BOOK REVIEW: Divergent (#1) by Veronica Roth

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Star Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Um, WHAT WAS I WAITING FOR??
Published on/by: February 2nd 2012 by HarperCollins Children’s Books (first published January 1st 2011)
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 489 pages
Synopsis provided by Goodreads: 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, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

STORY TIME ON THE EVENTS LEADING UP TO ME READING THIS:

Yes, why the HECK am I reviewing this book? Everyone and their grandmother have had the pleasure of diving into this roller coaster of a book…so why am I so late to the party?

Yeah, let me explain…

I bought Divergent (the UK cover was only available to South East Asia at the time) in 2012 because even back then, it was all the book blogosphere could talk about. Flash forward to two years later where it still sat on my shelf, bound by its plastic wrapping. Yes. I deserve to go to book prison. There should be a book prison. Heinous crimes like these do not deserve to go unpunished.

Now, what actually pushed me to finally read Divergent? Firstly, it was my best friend. She, like me, had put off this trilogy for as long as she could remember. However, she had a school holiday (we go to different schools) and she decided to finally marathon the series. She slept at 6 am for three nights finishing this series. Secondly, it was the movie. My best friend still had ‘Allegiant’ to go and she was not excited for the movie adaptation at all. Please see why here: Vampire Academy movie. By the end of the movie, I was sold. My BFF, however, was not. (She’s hard to please). Sure, it was a little ‘lol, yeah right’ in soooo many parts, but I found that if you just shut up and nod and take what they give you, you will have no choice but to enjoy the story as it is: a huge roller-coaster (ferris wheel, wink wink) of fun!

Now, let’s ignore the part where I took another four months to pick up ‘Divergent’. I just wasn’t in the mood to commit, okay?!

AND FINALLY, MY NON-SPOILERY BOOK REVIEW:

This book was GREAT. It was just so, so much fun. I loved the world, I loved the characters, but most of all, I loved that I was able (eventually) to separate the actors of the movie with the book. Soon, I was able to form a hotter and younger Four (very important) in my head and also, take things into perspective a little bit. Upon tackling this book (and movie), I had to remind myself of what a fellow reviewer said on Goodreads, which is that the Divergent world is ultimately a game compromising of rules that seemed to be made up by 11 year olds. If you start to question them, things will get loud. But if you just play the game as it is, you will be rewarded. And the reward? Just a plain ol’ fun bucket of fun! Cos that’s what Divergent really is! A huge big sack of action and fun.

I instantly liked Book Tris better than Movie Tris, and well…I also instantly developed the fangirliest crush on Book Four. Granted, I knew the events that would unfold, but the story told in this medium, for me, was ultimately better. I understood interactions clearly this time round (even though I watched the movie twice– the second time put me to sleep, I DON’T KNOW WHY, DON’T ASK ME TO EXPLAIN!) as well as developed a better feel and appreciation for the romance.

Even though the faction system was silly, in my opinion, this whole process of transferring and adapting in new communities and environments was really fascinating to read about. I especially loved Tris’s newfound friends like Christina, Will and Uriah and how different they all were in their mindsets. The initiation process was the best part of the book (apart from Four’s godly presence) as it was incredibly fun to read about. The pacing was on par and the atmosphere created put me on the edge of my seat.

Now, to explain why I did NOT give this a full five stars. You would think it’s because I read this after watching the movie, thus eliminating the factor of surprise, but that is definitely not the case as I was able to read ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett after watching the movie (oh, about 8 times) with fervour, giving it a well-deserved 5 stars. The reason for a 0.5 deduction is because even though I’m trying hard not to make noise over the silliness of the faction world, it’s still a little weak, if I were to nit-pick critically. This whole ‘Divergent’ aspect was interesting, but again, I was super confused (even after watching the movie twice). I had way too many questions when I reached the end of the book that I believe should have been addressed in the first book of a trilogy.

All in all, I have little complaints because this world gave me the beauty that is Four. That is all.

BOOK REVIEW: On the Fence by Kasie West

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On The Fence Book Cover

Star Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: THIS IS TOO CUTE!
Published on/by: 1st July 2014 by HarperTeen
Format: eBook
Page Count: 304 pages
Synopsis provided by Goodreads: For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can out-run, out-score, and outwit every boy she knows–including her long-time neighbor, and honorary fourth brother, Braden.

But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at a chi-chi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and bedazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pick-up game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

 

NON-SPOILERY REVIEW:

Having loved Kasie West’s previous contemporary book, “The Distance Between Us”, I expected nothing but an aww-inducing romance and a sweet and likeable protagonist. And boy, did I get it! Starting this book, I was a little wary because I couldn’t exactly relate to Charlie as I’m pretty much the complete opposite of her. Where she goes on 5 mile runs everyday, I prefer to IMAGINE myself exercising while eating potato chips, watching re-runs of Project Runway.

