Divergent by Veronica Roth

(Divergent #1)

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

“Becoming fearless isn't the point. That's impossible. It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”

Dystopian is the "in" thing right now, a trend that's taken the reading and movie-going world by storm. That's unlikely to let up any time soon; Divergent cashes in on the trend, creatively conceived but unrealistic. I can't see our world ever dividing into these factions, it doesn't line up nor make sense, but it's a originative conception if you're in the mood for a unique dystopian world.

Told through first person POV, Beatrice never felt altruistic enough to belong to her Abnegation (the selfless) family. The day of graduation sets in the test everyone must take, one which will reveal which faction they are best suited for, leaving them the decision whether to stay or change what they've always grown up in. While testing, Beatrice discovers she's a blend of personality (good in our world, horror in hers). Other factions are Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent), Dauntless (the brave) and Candor (the honest).

I won't spoil what her choice was, but I wasn't happy with initially. The arrogance and annoyance of the faction's initiation lasted the duration of the book, a turn-off. I couldn't sympathize with some of the characters, the controlling world pissed me off, it seemed fiercely demented, and rage isn't a trait I like feeling while reading. After awhile it comes to a satisfying conclusion, taking the story in a direction I could finally embrace.

Because of my frustrations with the faction and how long the book stayed there, to some of my irritations with the main character, I was soured on the experience a little. It made up for it eventually, but there's not a lot going on to save it before it comes to that point.

The book shines with its tense action scenes, and although the faction initiation goes on too long, there's violent and politically charged things happening to make up for it. I didn't get the love connection Beatrice feels, it seemed forced and rather generic, not sure why they'd develop such a bond so easily. It didn't hurt my enjoyment of the story, just felt out of place and wasn't something I could invest it.

It's a pretty good story, not amazing, but an okay read and venture into the dystopian world. The ending leaves a mini cliffhanger, of course, and now that the faction has been shaken up some I'm hoping to enjoy the sequel more than the original.


   Book Quotes:

“I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren't all that different.” 

“A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.” 

   Movie Trailer:

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

(No Series)

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

“I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.”

A fascinating book as good as its reputation says it is.

The dream-like trance the alcoholic protagonist was in led me to feel the surreal experience fully. As she rode the train and fantasized about the imagined lives of the neighbors, while passing by the house of her ex who she obsessed over and wouldn’t psychologically let go of, she fully took me along for the ride in a creative way. I was sucked into her head, even if she repulsed me with her weakness, as she went back and forth from present day to past tense, trying to reclaims memories that would help solve a mystery.

The multiple point of book also digs into a few other heads too, the wife she sees through the window and imagines a life for, and the ‘other woman’ that stole her husband from her years before. Their stories merge together.

While the story is strong with keeping me glued as to what’s going to happen next, it was a detailed character study more than anything. The protagonist is so weak sometimes she does nauseate, but overall was likeable. Out of all the characters, I disliked Anne the most - ugh. Most of these people were flawed paper people with few redeeming qualities, but it had a realism in the intensity.

An unusual, well-done experience. The very end isn't a shocker, but it was a good twist/wrap-up. There are surprises in store for the reader, twists in the almost Hitchcock-type tale, everyday lives made extraordinary when brushed with crime. It works better since the characters aren’t completely likeable, because their realistic flaws make the plot believable. It helps the story is told in patches by characters who aren’t always reliable because of addiction, memory lapses, lies, false motives, and coming from different areas of the playing field.

“When did you become so weak?” I don’t know. I don’t know where that strength went, I don’t remember losing it. I think that over time it got chipped away, bit by bit, by life, by the living of it.”

If you take away the mystery, the crime and tension, you get a sad drama that tugs on the heart strings and makes the reader emphasize with the characters who dig their own graves. Is it harder to feel sympathy for someone who makes their own mess and keeps sabotaging themselves? In this book, not really; I kept sympathizing while being repulsed as the longer I read about the character, the more I understood the trance-like weaknesses.

