Review of Divergent Movie

Divergent Movie PosterNo spoilers of either the book or movie, I promise.  This is just my opinion.

This weekend, I saw the Divergent movie. Before I tell you what I thought of the movie, I will tell you two things: First, I loved this book. Second, it is very hard for me to like film adaptations of books that I have read and enjoyed.

Have you read Divergent? If you haven’t, you will enjoy this movie. I watched it with an adult male who does not read YA fiction and he said this was a great movie. It is fast paced and action-filled. Hailene Woodley, the actress playing Tris, does an excellent job of relaying emotion without reliance on dialogue which is very important in an adaptation of a book wherein we were privy to the thoughts of the main character. I suppose this is also a positive reflection on the screenwriters and director.

If you have read Divergent, you may not like this movie. At least one of my other YA reading friends is in outrage over it. The book is rich with character development and atmosphere. This film adaptation focuses all character  development on Tris and Four to the detriment of everyone else. Even Peter, violent and unsympathetic oaf that he his, comes across as simple minded in the movie instead of the book’s coldly and calculatingly cruel. I am still somewhat torn over the creative reinterpreting of the conclusion of the climax, there are both good and bad changes there. We can discuss this in the comments below if you have thoughts on the matter. This was neither the best film adaptation of a book I have ever seen, nor was it the worst (by worst, I mean Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). I give it a 6/10, I would have scored it higher if there had been more depth to the other characters.

I am glad that I saw the movie on opening weekend. Watching it in a theater mostly full of teenage girls, I was able to enjoy it on another level. In a scene where Four asks Tris if she would like to see his tattoo (which involves removing his shirt), the audible reaction in the theater was, “YES!”

Review of Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross

by Kady Cross

And here we go with the third book in the Steampunk Chronicles, The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross. Not too long ago I read the first two books in this series and reviewed them. This one I received as an advance reader copy from the publisher.

Description from Goodreads:

When mechanical genius Emily is kidnapped by rogue automatons, Finley Jayne and her fellow misfits fear the worst. What’s left of their archenemy, The Machinist, hungers to be resurrected, and Emily must transplant his consciousness into one of his automatons—or forfeit her friends’ lives.

With Griffin being mysteriously tormented by the Aether, the young duke’s sanity is close to the breaking point. Seeking help, Finley turns to Jack Dandy, but trusting the master criminal is as dangerous as controlling her dark side. When Jack kisses her, Finley must finally confront her true feelings for him…and for Griffin.

Meanwhile, Sam is searching everywhere for Emily, from Whitechapel’s desolate alleyways to Mayfair’s elegant mansions. He would walk into hell for her, but the choice she must make will test them more than they could imagine.

To save those she cares about, Emily must confront The Machinist’s ultimate creation—an automaton more human than machine. And if she’s to have any chance at triumphing, she must summon a strength even she doesn’t know she has….

When reading the first two books in this series, I did a lot of ignoring the weird way the characters just seemed to take for granted the unusual things that happened around them and the baseless trust they showed in near strangers. The fast pace of the story and the intriguing plot do a lot to make up for the shallow characters, and the same is true in this book. Cross is an excellent storyteller, knowing just the right time and place to leave suspense and build tension. I might personally have been a little happier with a little less time devoted to the characters’ inner romantic turmoil, but I do see how the romantic developments helped drive the story along. I’m still not completely over the moon about the Steampunk Chronicles, but I will continue to read them just to find out what happens next.

Review of The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite is the second book in the Selection trilogy by Kiera Cass. It continues right where the first book left off. Of the 36 girls who were originally part of the selection, there are now only six remaining.

Description from Goodreads:

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

While I wasn’t sure I would like this series, since it seemed to me like a weird cross between reality TV, dystopia, and fairy tale, I actually ended up really enjoying the first book, The Selection. It had all of the things that turn me off of reality TV, but I found myself not minding so much as the story progressed. In the first book you have America, a reluctant participant in a competition to become the next queen of Illea who is only playing along so she doesn’t have to go home (for many reasons including a broken heart). As you learn more about the prince and the other girls in the selection, you start to recognize the usual tropes of “females in a competition to win a boy’s heart,” including the Bitch, the Quiet One, the Sweet One, and the Normal One.

Going into The Elite I was hoping that there would be more action involving America’s own private selection (Maxon or Aspen) and more plot twists with the other girls, I wasn’t  disappointed but I wasn’t satisfied either. In fact, it was America herself who let me down. In The Selection she seemed to have a much better handle on her own feelings than she displayed in The Elite. She kept deciding one way and then changing her mind a chapter later. She had extreme reactions to some minor occurrences which made her mood swings more apparent. The main event where America completely (and with reason) flips out, she shows a complete lack of sympathy to the prince afterwards which is out of character. When this is resolved in the end of the book, I feel like the author was just giving her readers a pacifier for having so cruelly abused her characters.

I think The Elite is probably just suffering from middle-book-in-a-trilogy syndrome and the third book, The One, will be all that I hope it will be.

If you read and liked the first book, I would still recommend that you continue on and read this one. I am still emotionally invested in the characters and I want it all to turn out all right in the end.

Review of Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger was just released on February 5th, 2013. I am a huge fan of Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series (henceforth designated as PP because typing that out every time is tiresome) so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this, the first book in her Finishing School YA series. In fact, I pre-ordered a copy for my Kindle and was delighted when it appeared like magic.

