Monthly Archives: November 2012

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if people of opposing viewpoints, attitudes, and opinions just completely split away from each other? Well, Veronica Roth introduces us to that idea in Divergent. Her dystopian society is split into five factions:

  • Dauntless– Those who value bravery and fearlessness more than anything else.
  • Erudite– People devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and new technology.
  • Amity– Citizens who seek happiness as their number one priority.
  • Candor– Those that are honest no matter how painful the truth can be.
  • Abnegation– People that view selflessness and sacrifice as the only way to achieve a greater good.

Which one would you belong to?

Which moral is your top priority?

Now what if I told you that you’d be raised in one faction, but on your 16th year you had the choice to change factions. You take a test to help determine your aptitude. But the caveat is, if you change factions–to become who you truly are–you must forsake your family from then on and give up the only life you’ve ever known. Pretty tough choice.

For Beatrice, her time is up. She soon must make the decision that will change her life forever. Will she give up Abnegation and her family? Or will her test results reveal something different?

I absolutely devoured Divergent. Not only do I love a good dystopian society novel, but I like the idea of the different factions. It was easy for me to see where I’d end up. Candor. With the rest of the brutally honest people. Haha. My family would be there too, I’m sure. I know for a fact I’m too chicken shit for Dauntless. There’s no way I’m jumping on and off and moving train every day!

Roth created an interesting world, and Beatrice was an interesting main character. I felt that there were some discrepancies in her character that couldn’t be explained away. How does one raised to be so meek and timid so easily become a fighter? She got to be pretty tough pretty quickly, and although she may have had some innate qualities that would’ve eventually come forward–it all seemed like it happened pretty fast. I just couldn’t quite picture this little mousy blonde girl having this other kick ass side.

But maybe that’s just a flaw on my part.

That being said, I will definitely be continuing the series. I can’t wait to see what happens next, and Divergent was over much too quickly. The fear simulations were really interesting–and totally terrifying to imagine. (Like I said, I’m not Dauntless material…) The bad guys were totally bad and the love interest was… interesting. It’s definitely a new favorite.

For those of you who’ve also read it, how did you feel?

5 ravening dogs of 5

Oh, and if you’d like to take the test to find out which faction you’d be in, click here. 

Let me know your results 😉

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom’s Cabin goes down in history as one of the most controversial books of all time. Not only was it about the horrors of slavery and the wrongdoings of the South, it was also written by a woman in 1852. Many say it’s the spark that ignited the Civil War. Women didn’t do things like that back then. I’m sure HBS was shunned from all the snooty needlework groups in town. 

Pretty deep stuff.

UTC is kind of incomparable as far as a regular book review goes. Since it was written so long ago during such a pivotal time, it will forever go down as a classic. Very controversial, but a classic nonetheless. Many schools have banned it because of it’s explicit use of the “N” word and it’s gruesome punishment scenes. I personally think everyone should have to read it.

America’s past is an ugly one, but we can’t shy away from it or let it be forgotten.

The reality of our country is that it was founded using some pretty terrible practices. It wasn’t founded on kindness and consideration and baby unicorns. It was built on the backs of African slaves–humans treated little better than farm animals. Their blood, sweat, and tears are what enriched the very ground we walk on. It’s a sensitive subject for whites and blacks alike.

HBS captured the uglier aspects of slavery as best as a white woman could during that time. Many of the characters and the events are based on the anecdotes of people that really existed. And even if you take it as purely a work of historical fiction, it definitely opens your eyes and your heart about that time period. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be treated so cruelly–with hardly any hope for a better future. And being sold to a new master and being torn away from my family FOREVER…. Forget it.

That being said, UTC isn’t the easiest book to read. Not only was it written in a much different style than we are used to, but good portions of the African American dialogue are in ebonics and very difficult to interpret at times. HBS also tended to yank readers out of the groove of things by calling attention to the fact that you’re reading a story. “And now if you the reader would be kind enough to follow me to a different place….” blah blah, that type of thing. Publishers these days would skin an author alive if they tried to pull that.

But on the whole, considering how large a book it is, it’s actually an interesting read. I didn’t dread it as I have with some other classics, and I can definitely say I learned a lot.

Oh, but don’t expect a happy ending…

3 cotton bales of 5

(Also, this book is now public domain. That means the copyright has run out and anyone can use it. Because of this you can find free versions for your Kindle, which is what I did.)


Born to Die by Lana Del Rey

I know, I know. This is a book review blog. But every now and then an artist comes up who is impossible to ignore. Near the end of my stay in England I discovered Lana Del Rey and her first album Born to Die.

And immediately I was hooked.

LDR’s voice is mentholated smoke–soothing and dangerous. Her unique sound combines old Sinatra-esque croons with sharp morbid lyrics. She often talks about death, drugs, and makes allusions to sex with strangers. To look at her pretty polished image, you’d never expect her hand tattoos or her obsession with the macabre.

I absolutely love her. The whole CD is nothing but pure awesomeness.

Some of my favorites are:

Get with it, children.

 

 


Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I don’t know why it took me so long to read Water for Elephants. I mean, I’ve heard so many great things about it AND Rob Pattinson plays the lead role in the film adaptation. (Which I haven’t seen either!)

I mean, really, what’s wrong with me? 

I flew through this book in a couple of days. The story follows our protagonist Jacob Jankowski both backward and forward in time. Present day he is an invalid old man in a nursing home. But in the past he led a life of intrigue, excitement, and adventure traveling with a run-down old circus. That is, after his parents were killed in a terrible accident–leaving him penniless and causing him to quit his final year in veterinary school.

We can’t let a protagonist have living parents can we?? It would break the bounds of literature that hold the very earth aloft! MWAHAHAH!

