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Monday, May 30, 2016

Catching Up On My 2016 Reading Goals

Happy Monday!

Since we are nearly halfway through the year, I thought it would be a good idea to see what goals I had set for myself, and see how I was doing. I do not have very high expectations because I had forgotten I had this many goals.

How many books have I read out of my goal of 75?
     And we are already starting this post on a negative note. As of today I have read 19 books (2 are rereads and didn't count on goodreads), leaving me 11 books behind on my challenge. It was very hard to read while away at university, but I am getting back to reading six or more books a month - so hopefully this will change. 

Am I reading longer books? Over 400 pages?
     I did not even remembers setting this challenge for myself, but I am actually reading longer novels than I usually do! To date I have read 9 books that are over 400 pages, 5 of those being longer than 500 pages!

Have I reread any books?
     I had given myself a goal of five novels and actually picked out the ones that I wanted to reread, but unfortunately I have not yet picked those up. However I did pick up three others and read those again. I have other novels that I want to read again, in order to finish series, but I will make sure to read the ones I had picked out. Those were; The DUFF, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Flowers in the Attic, Twilight, and the fourth Harry Potter novel. 

Have I finished any series?
     I have only finished two series so far this year; The Divergent series by Veronica Roth, and Never, Never trilogy by Colleen Hoover. I really enjoyed these two series, but really want to finish more. 

How am I doing with the Pop Sugar 2016 Reading Challenge?
     Terribly. I have only completed 12 of the 40 challenges. I will do better. 

And finally, 

How long is my "Owned TBR" list?
     At the beginning of the year it was over 280 novels, but as of today it is at 235. I feel very happy with that number, and have faith that it will be much lower by the end of the year. 

How are you all doing with your goals? Good luck!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Allegiant Book Review


Written by Veronica Roth
Number of pages: 525

Average Rating: 3.65/5 stars
My Rating: 5/5 stars

Published October 22, 2013
Read in May 2016

Summary according to goodreads

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered - fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. 

But Tris' new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature - and of herself - while facing impossible choice about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. 

My Thoughts

I feel like I need to get everything out in the open - I cried reading this novel. I felt so connected to all of the characters, including the minor ones, and could not help but get emotionally involved with all of the problems they were facing. There were a lot of ups and downs in this novel, and unfortunately did not follow a happy ending. 

It is against popular opinion, but I actually appreciated the dual perspectives in this novel because there was so much going on. I found it very refreshing to see both sides of the story, except I did not find the two voices to be very developed. At times I forgot whose perspective I was reading, but caught on quickly enough for it not to hinder my experience. 

I was very happy that the characters did not change - obviously there was significant character development - but basic morals were still there from beginning to end. There were some very immature and reckless decisions made, mostly from Tobias, and felt that they could have been changed as they added little to the story. These characters have been through so much, it is hard to remember they are still teenagers, barely adults. 

The only issue that I had with this novel was its similarities to The Maze Runner. I will not spoil anything for anyone who has not read it, but the plot took a twist that I was not expecting and was not thrilled about. I have actually given up on reading that series by James Dashner, and was a little put-off by this plot twist. Throughout the novel it was stronger developed and was a very interesting addition to the novel - one that I ended up appreciating. 

Even though I had been spoiled on the ending, I was completely engaged in the story and did not know what was going to happen - deaths came out of nowhere. Although someone of the deaths were unnecessary, the final one (maybe even final two) did add a lot to the story, and further development to the characters. I cried during the last 40 or so pages, and even the day after reading could not stop thinking about this novel. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and series. I am happy to have finally finished it even years after originally reading the first novel. It only took me so long to read because I have been completely engrossed in the Raptors game, and could not read because we always seemed to go into overtime against Miami. 

Be brave. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Novel vs. Film: Insurgent


Written by: Veronica Roth
Number of pages: 525

Average Rating: 4.10/5 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Published on May 1, 2012
Read again in May 2016

Insurgent Film

Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

Average Rating: 6.3/10 (IMDb)
My Rating: 1.5/5 stars

Released on March 20, 2015
Watched in May 2016

After reading Divergent, Four, and now Insurgent, I decided to continue watching the films before continuing on with the series. I recently read and reviewed both the novel and film for Divergent, and was very happy with that adaptation. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for Insurgent. 

