Posts Tagged 'divergent'

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters Ever

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created to share lists with other bookish folks! For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday list, we were asked to list our top ten most frustrating characters ever! This is a great idea for a list, and it’s one that I mulled over quite a bit, since frustrating characters are poised on a bit of a tight-rope. Some remain likeable, and some are just…not.

1. Rex and Rose Marie Walls, from The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
Perhaps because I read it so recently, author Jeannette Walls’ parents immediately sprang to mind as the epitome of “frustrating.” In my review, I spoke about struggling to feel sympathetic for them–the way Walls herself seems to!–but ultimately being unable to understand or forgive their negligence and cruelty toward their children.

2. Quentin Coldwater, from The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Quentin is whiny, arrogant, thoughtless, and decidedly unsympathetic. And he’s our protagonist! You’ll want to shake him constantly throughout these novels. That being said, he’s a fairly-realistic sketch of what a teenage boy with magical powers would be like.

3. Susan Norton, from Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Ugh, Susan. You’ve watched horror movies–you know what happens to blonde girls who go wandering around creepy mansions on their own! (You can read the rest of my review here.)

4. Henry VIII, from Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Compared to Cromwell, our main character, Henry VIII comes across as immature and undisciplined. While Cromwell has had to work hard for every opportunity afforded to him, the blue-blooded nobility look down upon him for his humble origins. (Review here.)

5. Llewellyn, from No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
The entire book–and all of its attendant cold-blooded murder and mayhem–could have been averted if you just didn’t pick up that bag of cash in the desert, Llewellyn.

6. Zoe from White Horse by Alex Adams
In my review, I found White Horse to be a frustrating book overall, due in part to protagonist Zoe. She really didn’t display any of the characteristics I would expect to find in one of the only survivors of a global apocalypse, and never seemed to learn from the mistakes that got her companions killed in various ways. Her totally inappropriate obsession with her therapist also drove me nuts.

7. Samad, from White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Like entry #9 in my list, White Teeth is populated by frustrating characters. Smith’s characters feel so realistic that even the poor choices they make are understandable. For me, Samad was one of the more frustrating individuals; he not only cheated on his wife, but also drives his sons away with his unreasonable demands and his lack of sympathy for the struggles of first-generation immigrants. Read my review here.

8. Tris, from Divergent (Divergent Trilogy #1) by Veronica Roth
Girl.

9. Everyone in The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
I couldn’t choose between Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell, who are all frustrating in different ways: Madeleine for her romanticism and playacting at adulthood; Leonard for his inability to take his mental illness seriously; and Mitchell for being generally privileged, pretentious, and unable to understand why a girl he’s friends with might not want to date him. More complaints here.

10. Lacey Yeagar, from An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
The consummate social climber, Lacey uses her youth and beauty to charm countless men into furthering her career and her expensive tastes. And unfortunately, because the novel is not from her point of view, we are never really given much chance to empathize with her. As I said in my review, “An Object of Beauty failed to wow me.”

Who are your top ten most frustrating characters? Feel free to link to your own post in the comments!

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2012 Book Meme!

Here’s a fun little 2012-in-review book meme! I found it at Catherine Pope – Victorian Geek via Ruby Bastille. Links go to my reviews.

Using only books you have read this year (2012), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title.

Describe yourself: Bossypants (Tina Fey)

How do you feel: Divergent (Veronica Roth)

Describe where you currently live: Beyond the Wall (ed. James Lowder)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Hyperion (Dan Simmons)

Your favorite form of transportation: White Horse (Alex Adams)

Your best friend is: An Object of Beauty (Steve Martin)

You and your friends are: The Devil All the Time (Donald Ray Pollack)

What’s the weather like: Full Dark, No Stars (Stephen King)

You fear: Disgrace (J.M Coetzee)

What is the best advice you have to give: This Love is Not for Cowards (Robert Andrew Powell)

Thought for the day: Eat the City (Robin Shulman)

How I would like to die: Blackout (Connie Willis)

My soul’s present condition: Revenge (Yoko Ogawa)

Whew. This was harder than it looks! How would you answer these questions using books you read in 2012?

Book Review: Divergent, by Veronica Roth

It did not take me long to realize that Divergent, by Veronica Roth, was probably not the book for me. I am naturally a critical person, though I can happily and willingly suspend my disbelief for a variety of sci-fi and fantasy premises. But I could really and truly not buy into the faction system in Divergent, and that–among other issues–prevented me from losing myself in the novel and enjoying it to the fullest.

First, here is the summary from GoodReads:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, 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 to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating 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 a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Sounds cool, right? Yeah. But then you learn more about the factions system, and you realize there is just no way this could possibly work. And I guess that’s the point, as the reader comes to understand all is not well in future Chicago, with inter-faction tension boiling. But what did they think was going to happen if you arbitrarily divide people up and then focus on cultivating a single trait to the exclusion of all others? Who proposed this, and how the heck did they get everyone else to go along with a system so doomed to fail? How are these artificial divisions any better than divisions along race, political affiliation, gender, etc.? What about traits that don’t have their own factions, like loyalty? How can someone be honest without being brave, or be selfless without being peaceful? It was never adequately explained and it was a real thorn in my side. The world-building failed to convince me, and so I approached everything that followed feeling off-balance and a little cranky. Again, I love creative sci-fi premises, but I need to see that the work has been put into making the world seem logical. When compared to the world-building of A Song of Ice and Fire or Ender’s Game or, yes, The Hunger Games, the setting and atmosphere in Divergent feels very juvenile.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Divergent, by Veronica Roth’

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they post a topic and encourage fellow bloggers to list their own top ten answers. This week’s prompt was to name the top ten books on our summer to-be-read lists.