Charlie is a fire-cracker. She is so much fun to read about, mostly because she is the opposite of me. It was so fun to be in her head, and yes she can be slightly insensitive and hard-headed but she’s a character that grows and develops and learns more about herself. Having been raised without a mother, Charlie has many doubts and insecurities about appearances and the way she interacts with people, which made me appreciate where Charlie was coming from. I especially loved Charlie’s relationship with her family–a house of four boys! It was so fun to read about, especially since all off them had distinct personalities. The romance was especially sweet, and even though there was a love triangle–a half-hearted one at that, it was a really sweet tale of first love and being comfortable with who you are and what you want.

Now, although I did really enjoy this book for the most part, I couldn’t give it 5 stars, mostly because I thought some of the characters were stereotypical and there were more tropes than I would’ve liked. Although I really appreciated the steady unravelling of what really happened with her mother throughout the novel, which provided a much needed deeper backstory, this story was not so memorable for me. However, it is definitely the perfect kind of book for a day to the beach or just a perfect Summer cutesy love story in general!

BOOK REVIEW: Breathe (#1) by Sarah Crossan

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Star Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Short Reaction: Eh, indifferent about this…
Published on/by: 11th Octobe2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing (First published 2nd October 2012)
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 371 pages
Blurb provided by Goodreads: When oxygen levels plunge in a treeless world, a state lottery decides which lucky few will live inside the Pod. Everyone else will slowly suffocate. Years after the Switch, life inside the Pod has moved on. A poor Auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich Premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime is labelled a terrorist and ejected from the Pod to die. Sixteen-year-old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, what or who are they protecting the trees from? A dystopian thriller about courage and freedom, with a love story at its heart.

NON-SPOILERY REVIEW:

Wow, aren’t I late on publishing this one! Having finished this in June and being swamped with term papers and exam revision, I had put off reviewing this book until after I was free. And good news! I’m FREE NOW! Wahoo! Enough excuses…let’s talk Breathe. 😉

So, I met up with one of my closest friends who lives in a neighbouring country and duh, we went book shopping. She bought the fifth book of the Vampire Academy series (Spirit Bound–which is my favourite VA instalment) and she recommended a book she enjoyed…Breathe. With deep breaths, I purchased this beautiful book (I mean, look at the cover!) and prayed to God that this would be the sci-fi book that would change my life.

If I wasn’t clear, I typically do not read/enjoy sci-fi. I don’t know why, but the past sci-fi books I’ve read (apart from the Glow trilogy of which I’ve read the first book and half of the second!) have been quite a let down for me! I don’t know if it’s because I really don’t like science (c’mon!) or if it’s just that the books I’ve picked have been less than exciting but the sci-fi genre and I have never gelled well together. Well, except for the odd book here and there.

So going into this book, I was wary. But I realised I didn’t have to be. The pacing is great and I was so grateful for that. More often than not, I DNF sci-fi books as they tend to lag in pace and usually, I don’t mind pacing of a snail but in a genre that I’m already having trouble with reading? Yeah. I was enthralled.

I immediately loved the character Alina, the passionate and beautiful rebel who was unmistakably tough and imperfect. I really enjoyed the premise of the book as well– Earth with no oxygen? Well, minimal oxygen? This concept was intriguing, and to a science failure like me, seemed plausible. Now, I’m not saying that the logistics of this premise is questionable…I’m just saying that even if it was slightly iffy, I’d still eat it all up. This book had a love triangle, which you know I like if there is a clear winner (so that my heart won’t suffer that badly) and this book DID have a clear winner. However, I found myself not really interested in it, mainly because I thought it was very half-hearted and almost unnecessary. Not to be a spoiler (THE FOLLOWING CLAUSE MIGHT BE SPOILERY–I LIED!), but I was glad with the pairing in the end because they were characters I cared less about.

I liked this book as a whole, don’t get me wrong. It has good qualities that I need in a book but I still felt very indifferent towards it. It wasn’t riveting, addictive and I had to force myself to finish it because I just felt really meh about the plot. It seemed generic–political mumbo jumbo/rebel groups and while I didn’t mind this trope, I found aspects of it laughable. The leader of the rebels, Petra (love the name btw), was incredibly one dimensional and unrealistic. I found myself thinking…this is the so-called leader of a large rebel group?! What?! The Pod Minister…the so-called villain, was also laughable. I found myself incredibly annoyed with his repeated “Ha!” responses. I’m not kidding. This annoyed me to the extreme, and again…completely one dimensional. There was no depth to the secondary characters and while there were some complexity in the three main characters, I felt that it wasn’t enough.

Overall, I’m still interested in reading the next and final instalment, “Resist” because I do want to know what happens next and also…I’m slightly intrigued with a new character being introduced…cough, Ronan, cough! I just hope that I become more invested in the story…

And my adventure into the sci-fi genre continues!