Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Panda's Punishment Post: Divergent by Veronica Roth


By Veronica Roth

I only checked out this book because the author (on her blog) seems like a really nice person and the book is being made into a movie.

The book starts off as a cross between the Harry Potter Sorting Hat Ceremony and the Hunger Games. But then it really takes a Hunger Games turn when the kids have to fight each other. But it’s not as brutal (to me) because they’re not fighting to kill. Also, they’re only fighting to be accepted.

About 75 pages into it I guessed who the main boy character (Four) was (I mean, who he REALLY was – cough cough). There were very little surprises in this book. Everything was expected. But, it was a page turner. Though, I will admit to skimming because, well, it wasn’t that entertaining. You can pretty much read the first and last sentence of each paragraph and get the idea with this book. It’s not complicated stuff.

Granted, it was more fun to read than the Hunger Games. Though, I don’t think it will make for a very great movie (I really liked the Hunger Games movie). 

Why won’t it make a great movie? The world building is kind of bland. It was hard for me to picture – she relied too heavily on making me use my imagination to decorate her world. Although, I really hate it when people bog down their stories with too much world-building. Really, she might as well have said “This setting is kind of like in the Hunger Games. Dystopia, but less Rococo than the Capitol. Done.”

Because that’s basically what she did say. She spends more time describing the uniforms of the fractions than the actual world. Though, I don’t know if that’s a bad thing.

(Can you tell that my passive critique is actually me having very little ‘feelings’ about this book? That should tell you something about the story itself).

Now, as I said, it was a good book to skim – so simple just to glance over. I even skimmed the romance parts – which were really the only things holding the book together.

There were too many dream and dream-like sequences – I lost count toward the end, but who wants to be taken from “reality” THAT much?

On the Factions: The message of the book is more like a pro-con list of human traits. Each human trait has its limitations and gains. I guess the moral of her story was that you can’t and shouldn’t be “one” thing – humans are more complex than that. You shouldn’t go after knowledge for the sake of knowledge or strength over the sake of strength. I get it. And I certainly think her target audience (16 year olds) would get it too.

Because her message is so clear it makes the story itself platitudinous.

If I had any real beef with the book, it would be about how all the boys like Tris (the main character). You could even argue that one boy commits suicide because he can’t be with Tris.

Despite even her boyfriend admitting Tris isn’t the prettiest girl in the faction, she gets a lot of action. But, overall, I’m glad there wasn’t some Twilight love triangle in the center of the book.  

And Four (the main boy character) is VERY MUCH older than Tris (who is 16) She’s not even legal, yet they make out and touch each other a lot. This is book pretty much gives underage girls the OK to go after older guys. But boy are they going to be surprised when said older guys are NOT as abstinent as Four.

IMO, they should have just had sex and gotten it over with – it would let girls get their ‘fix’ without letting them think such romance is attainable in their own lives. I think I would have respected the book more then. Otherwise, the characters’ relationships are little more purposeful than Twilight’s.


6/10. The book was average, but didn’t change my life. The world doesn’t need more kids-hurting-kids dystopias.  I don’t really care about what happens in the next book, so I won’t be reading it.  However, this first book, here, wasn’t a total waste of time. Could have used more jokes, less action, less dream sequences. This book only appeals to young girls, which I don’t like because now I won’t be able to talk about this book to my guy friends.

The Last Oracle by James Rollins

Amanda’s So-called Review: The Last Oracle was a (and no surprise here, right?) DNF for me. 

But I’ll tell you why I didn’t finish it. It wasn’t that the book was bad. I just – from the very start – could tell something was missing. The narrator was talking as if certain things should already be familiar to me. I’m all for narrators not treating me like a complete idiot (unless I’m not supposed to like the narrator) but this feeling was different. So, I did some research online (more like looked it up on Wikipedia) and found that this is a book in a series – and it wasn’t the first book.

Boy did I feel dumb. This was a book from my list! I had no clue it was part of a series. I just liked the cover blurb and what the author had said about Emily Dickenson in his Author’s note-thing.  

Wikipedia also said that James Rollins did some work on an Indiana Jones script, and I can really tell. The Last Oracle really feels like a mix between The Da Vinci Code and a Jones movie.

Needless to say, it’s not that it was a terrible book and that’s why I put it down. It’s just that I really want to start out on the right path with something if I’m going to really invest in it.