Anyway…

Young Jacob loses his virginity, falls in love (a couple times), experiences abject terror, heartbreak, and best of all–what a nasty hangover feels like. Joining the circus was the best and worst time of his life. Old Jacob reflects on his past after an argument with a fellow patient sparks his memory. He struggles with being treated like less than a person just because he did the unthinkable and got old.

It really was a moving story. I absolutely adored it. But also, OMG. I knew circuses were (and still are) abusive to animals, but it is really hard to read about. Especially when the animals are intelligent and loving elephants. It’d be like beating your grandmother.

People are assholes sometimes.

Bottom line: It’s a great coming-of-age story co-mingled with the reminder to not forget that elderly are people too. Oh yeah, and midgets.

4 bearded ladies of 5


The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborelli

One of pop cultures greatest icons, even more than fifty years after her death, Marilyn Monroe remains relevant in today’s media. Almost anywhere you look you’ll see t-shirts, posters, artwork, and quotes made famous by the devastatingly beautiful lady in white. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe is a biography that pulls from many never before utilized sources including letters to and from her mother and half-sister, the Kennedys, and the lone friends and aquaintences still living.

Each of the many chapters details a small segment of her life, dividing things like her tumultous childhood and later, her dramatic romances, into tiny managable bites.

I’d always known that the starlet was troubled from start to finish, but I never realized the magnitude of what she went through. Not only were drugs SO free-flowing back then, but her childhood would’ve been enough to screw anyone up for life. It seems as though because of her upbringing and later stardom, the people she turned to for help or love ended up being the ones that betrayed her the most.

Not that she was just some sort of helpless victim, mind you. She could be calculating and sometimes ruthless, with the bounds of another’s marriage not meaning much to her. Suffice it to say, she pissed off plenty of wives back in the day.

But despite all that, you can’t help but feel sorry for her because in the end she was just looking for the same thing the rest of us are–love and peace. Unfortunately, almost all of her relationships were misguided and because of health concerns she was never able to have children. Add in the hereditary mental illness and you’ve got a recipe for distaster.

A glamourous disaster, but a disaster nonetheless.

TSLOMM was an interesting read, but like many biographies, it had tendency to get stale around the edges. Monroe’s life, while scandelous at the time, is actually pretty PG-13 compared to the antics of today’s celebrities. I learned a lot, for sure, but I felt it was missing that Oh no, she didn’t! factor I was expecting.

But, really… Poor Norma Jean…

3 blonde curls of 5

(You can watch her infamous serenade to JFK on his birthday here…)


The Profiler by Pat Brown with Bob Andelman

So late one night a couple weeks ago, I decided that it would be a good idea to stay up after Jason had gone to sleep and read a book about serial killers and psychopaths. In a thousand year old building that likes to settle during the night. Not one of my brightest moments. Especially since The Profiler is about real murder cases that have never been solved. 

Pat Brown, with the help of Mr. Andelman, details her life as a self-trained criminal profiler. She started in the business more than twenty years ago when a tenant she was renting a room to turned up as a prime murder suspect. That’s the summary at least. It actually took more than six years for the police to take her box full of evidence and actually do something about it–and even then he was never convicted and the case remained cold and unsolved. Stupid.

In college I majored in Criminology, so I know better than most that the modern American criminal justice system is extremely flawed–with often deadly results. Even if there is a ton of circumstantial AND physical evidence pointing towards a suspect, police are often too overworked to give it proper attention. That leads to them either making an incorrect assumption about the suspect, or brushing the case off completely. Not good when lives are on the line.

Each chapter covers an unsolved murder or two and how Brown has gone into these cold cases with what little evidence is left and pieced together what may or may not have occurred. It’s pretty interesting stuff.

Interesting–and chilling–considering none of these murderers have ever been brought to justice.

Definitely a must read for those interested in crime, murders, or even things that go bump in the night. I was creeped out simply by the knowledge that these real life monsters are still out there somewhere on the prowl.

4 abandoned cars of 5


Death’s Excellent Vacation edt. by Charlaine Harris & Toni L.P. Kelner

Seeing as I’ve been on Chelsea’s Excellent Vacation since July, reading about Death’s Excellent Vacation was no stretch. 

(As a side note, sorry for being AFK so long. I’ve moved back to the US and have been scrambling around seeing anxious friends and relatives).

Like many of the books I’ve read in recent months, DEV is an anthology of fantastical short stories by some pretty talented names. I had several favorite stories, including:

  • Two Blondes by Charlaine Harris- Sookie and Pam are at it again. Strippers, elves, murderers, and vampires, OH MY! (If I were them I would stop listening to Eric…)
  • The Boys Go Fishing by Sarah Smith- An elderly super hero is forced out of retirement when a bunch of mutant kids are dumped on his doorstep. I liked this one because I pictured Morgan Freeman as the main character–you’ll see what I mean.
  • The Innsmouth Nook by A. Lee Martinez- A goofy tale of two guys opening a bed and breakfast in a town straight from the Black Lagoon.
  • Safe and Sound by Jeff Abbott- Let’s put it this way: Nancy Grace covering the Natalie Holloway case meets supernatural disappearances.
  • Seeing is Believing by L.A. Banks- Old swamp voodoo brings a young couple together, but there’s more than meets the eye.
  • Thin Walls by Christopher Golden- SUCCUBUS, OMG! Just wait til you read the mouth/vagina description… *shudder*
  • The Heart is Always Right by Lilith Saintcrow- A story about gargoyles in the modern world that was so captivating, I’m hoping for a series to be spawned.

There were a handful of others, while cute and entertaining, were just not as gripping as those listed above. They were either too corny or just emitted the paranormal romance vibe too strongly.

I highly recommend this anthology and it’s going down as a new favorite. Read it to stave off post-Halloween withdrawals.

4 horny demon dogs of 5