Thursday, August 14, 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth

One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior's society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she's determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.
Review by Patrick:

So Rachel read this one quite a while back (before we started the blog) and told me I had to read it. It was a must read. I was like, "Sure. I'll read it, when I have the time." Then the movie was coming out, and we have a pretty strict policy on Read-It-First. So I finally buckled down to read the book. I should have listened to her (always good advice, husbands) and read the book a year ago.

Throughout this book I kept thinking about how it would be to live in Chicago if this were real. What faction would I be in? What faction would my parents be in? Would I choose the same one of my family or would I transfer? (I actually answered that one; I would transfer.) What faction would my wife be in? Would we have met, fell in love, get married? These were questions this book begs you to ask. In short, "What if this were real?"

I have to admit this "utopian" society really fascinates me. The book doesn't explain what happened to get the society to where it was, but really we hardly know how we got to our present situation in real life, so it stands to reason that we wouldn't have too much background. But the situation of the factions described in the present is the important information for the book. The five factions, the choosing ceremony, the factionless, the discontent between the factions... All of that is important to the story, not necessarily the history of how they got there. Although I imagine we will get more history as I read the other two books of the series.

I liked this book. I read it in just a few days. But I also was not prepared for the twists and turns of this book. It seemed pretty harsh, almost too realistic at times. In other ways this book was fundamentally flawed (thank goodness). I don't think that humans, particularly Americans, would ever be happy with just living out one ideal, out of only five. I thought I myself would fit into three or four factions, maybe all five. How could you expect someone to choose just one of those, especially a sixteen-year-old. So I'm glad the book was flawed so we don't go down that road ourselves in the future and I'm glad that we are not perfectly divided.

Overall, this was a good book. I'm going to rate it a 4. It's a good young adult distopian novel that introduces some new ideas in the world of ideas.

Net Up:

Sphere and Will Grayson Will Grayson.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

The Adderhead--his immortality bound in a book by Meggie's father, Mo--has ordered his henchmen to plunder the villages. The peasants' only defense is a band of outlaws led by the Bluejay--Mo's fictitious double, whose identity he has reluctantly adopted. But the Book of Immortality is unraveling, and the Adderhead again fears the White Women of Death. To bring the renegade Bluejay back to repair the book, the Adderhead kidnaps all the children in the kingdom, dooming them to slavery in his silver mines unless Mo surrenders. First Dustfinger, now Mo: Can anyone save this cursed story?
Review by Patrick:

This book did not let you put it down, until the climax was completed. From the end of the second book, this one picked right up and was intense from the get go. I can't believe it took me as long as it did to finish this book. Mostly because it was an audio book and I didn't have my car at times.

The performance by Allan Corduner was good. I don't think it was as good as Brendan Fraser, but he did a better Orpheus. He did a wonderful job with the Readers in the book.

The book itself was great. I think that the book came to a good conclusion and was intense and good and... I'm flustered. I don't know how to describe it.

It was so good, that I don't know if I have any critiques, other than give us more books. The whole time I listened to the story, I felt like I was sucked in to that fantasy world. I loved the power of words. This author knows what it feels like to tell a story and how to cherish it, but not only those things, but eloquently express those ideas into a story of it's own.

Apparently, with no negative feedback, I think I must rate this novel a 5 as well. This series is now one of my favorites, and I can't wait to go back and reread the paper copies.

Up Next:

Sphere by Michael Crichton, and whatever audiobook I find next at the library.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Beautiful Redemption by Kami Carcia and Margaret Stohl

Is death the end . . . or only the beginning?

Ethan Wate has spent most of his life longing to escape the stiflingly small Southern town of Gatlin. He never thought he would meet the girl of his dreams, Lena Duchannes, who unveiled a secretive, powerful, and cursed side of Gatlin, hidden in plain sight. And he never could have expected that he would be forced to leave behind everyone and everything he cares about. So when Ethan awakes after the chilling events of the Eighteenth Moon, he has only one goal: to find a way to return to Lena and the ones he loves.
Back in Gatlin, Lena is making her own bargains for Ethan's return, vowing to do whatever it takes — even if that means trusting old enemies or risking the lives of the family and friends Ethan left to protect.

Worlds apart, Ethan and Lena must once again work together to rewrite their fate, in this stunning finale to the Beautiful Creatures series.
Review by Patrick:

I don't know what to think about this one. It definitely had an interesting view on the afterlife, or more correctly, limbo in the afterlife. The story was pretty basic. We did get answers to some questions that had been building up in the series, so that was nice. And there were some interesting twists throughout the book that kept it interesting.

