Friday, June 03, 2011

Just in time for summer reading!

Since my last set of book reviews, I have read several more novels, I just haven't gotten around to writing about it! In fact, it has been so long I had to consult my Goodreads account to figure out exactly what I've read since then!

The Book Thief:
I bought this book because I liked the title and the cover caught my eye. It was interesting, set in Nazi Germany following the story of a girl, Liesel, who was sent to live with a foster family who ended up being good people who quietly dissented with the overwhelming political/social climate of the time. The story is narrated by Death, which was unique, but I think it also made it more difficult for me to really get into the story. It was a book that I was slow to warm up to, but the end had me quietly crying in the kids' after school pick-up line. I was glad I read it, but I'd say it was good, not great, overall.

The Maze Runner/The Scorch Trials:
I loved these books. LOVED THEM. They are YA, so they were very easy reads, but I loved the characters and the story really pulled me in. The main character, Thomas, wakes up in an elevator unable to remember anything other than his name. When the elevator opens, he discovers he is in a self-contained world with about 60 other boys who have created their own system of life. Everyone has an assigned job, there is a system of government set-up, there are no adults, and as far as they way to get out of this strange world. There is a maze, though, and they believe solving the maze will lead to the exit. Thomas' arrival sparks change in their world and the story really hits the ground running. I don't want to give anything away about the first book by outlining the second, but suffice it to say it delved into a genre I don't usually like AT ALL, but in this instance I did. I read The Scorch Trials in one day when I was sick and dozing in and out with a fever. I can't wait for The Death Cure to be released!

I wanted to love these books, I did. But...I didn't. I'd give them a rating of "Meh." It was an interesting storyline, I like the worlds they built...but I never really clicked with any of the characters. Incarceron is a prison world, created to contain the chaos and problems in the world by locking away criminals and the less fortunate, and is self-contained and self-sustaining. The story follows both characters on the inside of the prison and those on the outside, who find themselves in a different sort of prison. Incarceron moved at a decent pace for me, but since I didn't click with the characters, I didn't love it. Again, I won't comment on the plot of the second book, but it was harder to get through. I forced myself to finish because I did have some curiosity about how it would all end up. If you are looking for a mediocre book that you can sort of like, but not be compelled to finish in a day or two, this might be what you are looking for.

The Books of Ember:
There are 4 books in this series, The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold. I like YA fiction, but this was more like upper elementary fiction. It is probably on par with the earlier Harry Potter books, reading level-wise. That being said, I LOVED them. Yes, they were easy and took me about a day to read while I was in full time VERY quick and easy. I'm sure either KayTar or BubTar could read them with ease. However, they were just wonderful stories. They follow two kids, Lina and Doon, who live in the city of Ember, a town that is surrounded completely by darkness. There is no natural light in their world. In the morning, the lights of the city come on, at night, they go off. They don't farm, everything they need is in the store rooms of the city, rationed out as needed. Extras can be purchased from various shops in town. However, the store rooms are beginning to get bare and the city is beginning to experience periodic blackouts. The city seems to be dying and the only people to notice and take action are Lina and Doon. Each of the books has a really wonderful take home message built in, which is executed well. The third book makes a departure from the main story (and follows different characters altogether), which I didn't care for, but it too had a good message, so I was glad to have read it (at a somewhat slower pace). These books are wonderful.

Across the Universe:
This book follows Amy, a teenage girl who is frozen with her parents (who are both important military/scientific professionals) and transported on board a ship called the Godspeed which will travel across the universe and land on a new planet which is habitable for humans. The journey will take several lifetimes, so the ship is large and equipped for generations of people to survive in, while keeping it on it course. Something goes wrong and Amy is awakened prematurely. Elder, the future leader of the ship, takes an instant liking to Amy and takes her under his wing. As others are defrosted before their time, Amy and Elder try to solve the mystery of who is unplugging the frozen passengers and why. It was an enjoyable read for me. I liked it the characters, I liked the setting, I liked the overall storyline. It held my attention, though I wasn't always surprised by the plot twists. I didn't LOVE it, but it was a good solid read.

This book tells the story of Beatrice, a teenage girl who lives in a dystopian world which is divided into factions, Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). In this world you are born into a faction, but at age 16 you undergo an aptitude test which tells you what you are best suited for and then you must choose where you will belong...the motto is faction before blood, so if you choose another faction, you basically lose your birth family. Beatrice finds herself torn between Dauntless and Abnegation and her choice leads her down a path she never could have predicted. It was an action packed book and I really loved the characters. I don't want to give ANYTHING away, so I won't say more...but I highly recommend it. It will be a trilogy, I think.

Gaia is a sixteen year old midwife-in-training who lives outside the wall of the Enclave. Life inside the wall is a life of beauty and privilege and outside the wall, life is a bit more difficult and primitive. Midwives in this world have a very important job, they must advance the first three babies born each month to the Enclave, where they will be adopted by wealthy parents and be given a wonderful life. Gaia is proud to serve the Enclave in this way, as was her mother before her, but when the Enclave intrudes into her life and begins to tear is apart, Gaia begins to wonder if everything is as wonderful as it seems within the wall and it sets her on a journey of rebellion and discovery that will change her life in unimaginable ways. This was a good read. I did warm to the characters, I was drawn in by the story. I think I might have liked it more if I hadn't read it right after reading Divergent, because in comparison, it wasn't as strong of a novel. I'd say it is worth a read, if you like dystopian fiction, and I look forward to the next book in the series coming out!

Tina Fey's autobiography was well-written and hilarious. If you like intelligent/funny women, even if you don't watch 30 Rock or SNL, definitely give this one a read! 

PS: The 'Tars are now on Tumblr, so check out our mini-blog Life With The 'Tars: Snaps&Snippets over there for lots of good photos and little everyday moments from our life! 


InTheFastLane said...

I can't wait for summer reading....
I just finished The Invisible Bridge. Excellent.

~aj~ said...

I jotted a couple of these down. I just started compiling a summer reading list yesterday, so your timing is perfect.

And I have no clue what Tumblr is. Is it something else I'm going to get addicted to? I'm scared to look! :)

Bea said...

Ooh, thanks for these - I've got a couple of bookstore gift certificates to burn, and now I've got a whole list of your favourites to look for.

Anonymous said...

Wow how do you find time to read for pleasure? Good for you!