And I’m cheating right off the bat, with two books slated to come out in fall 2012! But honestly, these are probably the two books on my list that I want to read the most desperately.

1. The Twelve, by Justin Cronin
This is the sequel to Passage, which I devoured but still felt a bit disappointed in. That doesn’t mean I won’t be reading this follow-up, if only for more information the Twelve, the originators of vampires.

2. This is How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz
I actually know nothing about this book. I do know that I loved The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao though, so I want to read Diaz’s newest work.

3. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by J.K Jemisin
This looks amazing. I’ve heard really good things from fantasy/sci-fi sites I trust!

4. Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell
I’ve reallllly been meaning to read this. I even had it out of the library but it got recalled before I had a chance to crack it open. I just discovered my hometown library has it as an e-book, and I’m on the waiting list. 🙂

5. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
I don’t tend to read a ton of YA, but I’m willing to make an exception to see what all the buzz is about. I’m actually considering using my grad student powers to have this book recalled back to the library!

6. The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt
Jae over at BookNympho gave this a great review, which is how it got on my radar. Followers of this blog know that I’m a sucker for violent Westerns (luv u, Cormac McCarthy!) so this book is intriguing to me.

7. Bossypants, by Tina Fey
Lucky me–my friend just gave me this as a gift!

8. Admission, by Jean Hanff Korelitz
I love college tales. Bonus: I already own this.

9. The Power Broker, by Robert A. Caro
This summer may be the time to tackle the challenge of Caro’s  thousand-page masterpiece about Robert Moses. Maybe I’ll read it while laying out on the beach named after him.

10. I’ll keep this slot open, just in case. 😉

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on my Spring To-Be-Read List

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, they post a topic and encourage fellow bloggers to list their own top ten answers. This week’s prompt is the Top Ten Books on my Spring To-Be-Read List! While it’s always challenging to narrow down such a huge, already-existing list (my to-read list on GoodReads is currently at 188), I found this list a little easier than past weeks’! 🙂 Check out my list below and feel free to share links to your own in the comments!

Top Ten Books on my Spring To-Be-Read List:

1. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
While I wasn’t immediately moved to read this from its description, the glowing reviews and love I’ve seen for this book on GoodReads and blogs that I trust was enough to make me add this. And if it’s the next Hunger Games, like I’ve seen some suggest, I don’t want to be left out of the loop!

2. Townie, by Andre Dubus III
This one comes with a glowing recommendation from a friend who has similar taste in books. I have a bit of a bias against memoirs, but Townie sounds like one that I would really enjoy, as it was described by Richard Russo as an excellent meditation on “violence, its sources, consequences, and, especially, its terrifying pleasures.”

3. The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Like Divergent, I want to read this so I can join the existing dialogue around it! It’s also my last attempt at enjoying a Eugenides book…if I don’t like this one, after having read both The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex and finding them to be meh, he and I are breaking up.

4. A Queer and Pleasant Danger, by Kate Bornstein
I had the opportunity to hear Kate speak at a conference, and she was really wonderful and funny. Her life story sounds absolutely incredible, including but not limited to her creation of the idea of “gender outlaws.” I had no idea she was a Scientologist for years, for example!

5. Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York, by Richard Zacks
Being a New Yorker myself, I enjoy reading both historical fiction and nonfiction about New York City’s early years, especially when it’s based around gangs, drugs, and general vice. This sounds like it would be a great complement to books like The Alienist and Low Life.

6. The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness
I meant to read this when it first came out…and it just slipped my mind. I’ve been seeing it make the rounds on book blogs lately and that reminded me to put it at the top of my reading list!

7. Yes, Chef: A Memoir, by Marcus Samuelsson
Any fan of Top Chef worth their black truffle and olive oil sea salt should read this memoir. I’m looking forward to the next time I visit my family in NYC and get to visit Samuelsson’s Red Rooster restaurant for the first time!

8. The Starboard Sea, by Amber Dermont
I like reading about the lives of the rich and privileged, especially if they are hitting rock bottom. (And in fact, I get annoyed at books that don’t have them facing any consequences of their actions…I’m looking at you, The Privileges!) This novel is set at a New England boarding school during the 1980s, so it immediately caught my interest.

9. Taco, by John E. DeJesus
On the other hand, I also really enjoy books about much-less privileged individuals, who make a life for themselves in the face of oppression. Taco is about a Puerto Rican boy growing up in Brooklyn. (Again, love reading about NYC!)

10. Hemlock Grove, by Brian McGreevy
“The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey Steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for” (via GoodReads). A murder-mystery/thriller with werewolf and/or vampire implications? Count me in. I can’t wait until this one comes out!


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