Description from Goodreads:

Featured imageSophronia Temminnick at 14 is a great trial more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners — and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Her poor mother, desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady, enrolls the lively tomboy in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage — in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

Sophronia is a precocious teenage girl who prefers mechanics and exploring to the more ladylike subjects of fashion and society. She is sent away quite abruptly to a finishing school. Almost immediately Sophronia  realizes that this is not your normal finishing school. Between her home and the school, she is involved in a flywaymen attack (like highwaymen but they travel by air instead of land), a daring rescue, and a high-speed carriage escape. And that’s just the first 2 chapters. There is one major mystery that spans the entire book, but there are many small mysteries and quiet intrigues that spin off the main mystery and come as a result of the students’ social dynamics. Something interesting or exiting happens at almost every turn of the page, so much so I had a lot of trouble putting this book down.

Every one of the students has a distinct personality which sets them apart from the others, even if they fall into the usual stereotypes of teen girls at a boarding school (there’s always that one girl whose personality is just to admire and copy everything that one bossy/rich/popular girl does). Each girl has a particular strength I absolutely loved the descriptions of the school itself and the various areas upon it, though I did worry a bit for its structural integrity (I can’t help it, it’s the engineer in me).

If you have read Carriger’s PP series, you may find a few of these characters familiar. In fact, they are the same characters in the same world some 25 years prior to the happenings in the PP series. It isn’t the entirety of the cast, however, so don’t expect to find young Miss Hisselpenny cavorting about with young Miss Tarabotti, but you will find several familiar names and be enthralled to learn more about their early years.

All in all I loved this book and will highly recommend it.

Goodreads – A Review

For my class on Social Media, I was given the assignment to write a review of an emerging social technology and I chose Goodreads.

Goodreads Logo

A home for casual readers and bona-fide bookworms alike, Goodreads users recommend books, compare what they are reading, keep track of what they’ve read and would like to read, find their next favorite book, form book clubs and much more. – About Goodreads

Goodreads was launched in December 2006 and has grown to over 6.3 Million users who have shared reviews on over 210 Million book titles. It is the number one social media network for readers and book recommendations. Goodreads looks at the titles you have read and the ratings and reviews you have written to create reading recommendations based on those of members with similar tastes.

How to use Goodreads: 

As a Goodreads member, you have the ability to add books to your virtual bookshelves by browsing or searching for title, author, or ISBN. The Goodreads mobile app also allows you to search for books by scanning the barcode on a book using the phone’s camera (for iPhoneand Android). There are three default shelves: Read, To-Read, and Currently Reading. They are mutually exclusive, which means a title can only belong to one of these shelves at a time. However, members are able to build as many additional shelves as they would like, such as “reference” or “never finished”. Books can belong on as many non-exclusive shelves as desired. 

Once you have made 20 ratings, Goodreads will begin to make recommendations for you. The more books you rate, the better your recommendations will be. Recommendations are made according to genre as well as tailored to the contents of your individual shelves. The Goodreads recommendation engine is based on the principle that the best book recommendations come from friends. Unlike Amazon and Barnes and Noble, Goodreads recommendations aren’t based on sales data or skewed towards popular titles, they are instead based on the opinions and reading habits of members who have show similar taste in books (more about the Goodreads recommendation engine on Mashable). Yet another way to find new reading material on Goodreads is to add friends. All of your ratings and reviews will be visible to your friends, and when your friends perform any activity on Goodreads, it will show up on your main page in your Recent Updates feed. You can also link your Goodreads account with Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and Blogger.

Goodreads lets people connect, regardless of geographic location, to share common reading experiences. One way to do that is to join one of the Goodreads Groups. Goodreads Groups are generated by members and are similar to traditional book clubs, but instead of meeting exclusively face to face to talk about the book being read, Goodreads hosts the discussion on a board (for example: The FFL’s Meet the Authors Book Club). Goodreads also offers trivia, fun quizzes, challenges, giveaways, and member generated book lists.

The Good:

  • Socially driven.
  • Recommendations based on actual reader opinions.
  • Interactive.
  • Free!
  • Easy to use.

The Bad:

  • More suited to social interaction than maintaining a collection. 
  • Cannot search by genre or topic. 

The Competition:

Librarything is another book-based social network. It has some of the same features as Goodreads such as adding books to a collection, writing reviews, and getting recommendations. Librarything is also sometimes used by libraries and other organizations to keep inventory of a collection. It is more focused on cataloging than social sharing.

Shelfari is the Amazon owned social reading network. It uses your past purchases on Amazon.com as well as your own additions to make recommendations. Because it is owned by Amazon, it makes every possible attempt to get you to purchase the books that are recommended to you. 

My Experience:

I started using Goodreads about two years ago. At first, I just liked keeping track of my to-read list. But then I realized how many other uses there are. I have added some friends whose taste in books I share, and found others who are interested in my recommendations. Right now I am working on developing a collection of board books for a local public library and I’ve been using Goodreads to see ratings and reviews of board books to determine if a title is worth considering. I’m also using Goodreads to keep track of the board books I have chosen to include in the collection so that other people or librarians interested in board books can use the work I put into evaluating titles to begin their own collection.

Conclusion:

With such a large number of members and integration with most popular social media networks, Goodreads will continue to be a fun and useful resource for book recommendations. The mobile app allows members to use all of the functionality of the browser based webpage as well as adding special features such as using your mobile device’s camera to scan barcodes. Goodreads has also recently introduced features to connect your e-reader with your Goodreads account. For example, if you have a Kindle: “It will automate setting your “currently-reading” and “read” shelf books based on what you’ve shared on your Kindle. It will also sync your highlights from the kindle to your Goodreads quotes.” Goodreads was not the first social media network to be built around the reading experience, but it has show such growth and adaptability to make Goodreads a useful and fun platform for reading-related social interaction.