Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

 photo about_zps0e27a4da.jpg
 photo bookshelf_zpse9642860.jpg photo scribbles_zps2889a376.jpg

Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Review: Divergent {Take 2}

1 out of 5
Recommended: No
Categories: Mind-candy, easy reading

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.

Since I don't consider myself a fan of mainstream YA fiction, whether it be dystopian, fantasy, romance, or just plain teen drama, and I more often than not wind up disappointed when I read it, Divergent was never a book for me. However, I had gotten pulled into the Hunger Games and since Divergent seemed to be traveling a similar path {and I got a copy for free} I didn't see the harm in trying.

My main issues with Divergent are as follows:

1. I felt that, for a plot-driven novel, it didn't have an overabundance of plot.
The main idea of the book was an interesting one and, obviously, forcing multi-faceted human beings into choosing one all-encompassing character trait is going to cause issues somewhere along the line, but it just didn't seem to be fully developed, with important plot points tossed carelessly around and suffering from severe lack of explanation as to how they are accomplished.

The first five chapters {which are pretty short} ran through a lot of important information like character introductions, faction history, world-building, aptitude tests, and the Choosing Ceremony. It seemed a bit rushed - and it was hard to get your bearings and visualize everything - but since the book is thirty-nine chapters long, it seemed like a safe assumption that more information would be distributed later on.
The weird thing is that it wasn't - not really anyway - because in chapter six, Four came on the scene to stay.

2. As the book progressed, I began to feel more and more as if the focus of the story was not that Tris was divergent or that the factions were crumbling or even the growing pressure of competitive training, but that Four was hot. So much of the story seemed constructed around him that I felt it detracted from plot development. Obviously, I haven't read the other two books so I don't know if or how anything that seemed minor in Divergent may affect the plots of the trilogy, but taking Divergent alone I got the impression that more than a few scenes were written without further point than to tell the reader more about Four's complete dominance in the alpha male category. I know this is the trend in modern fiction, but it bothers me that so many books on the top seller lists are there because they have a demi-god hero and a heroine who doesn't mind looking.

3. In my opinion, the violence in Divergent was mostly unnecessary and over-the-top. Dauntless is the faction designed to protect the other factions, yet they neither seem to have much of anything to protect nor the appropriate training techniques to teach their initiates what protection actually is.

For instance, how does forcing sixteen-year-olds to beat each other up until one is unconscious supposed to foster anything but brutality and hatred?
And making them, even in a stimulation, shoot their own families supposed to help them overcome their fears or give them a desire to protect anyone?

The detriment of this reverse-psychology system is clearly seen in Tris as she battles her way through training. As she slowly loses her humanity and becomes more accustomed to devising revenge on the initiates she dislikes, steeling herself to be the last man standing in the fight ring, detaching herself from her softer emotions to coldly treat others with unforgiveness and grudges, giving in recklessly to adrenaline and hormones, she triumphantly calls it leaving Abnegation behind and embracing Dauntless.

  And Dauntless itself is less of a faction bent on doing their job and more of a penthouse of eighteen-year-old trainers and sixteen-year-old initiates where adrenaline is rampant and there seem to be no rules besides living as recklessly as possible to prove how dauntless you are.

1. There is a lot of body-gazing in this book. Tris doesn't let much of Four go unnoticed and I found it a little overbearing. If I'm supposed to like this guy, I'd rather it was because he had some depth to him outside of the fact that he's drop-dead gorgeous. I don't need his body thrown at my head every time he walks in the room. I get the idea and I'd appreciate a side of character to go along with his slightly over-the-top package.

2. There isn't any actual sex in the book, but there's a lot of cuddling, kissing {not just on the lips}, touching, Tris staying in Four's apartment overnight, and a scene of physical assault that doesn't go into detail, but is there nonetheless.

3. There's a smattering of mild swear words. The 'h' word gets tossed around and God's name is taken in vain on several occasions. I don't recall any others specifically, but there may be other instances of  unnecessary language. There is also a lot of juvenile joking and name-calling, which may or may not be offensive or annoying depending upon your personal views.