This is a book I’d recommend for any reader. Whether you’re into drama, horror, suspense, mystery, most of that’s here. The train itself almost takes on its own personality, you get that strong of a feel for the environment these characters are in. The writer is talented and dishes all this out slowly under a druggish haze that heightens the experience. Completely recommended.

Read Excerpt here

   Book Quotes:

“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.” 

“There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.” 

   Other Suspense Reviews:

http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/12/kidnapper-by-robert-bloch.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/hideaway-by-dean-koontz.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2007/06/terminal-man-michael-chrichton.html http://thepaperbackstash.blogspot.com/2013/11/jurassic-park-by-michael-crichton.html

My Bookstore by Ronald Rice

(No Series)

In this enthusiastic, heartfelt, and sometimes humorous ode to bookshops and booksellers, 84 known authors pay tribute to the brick-and-mortar stores they love and often call their second homes. In "My Bookstore" our greatest authors write about the pleasure, guidance, and support that their favorite bookstores and booksellers have given them over the years. The relationship between a writer and his or her local store and staff can last for years or even decades. Often it's the author's local store that supported him during the early days of his career, that continues to introduce and hand-sell her work to new readers, and that serves as the anchor for the community in which he lives and works."My Bookstore "collects the essays, stories, odes and words of gratitude and praise for stores across the country in 84 pieces written by our most beloved authors. It's a joyful, industry-wide celebration of our bricks-and-mortar stores and a clarion call to readers everywhere at a time when the value and importance of these stores should be shouted from the rooftops.Perfectly charming line drawings by Leif Parsons illustrate each storefront and other distinguishing features of the shops.

Book lovers like to flock to bookstores. Bookstores that stand out as that ‘something special’ and something extra can win permanent places in a reader’s heart. I have fond memories of bookstores I’ve visited that I never got to see again, or who have now gone on to the bookstore-beyond, but they will always stay special to me. Thankfully the ones in my town still exist, waiting to be visited and cooed over all over again.

When reading Pat Conroy’s half memoir last year, My Reading Life, he praised a bookstore that meant a great deal to him, covering the bookstore owned in several chapters, discussing the people he met in the store, how he helped work in the store and would spend hours hanging out there, how it helps advance careers, and how that bookstore branched out through parties, word of mouth, and how it exists today. That got me thinking of other writer’s experiences, which led to me ordering this book.

Each chapter has a drawing of a rendition of a bookstore mentioned by the author.

It opens on a promising note - Be still my heart...the first essay from Martha Ackmann, on The Odyssey Bookshop, brought not only the bookstore to life but its creators. Romeo, who took his tea at 4 and was obsessed with Middlemarch. The bookstore that started on fire, was rebuilt, and started on fire again, to be taken over by a daughter who kept it flourishing. The Phoenix effect. It comes alive in this essay - wish I could visit.

Some of these don’t dwell on the charm of a specific bookstore, but instead take their chances to whip out a soapbox. Wendell Berry mentions not one bookstore but emphasizes the full magic of a book cannot be duplicated by reading a story on an impersonal screen. His quote matches my own view here: ”I still own books that have remained alive and dear in my thoughts since I was a boy, and a part of the life of each one is my memory of the bookstore where I bought it and of the bookseller who sold it to me.”

On a funny muse, Rick Bragg starts his essay by saying cats and bookstores go together like Peanut butter and Jelly but that he likes his bookstore withOUT cats, thank you very much! But it all ties in anyway, funny humor describing a favorite no-nonsense bookseller.

I had other notes that I jotted down while I slowly read this, but I can’t find them. If I do one day, I’ll add to this review, but overall it’s a great book that contains interesting essays in it, mixed with some that are generic and impersonal. One or two essays is fine, but reading this many takes time as you can only take in so much at once. It’s a good coffee table book to randomly open and browse.