From the very beginning there were differences, from characters; to settings; to plot details. Insurgent was such a strong novel I did not see any reason for them to make such substantial chances, and it was not done very well. To start with characters, I was disappointed with the portrayal of Johanna. Throughout the entire novel she is described as a woman with a powerful presence, and wears a large scar across the side of her face. While watching the film I could not see any scar, and for a minute did not even realize that Octavia Spencer was playing that role - the character was unrecognizable in my eyes. I was also very disappointed with how little we saw of Marcus, he was a big part of the revelation Tris has, and later came into play at the end of the novel. Not only that, where was Uriah? Where was Cara? Where was Tori? WHERE WAS HALF OF DAUNTLESS?!

I was very disappointed with how the film depicted Tris after the simulation. In the novel it is clear that she is dealing with PTSD from shooting Will and others, and cannot manage to hold a weapon. However, in the film she does not hesitate to pick up a gun, and although Will remains in her thoughts, it does not slow her down. I was also not happy with how they depicted Tris and Caleb's relationship, there was much more lead up to that plot twist, and I wish I had been able to see it unfold. 

Don't even get me started on the "special box" and doing tests on the Divergent. I much preferred the plot of the novel, and how they were sneaking around each other in order to get information. The portrayal in the book of Tris being analyzed in order to find out what makes her Divergent, was much more emotional and intense than putting her through simulations in order to unlock a box. In the novel, Jeanine knows the secret that she wants to keep from the city, and that is why she is so destructive - not destructive in order to find out what is in the box. 

Overall I was very disappointed with this film, so much so that I found myself struggling to pay attention. I enjoyed the novels and had high hopes for the films, but so far have neglected to meet my expectations. I will likely not continue watching the films, because they are not something I have an interest in anymore. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Arrival Book Review

The Arrival

Written by Shaun Tan
Number of pages: 128

Average Rating: 4.32/5 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Published: October 12, 2007
Read in April 2016

Summary according to Goodreads

In a heartbreaking parting, a man gives his wife and daughter a last kiss and boards a steamship to cross the ocean. He's embarking on the most painful yet important journey of his life - he's leaving home to build a better future for his family.

Shaun Tan evokes universal aspects of an immigrant's experience through a singular work of the imagination. He does so using brilliantly clear and mesmerizing images. Because the main character can't communicate in words, the book forgoes them too. 

My Thoughts

This was an amazing and unique reading experience, and I am very happy that I picked this book up. This entire novel was told through art, and there were no words whatsoever. This structure made it a very quick read, but allowed the reader to step deeper into the story. It is in the reader's hands to determine how the plot is unfolding, through their personal depiction of the artwork. It took me a few pages before I figured out why this man was leaving, and the mysterious creatures he met along the way. It is a more sci-fi dystopian novel, but is very easy to follow along with. 

I found it outstanding how this author was able to bring the story of an immigrant to this media, and express it in a very interesting and creative way. Overall, I was blown away by this novel, both from the art and the plot. If there are other novels done in this format I will definitely be picking them up in the future. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Four Book Review


Written by: Veronica Roth
Number of Pages: 208

Average Rating: 4.14/5 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Published July 8th, 2014
Read in April 2016

Summary according to Goodreads

Two years before Beatrice Prior made her choice, the sixteen-year-old son of Abnegation's faction leader did the same. Tobias's transfer to Dauntless is a chance to begin again. Here, he will not be called the name his parents gave him. Here, he will not let fear turn him into a cowering child.  

Newly christened "Four," he discovers during initiation that he will succeed in Dauntless. Initiation is only the beginning, though; Four must claim his place in the Dauntless hierarchy. His decisions will affect future initiates as well as uncover secrets that could threaten his own future - and the future of the entire faction system. 

Two years later, Four is poised to take action, but the course is still unclear. The first new initiate who jumps into the net might change all that. With her, the way to righting their world might become clear. With her, it might become possible to be Tobias once again. 

My Thoughts

Since this novel is composed of four novellas and extra content, I decided to write a small review for each separately. 