In Conclusion...
I personally think Divergent is mind candy of the first degree. That's my opinion, I know, and I'm not trying to impose it on anyone. My hope is that what I've said here has only given you an idea of what to expect and make an informed decision on whether Divergent is something you want to get into or not.

Till next time!

 photo libs_zpsb7e0579b.png

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A New Look at Book Reviews

Previous post notwithstanding, I haven't been able to get the review for Divergent off my mind. And, I guess, not for Divergent alone, but book reviews on my blog in general. My last post sort of nipped all future reviews in the bud and I didn't mean to do that. I'm passionate about books and writing and I don't want to give up this aspect of my blog because I feel I can't say anything bad about a book. I've been giving some serious thought to the whole situation and I've decided not to stop writing reviews for fear of giving a negative view, but to modify my reviewing style instead. If nothing else, it will be an excellent exercise in speaking the truth in love.

So here's how it's going to be:

Section one will be the quick stuff. Rating, whether or not I personally recommend it and what sort of categorization it can be slotted into.

Section two will be the book's synopsis so you can get a feel for the story without any effort on your part at all.

Section three will be my honest observations. I've come to realize that a negative book review isn't a scathing of the author and their work, tearing what they've written to bits to relieve my feelings, but personal thoughts defining why I did or did not like it presented in a non-confrontational way and leaving the reader free to decide whether or not what bothers or interests me bothers or interests them.

Section four will be my 411 section. In it I will record {to the best of my recollection} anything I remember that might offend a potential reader: language, age-appropriate material, an overload of body-gazing, ect. I may or may not be specific depending upon the situation or how often it occurs within the book.

Section five will be for whatever else tumbles out on the page.

My goal with book reviews is to supply you with what I always want to be supplied with: an honest review that gives you facts about the book so you can make an informed decision on whether or not it is worth your time. I'm so honored that some of you were willing to take my non-recommendation as grounds enough to avoid Divergent, but I feel as if I should offer some facts - minus the scathing - so your decision is not based on my word alone.

Divergent Take 2 coming up next! 

 photo libs_zpsb7e0579b.png

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Book Review: Divergent

1 out of 5
Recommended: No
Categories: dystopian, easy reading, one-time reads

The title misleads because this is not actually going to be a book review. Ladies, I read that book and let me tell you that I want so badly to write an absolutely scathing review. I want to whale into it and let everyone know just exactly why I dislike it. In fact, I did. I started to write a completely different review than the one I'm writing now.

I think now, though, that those righteous-rage opinions are best left unpublished.

I've written many negative reviews in the past. I've enjoyed writing them. I glory in tearing apart weak plots and cardboard characters and poker-stiff dialogue. As an aspiring writer, I'm quick to judge. I get angry when people like things that I personally consider poorly written and I burn to tell the whole world why they should never have been published.

But in those reviews my words aren't kind and, though my opinions are strong, they are critical and have the capacity to be hurtful. So as I planned my review for Divergent, I began to wonder why I had such a nagging sense that I shouldn't. I wanted to - very badly - but the more I wrote and thought about it, the more I felt that, as a Christian and a writer, I should shut up, live and let live. I took a break and gave it some thought and here's what I ended up with: is it really worth my time to throw my two cents into the pool of fans and haters and start a fire that isn't worth stoking? Will my words really do anything worthwhile?


I can spend an hour or more writing a review that will turn people off or I can spend it more wisely writing something that won't polarize, criticize or draw lines. Those characters belong to someone who feels the way about them that I feel about mine. I may not agree with another author's writing style, I may question their motives and choices, I may be incensed by the fact that people find their work worth reading, but I don't need to give it voice. I'm entitled to my opinions, but unless they bring grace, I'm better off keeping them to myself.

So that's my review for Divergent. No, I wouldn't recommend it, but that's merely an opinion. Take it or leave it and form your own. :)

Till next time!  

 photo libs_zpsb7e0579b.png