But other than that, this book didn't have a whole lot of Casts in it. It did show that life isn't always black and white, good or evil. We all have some of both in us. The worst of us have some good, and the best of us have some bad.

I guess I was a little disappointed in this book. It didn't have the Hollywood dramatic finale that a end of series book usually do. I was expecting more bang and epic battles. And the book did leave questions unfinished, like what happens to the Far Keep and the family after everything is over? It seems like there could be more books to the series.

I'm going to rate this book a 3. It was good, but I definitely wanted more.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 is set in the closing months of World War II, in an American bomber squadron on a small island off Italy. Its hero is a bombardier named Yossarian, who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he hasn't even met keep trying to kill him. (He has decided to live forever even if he has to die in the attempt.)

His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men have to fly.
The others range from Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder, a dedicated entrepreneur (he bombs his own airfield when the Germans make him a reasonable offer: cost plus 6%), to the dead man in Yossarian's tent; from Major Major Major, whose tragedy is that he resembles Henry Fonda, to Nately's whore's kid sister; from Lieutenant Scheisskopf (he loves a parade) to Major -- de Coverley, whose face is so forbidding no one has ever dared ask him his first name; from Clevinger, who is lost in the clouds, to the soldier in white, who lies encased in bandages from head to toe and may not even be there at all; from Dori Duz, who does, to the wounded gunner Snowden, who lies dying in the tail of Yossarian's plane and at last reveals his terrifying secret.

Catch-22 is a microcosm of the twentieth-century world as it might look to someone dangerously sane. It is a novel that lives and moves and grows with astonishing power and vitality. It is, we believe, one of the strongest creations of the mid-century.

As revealing today as when it was first published, this brilliant novel by the author of Picture This expresses the concerns of an entire generation in its black comedy. World War II flier John Yossarian decides that his only mission each time he goes up is to return—alive!
Review by Patrick:

 This was another one of my unfinished books that I decided to finish for this blog. I'm glad I did finish though. Not so glad that I read it.

Let me start out positive. This book was the best portrayal of dry humor and paradoxes I have ever encountered.

That's it. I hated this book. It was so boring. The story wasn't really a story, and the resolution was almost non-existent, which I guess I should have expected when you are facing a Catch 22. The book hardly followed the same character. Everyone dies (not quite like Game of Thrones, but enough to be disturbing).

I would like to quote an actual passage to give you a sample of the humor, wit, and dryness of the writing. Yossarian is speaking to a doctor, Doc Daneeka. Yossarian's whole mission in life is to not get killed, and the best way to do that is to not fly anymore missions:
"You're wasting your time," Doc Daneeka was forced to tell him.
"Can't you ground someone who's crazy?"
"Oh, sure. I have to. There's a rule saying I have to ground anyone who's crazy."
"Then why don't you ground me? I'm crazy. Ask Clevinger."
"Clevinger? Where is Clevinger? You find Clevinger and I'll ask him."
"Then ask any of the others. They'll tell you how crazy I am."
"They're crazy."
"Then why don't you ground them?"
"Why don't they ask me to ground them?"
"Because they're crazy, that's why."
"Of course they're crazy," Doc Daneeka replied. "I just told you they're crazy, didn't I? And you can't let crazy people decide whether you're crazy or not, can you?"
Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. "Is Orr crazy?"
"He sure is," Doc Daneeka said.
"Can you ground him?"
"I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That's part of the rule."
"Then why doesn't he ask you to?"
"Because he's crazy," Doc Daneeka said. "He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he's had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me to."
"That's all he has to do to be grounded?"
"That's all. Let him ask me."
"And then you can ground him?" Yossarian asked.
"No. Then I can't ground him."
"You mean there's a catch?"
"Sure there's a catch," Doc Daneeka replied. "Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy."
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of the clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.
Maybe that was the point of this book. Maybe it was to show the complications of this war and the people who were participating in it. I will say that I was impressed with near the end of the book (Chapter 39: The Eternal City) it became quite philosophical and existential. It was as if the rest of the book that came before it was only building to show the nature of the human, or at least this human. It was quite thought provoking.

I can't rate this book high, all the same. I'm glad I read it, only for the sake that it is a "classic," and I have a strong desire to read all the classics. I could have read something so much more entertaining though. I'm going to give it a rating of 1.5. The saving grace of this book is the paradoxes that were contained in it, which is also probably why I gave it such a bad rating in the first place.


Beautiful Redemption, and I reserved Divergent.