Monday, June 11, 2012

More Minis

Catch up time!  

Summary (highlight to read): One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

If you read Divergent (which I loved), then you'll know exactly what you're getting into with Insurgent. Lots of action, plot twists and turns, a dash of romance, an incredibly strong and brave heroine, and a terrifying dystopian setting. This series borders right on the edge of my violence tolerance in literature. It can be kind of graphic at times!

That said, Insurgent is very much a middle book. Despite all the action scenes, it still felt slow to me, almost like it was trying to stretch out its plot material so Veronica Roth can fill out her trilogy. At 525 pages I definitely thought it could have been shorter. But at the same time, because of its pace I still read it very quickly. So - I definitely liked it, but not quite love like the first book.

My rating: ****

Summary: Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart.

I've been looking forward to Bitterblue for ages! Fire and Graceling were both amazing reads (though I liked Fire best - oh, and so you know you don't have to have read either to enjoy Bitterblue; they're companion novels, not strict sequels) and Kristin Cashore writes my favorite kind of fantasy - magical, deeply layered, and completely transporting. I ended up really loving Bitterblue. There was so much more mystery than I was expecting! Hidden passageways in the castle and codes and all sorts of complex secrets. Leck is dead, but his presence is everywhere in Bitterblue. The mental wreck he left behind is extensive and I loved watching Bitterblue fight it and come into her own as a leader. There are so many fascinating characters in this book and I have to admit... my favorite was the librarian (maybe my favorite literary librarian ever). His name is Death (pronounced "Deeth") and his grace is to read super fast and recall everything he's ever read. Ummm.... yes please? He was snarky and grumpy, but turned out to be a fabulous ally and friend to Bitterblue.

Anyway, a couple negative points I want to mention really quickly. The romance was less than satisfying (spoiler: They just part ways at the end? That's it???) and sometimes I feel like Kristin Cashore is trying too hard to inject her opinions on modern social issues into her books. In Graceling it was all about a woman's right to not marry and have any kind of relationship she wants with anyone, in Fire it was all about birth control and abortion, and here in Bitterblue there are several gay couples (who of course feel like they should be allowed to marry and have the same rights as others). In my opinion it just mars the whole fantasy world I'm trying to immerse myself in when I'm reading. Kristin Cashore can have whatever opinions she wants, but I wish she wouldn't try to hit her readers over the head with them. So, overall Bitterblue was great, but with a couple reservations.

My rating: ****



Becoming immortal wasn't supposed to be the easy part. Though Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld, she's as isolated as ever. And despite her growing love for Henry, ruler of the Underworld, he's becoming ever more distant and secretive. Then, in the midst of Kate's coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans.

As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it is up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person who is the greatest threat to her future.

Henry's first wife, Persephone.

This is the sequel to The Goddess Test which I found less than satisfying. Why is it I feel like I always need to read sequels? I guess I was hoping (being the HUGE greek mythology fan that I am) that we'd get more mythology and coolness in this book than the first had and that perhaps Henry would stop being the most boring God of the Underworld I've ever encountered. Didn't happen. In fact, Henry was even more boring and practically made no appearances in this book until the end. And as for mythology. Well. I don't know what Ms. Carter was thinking, but when I realized this book centered around the tired old the-gods-must-unite-even-though-they-hate-each-other-against-their-only-enemy----KRONOS!!!! plot I was so disappointed. And you know, I've read lots of books that took overused plotlines and made them awesome, but it didn't happen here. It felt recycled and unoriginal. There were a couple good moments, but they came too late. And you know the worst part??? I feel compelled to read the third book when it comes out because this one ended on such a cliffhanger. Mean.

My rating: **


Summary: Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

I knew from the summary that I was going to sob my way through this book. What I was not expecting was that I would also laugh my guts out. John Green. Good grief. I definitely need to read more of his books. I really didn't think I would like this - I generally don't do sad contemporary. But the fact is, we're all going to die (did anyone else just think of that kid in What About Bob? - "You are going to die. We're all going to die!") and this book was a reminder to me of how precious life is and how humor has helped me get through the little bits of tragedy in my own life.

Hazel and August are fantastic characters. Though let's be honest, and if you've read this you know what I mean - I've never met real life teenagers with that kind of vocabulary or that kind of in-depth understanding and interest in poetry and literature. I hardly had conversations like that in my senior-level English classes in college! Anyway, so they're kind of literary nerds (which I loved), but they were also very down-to earth and lovable.

Overall, there's no way to come out of reading this without feeling you've been through the emotional wringer - but in a good way. It reminds of that quote I keep seeing floating around pinterest: "A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.” ― William Styron. It's a beautiful book - highly recommended.

My rating: ****
(More like 4 and 1/2, - knocked down a half star because, frankly, there is quite a bit of swearing. There's also some talk about sex and a little off-page activity in that area...)

No comments: