Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Book: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: May 3, 2011
Source: Bought from local bookstore
Series: Divergent #1


Summary from Goodreads:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtueâ??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 isâ??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 areâ??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 lovesâ?¦ or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent seriesâ??dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

First impressions: I picked this one up, read through the first few chapters, and then put it down for months. I did not find the beginning of this book that compelling.

Lasting impressions: However, once I got into the story, I had a hard time putting it down. The plot moves swiftly and it’s easy to get swept away in this one.

Conflicting impressions: I spent too much time wondering A) why more people weren’t Divergent; and B) what was so bad about being Divergent. 

Overall impressions:  A well developed world is the key to success where dystopians are concerned. As a reader, I need to know  the rules of the current society and why they were created. Why are there factions? How do they function to protect the people? How important is their existence to the ruling powers? What is at stake if they fail? How does Divergence factor into this all? Roth does a fair job at trying to answer these, and some were more satisfactory answers than others. 

Beatrice (Tris) is a pleasant enough protagonist. I appreciated that she wasn’t the best at everything. In several scenes we actually see her overpowered and humiliated by her fellow faction-mates. She’s not helpless, though, and she certainly proves her value as time goes on. Four, the love interest, is somewhat bland, but I found the supporting characters to be interesting and vivid. While Tris is completing her faction’s initiation, there is a Hunger Games-like feel to things, where this group of young people is going through hell together, but also competing against one another. It makes for a great dynamic.

As much as I liked the initiation process, it took up too much of the plot for me, to the detriment of the development of the larger conflict. Only after initiation is nearly complete do we start to understand the bigger issues at play in this world, and the climax of the book seemed cramped into too few pages as a result. I wish we had gotten more insights into the inter-faction rumblings beyond some seemingly benign animosity between Erudite and Abnegation. Perhaps it’s my own interest in politics that had me craving more of this, but I think it would have been helpful to know.

I can see why this series has inspired so many rabid fans. It’s heavy on action with an exciting setting, and there’s a nice romance that I can appreciate (even if it wasn’t my favorite). For me, however, this one failed to live up to the hype.

Rating: 3/5 stars 

Click the stars for a description of my rating system



Outlander Read-Along Chapters 8-14

Today is the second discussion day for the Outlander Read-Along! This week’s questions come from Carrie at Stalking the Bookshelves:

1.  Claire has been given the task of healer at the castle. She must adapt her nursing skills for the time and learn what herbs and etc will cure each particular ailment that is presented to her. Do you have any home remedies that were passed down to you (cure for a cold, bee sting or what have you)? 

I guess the closest thing to a home remedy I know is that mustard powder in water will induce vomiting. When I was a kid we had this magnet on the fridge that was some kind of freebie we got from who knows where, and it listed all of these poison control measures and what to do if you accidentally ingested certain household toxic chemicals. The mustard one stuck with me for some reason. I must say that I am fascinated by the medicinal properties of common plants, but I don’t have the patience to try and learn them myself.

2. What do you think would be the biggest challenge of living in the past? (Clothing, hygiene, food, etiquette or etc.)

I think language and etiquette would be the most difficult. It’s easy enough to adapt to variances in clothing and bathing, but without the knowledge of social customs that comes from growing up in a region, it can be hard to have the confidence to interact. My fear of unknowingly offending someone or acting out in some weird way can be paralyzing when I travel even today, let alone if I was also dealing with a different time! That’s why I love when Claire curses up a storm and the men react so strongly. Hilarious!

3. Do you have a favorite character, scene or quote so far? If so, share it with us.

It’s probably a tie at this point, between two scenes that I feel have a lot of significance for the future. The first is when Claire catches Jamie and Laoghire in the alcove kissing. That moment has stuck with me from the first time I read the book. There’s something so telling in that scene – Jamie is almost defiantly playing his part as a red-blooded male, and both he and Claire acknowledge that sometimes things happen and you have to go with it. It also tells me that Jamie does, at least, find Laoghire attractive, if not a potential mate, and it also shows Claire that Jamie has the potential to be a lover.

My other favorite scene is when we meet Geillis Duncan. She becomes incredibly important to the series, and it’s really fun going back and reading these initial interactions she has with Claire again. She’s a great character because she is almost immediately untrustworthy, yet Claire seems to like her. It makes it hard to get a full grasp of her. What’s funny is that I, as a reader, tend to skim over descriptions and often base my visualizations of characters based on my own interpretations – and in Geillis’ case, I have always imagined her as dark-haired. So I found it really amusing to re-read it and find out she’s fair-haired!

4. What did you think about the addition of the blood bond in the wedding ceremony? Is this something you would do with the one you love?

I think the swapping blood part is kind of gross, to be perfectly honest. I do really like the words of the oath, however. Primitive, yes, but also beautifully endearing.

5. Are you reading along closely with the scheduled chapters or are you ahead or behind?

I’m sticking to the schedule right now. Though I wonder how many people were able to stop at Chapter 14, since it’s right before the good stuff! That was maybe a bit cruel of us, no? 🙂

If you read along with us this week, be sure to link up your post or share your thoughts in the comments!

To link up your post and get next week’s discussion questions, visit Jess at Tangled Up in Blue.

Review: Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton

Book: Wings of the Wicked
Author: Courtney Allison Moulton
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release date: January 31, 2012
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
Series: Angelfire #2


Summary from Goodreads:

Life as the Preliator is harder than Ellie ever imagined.
Balancing real life with the responsibility of being Heavenâ??s warrior is a challenge for Ellie. Her relationship with Will has become all business, though they both long for each other. And now that the secret of who she really is has come out, so have Hellâ??s strongest reapers. Grown bold and more vicious, the demonic threaten her in the light of day and stalk her in the night.

Sheâ??s been warned.
Cadan, a demonic reaper, comes to her with information about Bastianâ??s new plan to destroy Ellieâ??s soul and use an ancient relic to wake all the souls of the damned and unleash them upon humanity. As she fights to stay ahead of Bastianâ??s schemes , the revelations about those closest to her awaken a dark power within Ellie that threatens to destroy everythingâ??including herself.

Sheâ??ll be betrayed.
Treachery comes even from those whom she loves, and Ellie is broken by the deaths of those who stood beside her in this Heavenly war. Still, she must find a way to save the world, herself, and her love for Will. If she fails, there will be hell to pay.

First impressions: Courtney Allison Moulton writes one heck of a battle scene, and the opening of this book starts out with a doozy. Hooray for kickass girls with swords!

Lasting impressions: Though the first half of this book was gripping and exciting, it lost steam toward the end.

Conflicting impressions: Ellie may have a typical selfish teenage outlook, but that didn’t keep me from thinking she sounded like a spoiled brat most of the time.

Overall impressions: The majority of this book I actually liked better than the first book, Angelfire. Ellie has settled into her role as Preliator a bit more, she and Will have built up a nice rapport, and we get lots of interesting plot points developing. When she’s not being super whiny, Ellie is kicking major ass. I love that part of her.

I also love the expanded role that Cadan gets in this book. Though not quite a full on third wheel in the love triangle game, he does give Ellie a counterpoint to Will’s service and devotion to her. I like the conflict he represents in that he is a demon capable of good. He sacrifices quite a lot for Ellie and I’ll be curious to see how things continue to develop between these two.

The last half to third of this book really dragged for me. Ellie and Will continue their back-and-forth over why they can’t be together despite their love for each other. Ellie still wants a normal high school life despite her destiny as Preliator. So the book sort of meanders through these conflicts for far too long without giving equal attention to the larger conflict with Bastian. I struggled to finish this one.

Fans of the first book will surely love this second installment, and though I liked parts of this one better than the first book, I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series. 

Rating: 3/5 stars 

Click the stars for a description of my rating system



Outlander Read-Along Chapters 1-7

Today marks the first discussion day for the Outlander Read-Along! I am so excited that this day is finally here, so let’s dive right in…

This week’s questions come from Jess at Gone with the Words:

1. Outlander is a well-known book. Before you cracked it open, what were your expectations or assumptions about this story? Or did you jump into it with a blank slate?

I’ll answer this based on the first time I read it. When I first picked it up in the store, I bought it based solely on the back cover copy. Time travel gets me every time! It sat on my shelf for a long time, and I only started reading it after a friend raved about the series and told me I had to read it. So I guess my only expectations were that it would involve time travel and it would be awesome. 

2. Claireâ??s husband, Frank, is fascinated with learning more and more facts about his family tree, which extends back pretty far. Do you or anyone in your family keep a family tree? How many years/generations back does it go? If not, have you ever considered or attempted to create one?

I’ve never been overly interested in family trees. I think family history is interesting, but not anything I would devote a lot of time and energy into researching. I played around with a bit, but never ponied up the money to find records that were actually useful.

3. How did you find Claireâ??s initial conclusion as to her surroundings after waking up from going through the stones? Did you think that was a reasonable conclusion?

I think I probably would have thought the same thing! I don’t think anyone’s first guess would be time travel, and it seemed a perfectly legitimate way to try and explain away the period clothing. 

4. How about her composed, rational way of dealing with the fact sheâ??s traveled back in time. Did you find it believable? Do you think you would have acted the same way?

Given what we know about Claire and her methodical, logical brain, I think the way she deals with the time travel is in character for her. She’s so no-nonsense and take-charge and roll-up-her-sleeves that I totally bought that she would try to rationalize everything she experienced. I think I may have been in denial a bit longer than Claire, though!

5. At this point in the story, what are your feelings or expectations on Claire and Jamie? Is Frank still a factor for you?

Claire and Jamie have an instant chemistry that’s pretty hard to ignore. At this point in the story, I think Claire seems mostly to view Jamie as a good friend, and sees him as someone she can rely on in this crazy world where she’s found herself. And I think Jamie sees Claire as a refreshingly bold woman, and he admires her in a sense. It’s obvious that Claire still loves Frank and hasn’t totally given up on him, but she’s also starting to wonder if she’ll ever see him again. As much as I want Claire to be reunited with Frank, it’s hard to not want to see her with the insanely awesome Jamie. 

Bonus Question: Frank encounters a man outside of the inn where he and Claire are staying. He is afraid it might have been a ghost. What do you believe it was? Do you have any predictions or suspicions on what that was about?

This part of the story drove me the most crazy while reading. At the time I definitely thought it was a ghost, but when we later get a description of Jamie I started to think that maybe it was Jamie in some other dimension or perhaps could view through the time travel hole or something.

If you read along with us this week, be sure to link up your post or share your thoughts in the comments!

To link up your post and get next week’s discussion questions, visit Carrie at Stalking the Bookshelves.

Review: Vanish by Sophie Jordan

Book: Vanish
Author: Sophie Jordan
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: September 6, 2011
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
Series: Firelight #2


Summary from Goodreads:

To save the life of the boy she loves, Jacinda did the unthinkable: She betrayed the most closely-guarded secret of her kind. Now she must return to the protection of her pride knowing she might never see Will againâ??and worse, that because his mind has been shaded, Willâ??s memories of that fateful night and why she had to flee are gone.

Back home, Jacinda is greeted with hostility and must work to prove her loyalty for both her sake and her familyâ??s. Among the few who will even talk to her are Cassian, the prideâ??s heir apparent who has always wanted her, and her sister, Tamra, who has been forever changed by a twist of fate. Jacinda knows that she should forget Will and move onâ??that if he managed to remember and keep his promise to find her, it would only endanger them both. Yet she clings to the hope that someday they will be together again. When the chance arrives to follow her heart, will she risk everything for love?

First impressions: The beginning of this book picks up almost immediately after the events of book one, Firelight. There were just enough details to remind me of what transpired without bogging us down in a full recap. Nicely done.

Lasting impressions: The threat of the draki hunters pervades this entire book, which I found raised the stakes of this plot when compared to Firelight. I love danger!

Conflicting impressions: While I love the draki shifter world, I don’t find Jacinda and her love interests to be totally swoon-worthy. These books are fun reads, but don’t quite get me to gush.

Overall impressions: Secrets are a big part of life when you’re a shifter. In Jacinda’s case, she can shift into a draki – a dragon-like creature able to fly. Jacinda has the added ability of being a fire-breather, which makes her something of a rarity in her community. In the first book, she was forced to deny her draki self and live as a normal high schooler (the horror!), where she met and fell in love with Will.

In order to save his life, Jacinda betrays the draki and is forced to flee back to her home among them, where she is shamed and reviled. While the first book saw Jacinda struggling to keep her draki nature a secret, in this book she’s trying to keep her feelings for Will a secret. Meanwhile, Cassian is a powerful young draki who wants to win her heart. 

Jacinda’s conflicted feelings about Will and Cassian and her destiny are vivid and entertaining. She also experiences a huge turn of events with her sister, who once used to be ignored and cast out by the draki but is now one of the revered among them. Jacinda goes from hot commodity to yesterday’s garbage, and I found her emotions believable and sympathetic. Yet I would have liked to have seen even more conflict from her sister – their bond seemed less heartfelt and more like a plot device at times. 

The action is exciting, and there are several awful villains to root against. I especially loved getting to see Jacinda fly again, and hope we get another entry in this unique series.

Rating: 3/5 stars 

Click the stars for a description of my rating system



Updates and Outlander!

My apologies for being so absent of late, but life is full of All The Things these days. The last month has been lots of travel, a birth, a wedding, and the start of a rigorous group weight loss program. All good things, but all things that have taken an enormous amount of time and energy. I hope to get back on a regular schedule, but things may be a bit spotty over the next few months as I try to focus as much as I can on dropping pounds and getting healthy. 

In the meantime, I’ve had the delightful experience of finishing two more YA series sequels (joining Pandemonium) that I actually preferred to their initial installments (Vanish and Wings of the Wicked), completing an impromptu long-distance group read of Divergent with my sister, and jumping back into the River of Time series by reading one novella and buying another (get Bourne and Tributary now!).

I’ll be sharing more on all of this soon, but for now, please consider joining the Outlander Read-along, which starts today! The first questions are live and you have all week to read 7 quick chapters. Join anytime!

The Outlander Read-a-long hosted by Into the Hall of Books, Gone with the Words, The Reading Housewives, Stalking the Bookshelves, Tangled Up in Blue, and yours truly is finally here and there is still time to join us! Starting today through July 23rd, we’ll be reading and discussing Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER. Each Monday during the read-along, we’re taking turns hosting a discussion of 7 chapters.  You’ll have a week to read the chapters and write up a response to the questions. 

Today Jess at Gone with the Words has released the first set of questions for chapters 1-7. So head over to check them out and crack open those books, or scurry off to buy a copy if you haven’t yet (slackers)!

The full schedule:

June 11th
Questions for chapters 1-7 announced at Gone with the Words

June 18th
Questions for chapters 1-7 answered &
Questions announced for chapters 8-14 at Stalking the Bookshelves

June 25th
Questions for chapters 8-14 answered &
Questions announced for chapters 15-21 on Tangled Up in Blue

July 2nd
Questions for chapters 15-21 answered &
Questions announced for chapters 22-28 on Into the Hall of Books

July 9th
Questions for chapters 22-28 answered &
Questions announced for chapters 29-35 on Logan E. Turner

July 16th
Questions for chapters 29-35 answered &
Questions announced for chapters 36-41 on The Reading Housewives

July 23rd
Questions for chapters 36-41 answered on Gone with the Words. 

To join us:

Please create a post announcing the event to help us spread the word, and then link up that post in the linky tool below! It’s that easy! The linky is the same at each host’s announcement post, so you only need to sign up once. And don’t forget to grab a button!


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Logan E. Turner