Holy Amazing Main Characters, Batman! Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi was such a wonderful surprise. I was expecting nothing more than my standard enjoyable, but not fantastic, young adult dystopia. What a wonderful way to start off your career Miss Rossi.
The story begins with Aria, a 17 yr old living in one of many dull, grey pods where the inhabitants escape to life in the realms to survive their everyday. The realms are virtual reality, where Aria attends classes, meets with friends, and practices her operatic talents. That is until a classmate plays with fire and she ends up being kicked out of the safety of her Pod and finds herself amidst a world of savages with an ethereal sky hanging down on them all.
With the danger of the sky above ready to break down on civilization and the savage civilizations themselves, Aria has no hope of survival until she runs into Peregrine (Perry) who is a savage himself from the lands beyond her Pod. With Perry’s help, Aria hopes to return home to her Pod and her mother.
The characters are so well developed and their relationships so complex, I really found myself enjoying this novel. It was fun to read and NEW. When reading dystopia, I find myself mostly looking for new storylines and engaging characters. Under the Never Sky met those challenges with tenacity. Definitely recommended for dystopia and YA fans alike.
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers is a classic novel that I never had the chance to read as a child! I have, of course, loved the film with Julie Andrews since the age of 10, when I first saw it. The enchanting scenes and stern loving that Mary Poppins offered really spoke to me as a child. The novel, though different from the much beloved film, did not disappoint this reader.
Blown in by a strong wind, Mary Poppins is given a job as nanny to the four children who reside at Number Seventeen Cherry Hill Lane. The children are Jane, Michael, and twins: John & Barbara. The twins are still infants and while I understood the need to cut their characters from the movie, I found that they added a lot to the novel version. They were funny and had many deep thoughts and ideas about Mary Poppins.
Jane and Michael were just as rambunctious as their film-counterparts, though they minded Mary much better in the book. The birthday party at the zoo and the trip to buy gingerbread stars from Mrs. Corry & her two daughters were my favorite bits of their adventures… and BOTH were really lacking/missing from the film version.
All in all, I REALLY enjoyed this novel. So much so that I want to read this to my children before they ever catch a glimpse of the film. It was magical and fun and everything a children’s novel should be. It reminds me of the novel Peter Pan! Fun and a bit dark, like life. DEFINITELY recommend reading this classic if you haven’t picked it up yet!
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is a non-fiction novel about the death of gay prostitute Danny Hansford. The novel describes the life of Danny Hansford and his lover Jim Williams in Savannah, Georgia. The novel does not read like a non-fiction at all! It reads more like a fictional retelling of non-fiction activities.
Honestly, I felt that this novel was all over the place. I couldn’t even nail down what was going on in the story. I found myself easily distracted during my read-through. Not a suggested read. Not well written and uninteresting. I expected more from such a widely talked about novel.
Emma Donoghue‘s Room is the incredibly heartbreaking fictional story of a young boy who is born and raised inside of a single room in a shed where his mother is held captive and raped on a nightly basis. Wow. No way to avoid the blatant truth of the story.
The story is told through the young boy’s eyes and his attachment to his mother’s own personal hell is hard to take. He feels safe in room, with their Sunday treat and sleeping in the closet so Uncle Nick (their captor) can’t see him. His mother really struck me as a strongly written character. She was written in a very realistic manner and I found myself understanding her mood swings and occasional bouts of depression.
The poor little boy is just coping in his room, with tv and his books and toys. His focus is on their daily allotment of food and his mother really focuses on giving her adequate nutrition and education in their limited surroundings. Eventually, his mother comes up with a grand plan to escape, but she will need the little boy’s help. He is not interested in leaving the safety of room, but he goes along with his mother’s desperate plan to free themselves from the shed in Uncle Nick’s backyard.
This story is hard. Hard to read. Hard to swallow. Hard to think about and imagine what women who have lived in similar circumstances to this fictional novel have gone through. As a novel, I found it dragged a bit in the middle… just a lot of monotony, but the overall message was fantastic! Definitely a great novel, but have some tissues at the ready!
I finally got with the program and decided to check out Veronica Roth‘s Divergent. I know this review will be lame and WAY behind the times for some of you, so bear with me. I didn’t know what to expect from Roth’s novels and I’ve got to say, having finished the entire series, I’m less impressed than I thought I would be. But I digress…
Divergent is the story of a dystopian city set in an future Chicago where emotions and original thought have been deemed dangerous and anyone who showcases divergent thinking or behavior is singled out and made to conform. There are five different factions each sixteen year old must choose between: Abnegation (focus on selflessness), Dauntless (focus on bravery), Erudite (focus on knowledge), Amity (focus on peace), and Candor (focus on truth). Anyone else see the similarities to the Harry Potter houses? The Dauntless would be Gryffindors, the Erudite would be Ravenclaws, the Amity would be Hufflepuffs, and Candor would be Slytherins (though Candor doesn’t fit as nicely in the Slytherin box).
Beatrice Prior was born into an Abnegation household, but on her choosing day, she chooses to join Dauntless, even though her aptitude test showed her to be divergent and fit into a multitude of factions. The Dauntless training is rigorous and death defying and Beatrice, who now goes as Tris, finds herself struggling to stay in the top ten initiates group.
I would have liked if Tris’ strength was more inward, but I feel like she needed a man (the Dauntless trainer who goes by Four) to keep her head above water. I felt like the romance was a bit forced and odd, BUT despite that, I liked the twist at the end. I felt like the twist gave the plot more structure.
Overall, I’d say 4 stars for originality maybe 3 for content. It was a new and interesting story, but I wasn’t all that attached to Tris. I like to feel emotionally attached to my characters.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is not a tale for the faint of heart. It’s a dystopian novel set in a futuristic United States which has been overthrown by a totalitarian Christian society. The handmaids are women who are basically used as fertility machines to furnish rich officers and their wives with children.
I decided to read this novel because of the reviews I had seen online naming it one of the best novels of our generation. My interest was piqued and without having heard anything else about the novel, I decided to borrow it from the library.
WOW. It was not what I was expecting at all. The story follows Offred [Of-Fred], a handmaid who is staying with Commander Fred and must produce an heir for the high ranking official and his wife. No romance, no speaking, her only allowed contact with Fred is a ceremony in which his wife holds her hands while Fred takes advantage of Offred’s body. It’s disturbing and frustrating and scary.
That being said, I could NOT STOP READING THIS BOOK. I was entrapped and trying to understand this new world with it’s strange rituals and attempts to reverse the population decrease. It’s scary to ponder what could cause such a cold and unfeeling world to be created. I enjoyed the novel, if only for it’s shocking quality. 3.5 stars!
A Thousand Splendid Suns is my second foray into Khaled Hosseini‘s writing. After finished all three of his novels, I have to say that A Thousand Splendid Suns is, by far, my favorite of his works.
The story follows the lives of Mariam and Laila, two Afghan women who end up in a polygamist relationship with a man named Rasheed. The novel is split into four parts: Miriam’s childhood and early marriage to Rasheed, Laila’s privileged childhood, the relationship that forms between the two women, and Laila’s life after her marriage to Rasheed.
It’s mostly the story of an unusual mother/daughter relationship and the place of Afghan women in their culture. It’s such an empowering and yet, disturbing, story. The women of Afghanistan are often portrayed as demure and subservient, but Khaled Hosseini paints an entirely new portrait of them as fighters with extreme inner strength.
I loved this novel. I loved the women most of all. They were real and their stories were powerful and meaningful. It makes me wonder how many Afghan women are suffering through lives of quiet desperation. Very powerful work, five stars from this blogger!