Huh. This book went different than I expected, but it a good way. It took me a while to really figure out what was going on in this new world, but eve...moreHuh. This book went different than I expected, but it a good way. It took me a while to really figure out what was going on in this new world, but eventually, it struck me as one of the saddest post-apocalyptic worlds I've read about lately. It's not just the death or threat-of-death, because that seems pretty standard in the genre at this point. It's the utter bleakness of the world they live in. There is so little happiness, and so little hope for future happiness. Perhaps that is why every tiny bit of joy seems so magical and special.
After the nuclear explosions of various sorts of killing and mutating chemicals, everyone exposed to the blast has been either scarred or burned or merged with the people or items that are nearest to them. The lucky ones merged with small simple things: fans, glass, bits of metal. Humans and animals merged together to form horrific beasts. Humans and the earth merged together to form dust monsters that roam the desert, out of sight until they grab you and drag you beneath the earth's surface to devour you. Humans merge together in clumps to create monstrous "groupies". Mothers merged with the children they were carrying and protecting. El Capitan merged with his little brother on his back, forever a child, their lives dependent on one another. Bradwell merged with 3 little birds, forever fluttering, embedded in his back. When presented with all that others have suffered, Pressia seems to have gotten off lightly, with only a doll's head where her hand should be.
Those that weren't exposed to the explosion, who were protected in the Dome, are known as Pure, but they don't necessarily have the easiest life, either. They might not starve, but they take pills instead of eating food. They have warm beds to sleep in at night, but their lives are very much dictated by those in power, and any little thing can get you sent to rehab. The Powers That Be decide who you become, who can reproduce, how you are going to spend your life. Boys are subjected to genetic manipulation that "codes" them to be stronger physically and more obedient mentally. The most promising, the "elite" special forces, gets the most and worst coding, turning them into nearly-mindless monsters, with guns literally embedded in their arms. From this world comes Partridge, son of the Dome leader, Ellery Willux. You would think that having a famous and powerful father would give Partridge an edge of sorts in the new world, but unfortunately, he feels mostly feels isolated and alone.
Family is an important thing in this book: Partridge is lied to by his father about many things, but most importantly about his mother and his brother. (view spoiler)[Neither Partridge's mother or brother had really died. Aribelle had chosen to leave her husband before the blast and was living hidden in a bunker for all those years. Sedge never committed suicide, but was mutated into one of the elite special forces monsters, more machine than man after all the coding. And of course, Ellery knew that Partridge had a half-sister out there: Pressia. Shocker! Not only did he not tell Partridge (or Sedge, for that matter, I bet) about Pressia, but he specifically set up for them to meet once Partridge escaped from the Dome, and specifically brought Pressia in to bug her to spy on Partridge, all so he could eventually find his lost wife, who he thought had drugs that would save him from dying from his excessive genetic coding. Talk about cold and heartless. Obviously, he could care less about Pressia, as she's not related to him in any way, but to cause such pain and anguish to your own children? To make them face death? To actually kill them, explode their brains? No wonder Partridge never felt like his father was family (hide spoiler)] Partridge's real family, his mother, was lost to him. Almost all the other characters had lost their families, too. Pressia's parents died in the blast (view spoiler)[, or so we are supposed to think. That was actually just her aunt, bringing her to her mother, which makes me wonder if her father survived in Japan (hide spoiler)]. Bradwell and El Capitan also have no parents left to speak of, so when these orphans come together, they end up forming a sort of family on their own, depending on one another for their survival.
I love Pressia as a character because she is strong and independent, but still seems to have some sort of sense about when she needs to ask for help. She's determined to survive, despite her terrible losses, and defies being told what to do or how to live her life. Her lack of memories of her childhood are particularly sad, but make sense when you find out (view spoiler)[that she grew up in Japan, and would naturally have no connection to the landscaping she's now living in. Though I have to admit, I find it strange that she doesn't remember anything about her father or aunt, given that she was 7 when the blast went off. But maybe that was too tragic an event? Or maybe she was given some sort of drug to make her forget? Who knows. At this point, I'm so paranoid, I'd believe anything (hide spoiler)]. Bradwell is adorably brave and independent and caring. I love that he kept insisting that he did better on his own, and needed to stay by himself, but still agreed to help Pressia with anything she asked, and the second she was taken, insisted they had to save her. And I love that there is no love triangle. It's refreshing that one girl can like one guy, and vice versa, and they aren't torn between other people. (view spoiler)[I will admit to being slightly confused for a bit, because the official summaries of this book only mention Partridge and Pressia, so I assumed any romance that happened would be between those two. But Pressia and Bradwell had such great chemistry together, and things between Pressia and Partridge never felt like they had any sort of sparkage. So, I was greatly relieved when it was revealed that Pressia and Partridge were related, and there was never going to be any romance stuff between them. Pressia and Bradwell can be sweet and find any sort of happiness together they can, and Partridge and Lyda can be together as well. (hide spoiler)]