The concept was really interesting to me – gypsies and oracles and the Christian mythos. At the very least, I’d watch the movies (when/if they come out).

Hel Speak:

I actually finished this book, and I have to say - it sucked balls. No, that would be too generous. It sucked butt holes.

I didn't feel like the book talked as if I should already know things. After Panda told me it wasn't the first book in the series, I could tell that the author was explaining things in a way that felt a bit contrived, like doing a "on the last episode of..." blurb. So i felt like you could easily read this book without any of the others. It really stands a lone. The only thing that really mattered was that Monk, one of the main characters, had gone missing in the last book and was presumed dead. It probably would have had more of an impact on me if I had already known Monk in the past.

I agree that this was a mix of Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci code. Except not good. For several reasons.

First, I felt like there were several main plots. The main MAIN one was Russia's attempt to take over the world, but I felt that their means of doing so were weak and unrealistic, unworthy of a book.

Second, it was written like an action movie. Like the author expected it to be made into a movie, or was writing a detailed script. The action scenes were ridiculous, as was the "witty" banter. Let me give you a glimpse into one of my favorite (note the sarcasm) scenes:

"Nicolas lowered his outstretched arms - and revealed what was hidden behind the pile of I-beams. The man's hand had been out of view until now.

A second pistol.

It pointed at Gray's belly and fired.

Gray managed to twist sideways, but the bullet still burned a line of fire across his stomach....

...(Gray was) Out of bullets.

The same could not be sad for Nicolas.

The Russian drew a dead bead upon Gray.

As a consequence of his concentration, Nicolas moved the movement along the roof..."

Do I even need to point out the faults here? DODGING BULLETS? My favorite part, of course, is the line "as a consequence of his concentration". Really, you couldn't have worded this any different??? Not to mention that Gray is supposed to be "the best of the best of the best, SIR". So why the hell did it not occur to him that maybe Nicolas was hiding a gun in the hand he was hiding behind an I-BEAM???


Moving on.

Thirdly, it's clear that Rollins did his history. He knows everything about everything. And he wants to show us that he does. Any time there is even the smallest opportunity for a character to lecture, they start speaking in a forced, textbook manner. It's ostentatious. Just shut up.

Fourth, this book had pictures. Yes, PICTURES.

'Nuff said. Don't read it. Just watch the movie.

Monday, July 1, 2013

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

Panda’s Punishment Post on: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. 

HMD is book one of the Temeaire series. 

My grade: 6/10. 

I read this book years ago. The things I can remember about it is: it had dragons and is an alternate history set during the Napoleonic wars where dragons act as airplanes for battle. I can’t really remember names or the breeds of dragons. Nor do I really care to look them up. 

The dragon-concept is kind of like Eragon, where the dragon imprints on the human of its choosing (that was an Eragon thing right?). But it’s also like Pirates of the Caribbean in the fact that there are ships and navy stuff goes on. It was an interesting concept. 


The novel was 1) too long, 2) too much like a romance novel (as my Fantasy Literature professor pointed out to me: at one point the main character gives the dragon a NECKLACE. And, he – the MC – is super monogamous with her…to the point he doesn’t have a girlfriend or real human relationship
because he’s so devoted to his Dragon), and 3) there were not enough human interactions, 4) the Dragon types were too complicated to keep up with, and 5) the book is part of an overdone genre – dragon and historical fantasy-wise.   

In a lot of ways it felt like it was TRYING to be the Pirates of the Caribbean of Dragon tales. It also felt like Novik ripped off some of the POTC ideas. There’s even a Mr. Gibbs character – WITH THE SAME NAME. 

Read it if you’re into that sort of thing (as in Dragons). But it won’t change your life. I think it would make an interesting movie though. I would watch it. And it’s better than any other dragon book I’ve read (I hate Christopher Paolini’s books, if that helps decipher my opinion). In reality, I think it would have made a better game than a book - participating in the scenes would have been better than reading them (it was a dense read at times).

I only mention this because Novik actually used to be a game designer. Or, I could be wrong. But, if I’m right…I’m pretty sure she should stick to games, sorry.  

Another interesting thing is that all – or most – of the books in the series were copyrighted AT THE SAME TIME. That probably means she wrote them all before publishing the first one. Which means she either is 1) a really prolific writer or 2) it took a long-ass time to sell this first book, allowing her to work on the others as well. Not sure what that means, but… 

I recommend  watching How to Train Your Dragon. Dragons don’t get better than that.