The Transfer: 4/5 stars

I felt that Tobias had the same voice as Tris, making it hard to get into his head. This novella provided a much more emotional and "human" side of Four which I really appreciated. It was very interesting to see why he had chosen Dauntless, and what his initiation started like (being afraid of heights and all). 

The Initiate: 5/5 stars

The Son: 3/5 stars

The entire time that I was reading this I could not help but feel like I had read it before. I knew exactly what was going to happen, but don't remember ever reading this novella. It was a weird sense of deja vu, but wasn't too necessary to the plot (as of right now). 

The Traitor: 4/5 stars

I was very excited to start seeing the events of Divergent through Four's perspective. It did not change much in what happened between him and Tris, but instead showed us what he was doing outside of initiation training. I was not aware that Four was planning to leave Dauntless the entire time, and already had suspicions of what was to come at the end of the novel. I had not anticipated the ending of this novella, even knowing the title would tie into the story somewhere. 

Overall I really enjoyed this novellas, and am glad I read them while rereading the first two novels. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Novel vs. Film: Divergent


Written by Veronica Roth
Number of pages: 487

Average Rating: 4.28/5
My Rating: 5/5

Published on April 25, 2011
Read again in April 2016

Divergent Film

Directed by Neil Burger
Running Time: 2 hours 19 minutes

Average Rating: 6.7/10 (IMDb)
My Rating: 3/5

Released on March 21, 2014
Watched in April 2016

I recently read this novel for the third time, because I have never finished this series. That may be hard to believe, considering that this is one of my favourites, but when I got spoiled on Allegiant I gave up. I know I have been writing a review for every book I read, however since this was a reread I decided to do a comparison review for the book and movie! 

Released in 2014, this film stars Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior, and Theo James as Four. This was my first experience watching this movie, and wanted to document my feelings for you. 

As can be expected, there were differences between these two, but nothing too extreme. The first thing that I noticed were the differences within the family structure, where during meals parents were much more open with the children and didn't reprimand them for asking questions. In the novel Caleb and Beatrice did not have a voice, and were seen as rude if they asked their parents questions. In the film we are shown the four of them discussing Erudite and the conspiracy against Abnegation. 

Another small, but noticeable, difference was during the Choosing Ceremony. In the novel all of the initiates that would be participating were grouped together, and stood alphabetically. In the film, however, the initiates sat with their families while they waited for their name to be called. I did not prefer one over the other, but instead appreciated them both. In the novel Beatrice finally starts to be independent and think on her own, as a member of society instead of a faction. However in the film it is our last chance to see Beatrice with her family, and the endless support she receives from her mother. I believe that this scene also foreshadowed the decision that Beatrice will make, when her mother says "I love matter what." A mother truly does know everything. 

I was very disappointed with some of the plot changes that were made - one of the most significant being her interactions with her mother. If you have read the novels you would know that Tris only sees her mother during "Visiting Day", however in the film she is seen before stage two of initiation. This took away from the point of the factions and initiation, because the initiates are not allowed contact outside of the faction they chose, and believe "faction before blood." It was clear that the directors wanted to keep the family aspects prominent in the film, but I enjoyed the independence of the novel much more. There were other small differences throughout, during the training initiation and the reveal of the tracking devices for example, but nothing too significant to hinder my experience. 

I was very happy with the way the characters were portrayed throughout the film - both in their attitudes, relationships, and developments. Even though the events might have been changed, I could appreciate the consistency between them all. Tris started as very shy before growing into herself and her abilities; and with Four, the sometimes friendly sometimes deadly instructor, supporting her from behind the scenes. Christina and Will were the same, and Peter was still a terrible character. 

Before watching this movie I had only ever watched Shailene Woodley in the ABC series Secret Life of the American Teenager. It was not the best show, but instead dramatic through every 40-minute episode. I think that I didn't love her in this film because I kept seeing her as Amy Juergens who would cry a lot and constantly flick her hair. Don't even get me started on Theo James - I could write an entire blog post about him. I cannot imagine anyone else playing this part as well as he did. He was sultry, authoritative, protective, and a very believable actor. 

Overall I was not overly impressed with this film adaptation, and would rate it as average. I will be rereading the sequel Insurgent, and then watching that film, and I hope it will be good as well!