I'm very curious to find out what happens in the next volume. Now that we know more about the backstory of the explosions and the Dome, I'm curious about potential rebellions that might happen, and I want to know more about the Swan and the Phoenix. Where do the kids go from here? Here's how we left things at the end of this book. (view spoiler)[Aribelle, aka Partridge and Pressia's mom, is dead, killed by her son Sedge's exploding head, which was triggered remotely by Sedge and Partridge's father. Yes, that's still messed up. Despite the fact that Ellery thought Aribelle had the drugs that could save him and many others, she only had part of the drug. The rest of it is somewhere else, and the formula to mix the two parts is lost as well. The crew had headed back to the farmhouse to see if Ingership (the Dome's man on the outside) could debug Pressia (take out the contact cameras and ear microphones) and deactivate the bomb in her head. Fortunately, Ingership's abused wife had purposely messed up while helping him install the bugs and bomb, so when her husband made her flip the switch to hypothetically kill Pressia, it instead just deactivated the bugs in her eyes and ears. She then helped kill her husband. The house was then remotely lit on fire and burned down. So in the end, we have the following crew together: Pressia, Partridge, Bradwell, Lyda, El Capitan and Helmud, Ingership's wife Illia, and 2 soldiers who had been at the house with them. They managed to recover one of the many black boxes that crawled from the wreckage of the house, but who knows what it may contain. Ellery knows that Ingership is dead, and that Partridge is not coming back. It was implied that Pressia's fake-grandpa was killed by Ellery in the Dome, as a lesson to Pressia for defying them. So what comes next? The crew is going to have to figure out more about the Swan/Phoenix stuff, and perhaps look for the 3 people who are still alive from Ellery and Aribelle's original group, one of whom is Pressia's father. They are also going to have to figure what's going on with the rebellion in the Dome. (hide spoiler)] Also, I just have to mention this: The names in this book are so ridiculously obnoxious. You seriously had to have all strange, unheard of names? But whatever. :) Still entertaining. I clearly got over it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
What would happen if one of the mindless zombies out there decided he wanted something more? That he wanted to have an actual life, go places, do thin...moreWhat would happen if one of the mindless zombies out there decided he wanted something more? That he wanted to have an actual life, go places, do things? Speak, run, make and keep memories? What if he falls in love?
That is exactly what happens to R, a Dead human who has deep thoughts but little memory, lots to say but a tongue that has a hard time moving. And then, while on a food-finding mission, R eats a special brain, saves a Living girl, and starts a revolution.
I don't want to say too much about this book because I don't want to spoil anything. This is not just a book about zombies, this is a book about finding what you want in life and going after it, regardless of how hopeless and unattainable it seems. It's about fighting for the impossible, regardless of the consequences. Isaac Marion's writing is smart, descriptive, and to-the-point. I wish this book was 4 times as long, actually, because I really just sank into the writing, and could have keep reading it forever. I knew by the 5th page that I was hooked, when I read this passage: "But it does make me sad that we've forgotten our names. Out of everything, this seems to me the most tragic. I miss my own and I mourn for everyone else's, because I'd like to love them, but I don't know who they are."
So don't hesitate. Go out and find a copy of this now. You won't regret it.
2ND READ: I loved this book so much that I made my book club read it, and then go see the movie that was based on it. :) Despite the major differences between the book and movie, I enjoy them both, as separate entities. We has a good discussion afterwards, about the similarities between the zombie community and the alive community (Bonies= Colonel Grigio), about what actually started the change in R, about hope and willingness to change. It was good.(less)
It seems like there are a lot of these teen dystopian type books out there these days, and it can kind of be hard to tell them apart from just their p...moreIt seems like there are a lot of these teen dystopian type books out there these days, and it can kind of be hard to tell them apart from just their plot summaries. I was particularly hesitant about this one because of the disparity in grammatical forms of the names of the factions - 3 nouns, 2 adjectives - which my friend Kim pointed out. (Seriously, Veronica Ruth, why are they different? WHY?) Though I still find that disparity mildly distracting, I was able to forget about my doubts in the face of the excellent characters and driven plot, which my reading-this-in-one-night-because-I-can't-put-it-down-ness can attest to.
Tris is the kind of person you can really look up to - she's brave, fearless at her core, and, though she doesn't see it herself, actually quite selfless. But what makes her even more special is that she's real. She's not perfect, she doesn't always do the right thing, like what happened with Al (view spoiler)[when he committed suicide. It's possible that Tris could have said the words that would have stopped his from ending his own life. But would it really have made a difference in the end? It's impossible to say (hide spoiler)]. Tris learns to live with the choices she makes, and we learn along with her.
