytelling was lost for a moment. McLain always got back to the storytelling but those small sections of flatness made the overall novel flow much less impactful than it could have been. Despite these forays into less than great storytelling, McLain does a fantastic job of making this time and these people come alive.

It can definitely be disconcerting to read about a marriage falling apart but I think that McLain's examination of the Hemingway marriage is one of the most nuanced and textured portrayals of marriage that I've read in awhile. It's really one of the things that I liked most about the book - the way that it made me think about marriage, love, friendship and the journey that we all take in our lives.

I definitely recommend this book - its a good read, very educational and compelling!

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: The Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

The Nobodies AlbumThe Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've resisted the desire to read this novel since it was published ... primarily because I had such a horrible, ugly reaction to her novel The Dogs of Babel. A throw the book across the room, refuse to continue reading kind of reaction. So, as you can imagine, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to read this one. However, I heard Ann from Books on the Nightstand say that she'd read it and that it was really good. Since I trust Ann's taste in all things bookish, I decided to go ahead and give it a read. And I'm so glad that I did.

This novel is, far and away, much better than the other Parkhurst novels that I've read. I thought that Parkhurst's device of using one of the characters changing the endings of her published novels as a way to support the narrative was really quite inventive. I thought the character development was good - it's critical to the story so having that not work would have made the whole thing not work. I thought that there was a complexity to the characters that made the plot & themes work. The unfolding of the characters relationships to one another was done expertly and really added to the movement of the book.

I did figure out the mystery/twist pretty early on which was disappointing ... I kept hoping that Parkhurst was going to surprise me with the ending. It really didn't. However, the journey to the ending was interesting enough that I can forgive that.

I enjoyed exploring the themes of the book quite a bit - grief, redemption, parental love, etc. That is what really made this book shine for me ... how it explored some uncomfortable concepts and themes without being depressing or negative.

All in all, I really enjoyed this novel - much to my own surprise! I highly recommend this one if you're interested in giving Parkhurst a read ... in my opinion, this is a considerably better book than The Dogs of Babel.

View all my reviews