Monday, November 28, 2011

2011 Reading Challenges- Update and Progress

For 2011, I challenged myself to seven reading challenges. Below I will list the challenge and my progress so far.
  1. 50 Books in 2011- This challenge is complete as of September 2011! I managed to read 50 books. I'm not stopping yet, though. I am going to continue reading to see how many I can read.                                                                                                                                 
  2. Debut Author Challenge (12)- This challenge is not complete. In fact, I haven't been keeping up with this one all that well. I know that I've read at least 2 debut novels possibly more.
  3. To Be Read Challenge (4)- This challenge is complete. My four TBR books were: The Sweer Far Thing, Pretties, Uglies, and The Lightening Thief.
  4. Classics Challenge (5)- This challenge is not complete. I have read one book and started one.
  5. Shakespeare Challenge (6)- This challenge is not complete. I have read no books toward it.
  6. Dystopian Challenge (15)- This challenge is almost complete. I have read 14 of the 15 books toward it. My reviews of them may be found by searching for the label Dystopian or 2011 Reading Challenge.
  7. Sequel Challenge (6)- This challenge is complete. Toward it I read: The Uglies series (4), the Gemma Doyle Trilogy (2), the Percy Jackson series (5), The Hunger Games (3), Harry Potter (7).
Overall, I completed four of my seven challenges. With the end of the year closing in quickly and the increasing pressure of school and work I don't anticipate finishing the other challenges completely. 

Look out in the next few days for my post on the 2012 reading challenges. I don't think that I will be quite as ambitious in the number I join but I would like to try for 100 books in 2012.

The Book Nook

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Divergent-Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication: 2011
Summary: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, 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 to determine who her friends really are—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 loves . . . or it might destroy her. Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Let me start my saying that I have been on such a dystopian kick this year! The majority of the novels that I have read for my 2011 challenges have been in the genre of dystopia. With that being said, this review is going to be a little different in terms of format compared to my other ones. One of the things that I really enjoyed about this novel, other than the amazing plot and characters, was the language. Everything that Roth wrote I wanted to have as a tattoo or put on my walls. Therefore, my review will consist of both my thoughts and some of my favorite quotes. Without further ado, my review of Divergent.

Divergent is both a novel and a work of art. Veronica Roth is able to create such beautiful and vivid imagery which is an ideal writing technique for dystopian because so much of the world is unimaginable for the twenty first century reader. Likewise, her imagery really sets the mood for the novel. Roth uses the environment and the character's surroundings as a vehicle for her message. I also really like the way that she built suspense especially through the use of one-liners. 

"My mother was dauntless." 

Roth really put an emphasis on building her world. I loved how caricatured the factions were because when they are that extreme it is easier to see their ideals and processes. Within that, I enjoy the use of the initiation as a vehicle for plot and character development. As the characters go through their initiation, we are learning about them. 

"I believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that causes one person to stand up for another."

"Somewhere inside of me is a merciful girl who tries to understand what people are going through, who accepts that people do evil coward."

What's more is that the novel really stresses the need for personal diversity and temperance. People are not one-sided! That is what is beautiful about our own society and what Tris is hoping to get out of hers.

"I feel like some one breathed new air into my lungs. I am not Abnegation. I am not Dauntless. I am Divergent."

Series Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians-Rick Riordian

     When I encounter a series after all of the books have been published, I try to read the novels one right after the other. With the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, however, this was not the case. I purchased the first novel, The Lightening Thief, in January of 2010 for my fiancĂ© because he really enjoyed the movie. It sat on my shelf for months-my fiancĂ© is really not a reader. One day in January of 2011, a year later, the book called to me from the shelf. I felt bad that it had been sitting on my shelf all by itself so I picked it up and started reading it. Now, almost a year later, I’ve finished the entire series. In July 2011, I read book two and then books three through five I read in September. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I present my review of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series!

      The Lightening Thief: The first installment was a great opening novel. I loved the way Riordian introduced us to the world of the demigods and gods. He put a lot of thought into how he could bring the ancient myths to a modern audience and it shows in the creative and unique ways he connects the past and the present. I also really enjoyed the characters, especially the main three: Percy, Annabeth, and Grover. They had great depth and personality even though it was the first novel. Riordian has given us a really great first novel and I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

      The Sea of Monsters: Following the first novel, it took me awhile to finally pick the sequel up. The characters remain enjoyable but I didn’t really like the plot as I was reading it. It felt like the story line was just an unnecessary filler used to bridge the first and third book. I still enjoyed it as a stand alone but it was my least favorite of the series. Now that I’ve read the rest of the books, though, I see that the story was definitely needed as it introduced some very crucial plot points- the rest of the series simply could not have happened without this one. So overall I enjoyed the story and there was some great humor and I saw its necessity but it was far from my favorite.

     The Titan’s Curse: This novel was my very favorite of the entire series! The story of Thalia and Artemis and the Hunters really revived the story for me. I really enjoyed the fast pace and the constant action because it moved the story and the series along nicely. I also liked the increasing interaction with the gods. In this installment, we really learn a lot more Greek backstory. Another aspect I enjoyed was the character growth. Each of the characters is learning about their world and themselves and in reaction to it-growing. Above all, I am enjoying watching Percy grow as a character. This is definitely a must read!

     The Battle of the Labyrinth: The Battle of the Labyrinth was a very enjoyable read. What I enjoyed most was the fact that many of the subplots from the first novel were finally resolved, which really is important for penultimate books because it allows the final book time to focus on the important, main storyline. Another aspect that I enjoyed was the character growth. The characters are continuing to grow up and we as readers get to experience that. Percy is really changing and developing who he is. I also really liked how Riordian used the setting of the labyrinth to advance the plot. Through the twists and turns of the labyrinth we find out a great deal of expository information. Finally, I thought this was the first novel where you really encounter the reality of the novel. In it, we get the first glimpse of the loses and sacrifices of life that happen during war. For me, its reminiscent of the fifth book of Harry Potter in its tone and voice yet Riordian is still able to keep the humor that he is so well known for. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable read.
     The Last Olympian: The final book was the perfect ending to a great series! I won’t say too much because I don’t want to give away anything but the novel wrapped up everything very nicely and still left the option of continuing the story.

    I recommend checking this series out. Also, Rick Riordian has continued the story of Percy and all of his friends in a brand new series. Let me know what you thought of the series, if you've read it, and whether or not you like the follow up books.