Can I also say, that I am SO glad there is no love triangle in this book. Tris and Four are uniquely suited for each other, both in their pasts and in their temperaments. Though I can see the allure of the "so many choices! who should she pick?" drama often seen in teen fiction (and let's be honest, some adult fiction as well), in this case, I feel like something like that would have cheapened their true and honest connection. I loved how amazed each of them were at each other, at their relationship, at the idea that each wanted the other. I loved all the little moments they had together, like climbing the ferris wheel, as well as the big moments, like sharing their tattoos. Four bringing Tris into his fear simulation with him was so significant in each of their lives, and I'm so glad that Tris had Four there with her to help her navigate the tricky world that was Dauntless. Four had so many deep insights in to life, and was clearly a quite contemplative person, perhaps because of his upbringing, and perhaps because of the world he was tossed into. His thoughts on the connection between courage and selflessness were particularly spot-on, and I love that it was Tris's willingness to sacrifice herself over Four that ultimately saved him.
The whole idea of factions is interesting in that, I can see where they were coming from when they set up their system, but it's obviously flawed at this point, and each faction is so far skewed from what it was originally intended to be that it's impractical to expect such a system to survive. The problem lies in the base idea that a person can fit into a cookie-cutter mold, with out and room for deviance from their faction's societal norm. Saying that if someone doesn't fit in with the priorities of the faction they are born into, then they are meant to belong to another faction is just ridiculous. The divergents prove that that is not only improbable, but impossible in the end. By the end of the book, I'm not sure who to pity more, the divergent rebels on the run, or the dauntless when they wake up and realize how easily they were turned into mindless killing machines. (view spoiler)[Tris being forced to kill Will was so heartbreaking because she that deep down, he would never hurt her, but she couldn't respect him in the same way because he wasn't in control of his body, and it was truly his life or hers at that point. (hide spoiler)]
Tris's mother seems so fascinating, and though we can't see her relationship with Tris grow anymore, I hope we learn more about her history (view spoiler)[, especially her growing up with the Dauntless. Her sacrifice for Tris was so fantastically courageous, it was truly touching. Perhaps the only other death quite so heart-wrenching was that of Tris's father, a stern man, whose selflessness-turned-bravery suddenly overcame his distaste for violence or weapons when his daughter was threatened. His death seemed sudden and unexpected, but was actually a fittingly matching act of bravery with his wife (hide spoiler)]. Though I often feel like books in a series cut off too soon into the action, this one felt perfectly encapsulated, and I can't wait to read the next volume in Tris's and Four's adventures. Though I guess I should start calling him Tobias now. ;)
NOTES ON A SECOND READING: Not much has changed in regards to the way I feel about this book. Probably the only thing I see differently is (view spoiler)[Will's death. I don't really see why Tris had to kill him - wouldn't a leg wound have slowed him down enough? She didn't shoot Eric in the head, or Peter. I still feel like there was a better solution than a head shot, but maybe they needed that tension for the second book? Oh well. It still makes me very sad. :( (hide spoiler)]
NOTES ON A THIRD READING: I wanted to read this again before reading the last book in the series. I also wanted to refresh in my memory the way the characters are described, since the movie version is coming out next March. I'm looking forward to it. This book has some great action and drama, and I'm excited to see how they interpret it onto the big screen. The thing that still bugs me the most is (view spoiler)[Will's death. I still don't feel that he needed to die, unless he would have kept coming after her no matter what. I'm pretty sure Roth needed him to die because she wanted Tris to have this guilt hanging over her head, and she wanted to drive a wedge between Tris and Christina, but still! So sad. (hide spoiler)] On to book two!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Really adorable and lovable. I've always found Mindy Kaling's character on the Office, Kelly Kapoor, hilarious, and loved that she was also a writer f...moreReally adorable and lovable. I've always found Mindy Kaling's character on the Office, Kelly Kapoor, hilarious, and loved that she was also a writer for the show, but didn't really know much about her. When I saw that she had a book coming out called "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?", I knew I had to read it, not only because she seemed like a cool person, but because I sometimes think that myself. :) Also, I knew I had to get the audiobook to listen to, because what Tina Fey has taught me is that I LOVE celebrities reading to me, especially their own books. It's like they're sitting in the car, and we're just chatting, because we are such good friends. And you know what, I think we really would be! Good friends, that is.
I loved the stories from Mindy's childhood, growing up as a studious, non-party girl, partly because her experiences in many ways mirror my own. Not that I wrote my own comedy sketches as a teenager or anything, but more that I was less consumed with boys and parties and more with things like band and reading and television. Neither of us had the stereotypical "high school" that you often see portrayed in movies and on tv, but I share Mindy's point of view on that - if high school was the highlight of your life, then that's pretty sad. If you show up at your high school reunion saying, "Remember that time in high school when..." instead of "My life is awesome! I've done this and that and gone here and there...", then you are the one that should be pitied, not the girl who didn't go to the cool parties.
I also loved the stories of Mindy's early career and how she got her big break on the office. I soooo wish I could go back and time and see her show "Matt and Ben" because it sounds awesome and amazing. Hearing about behind the scenes at the Office is especially delightful as I love that show. Particularly hilarious was the story of how she got kicked out of work one day, only to sneak back in when she realized, she loved her job and would hate to lose it. :)
My favorite story in the book is perhaps the one from her People photoshoot, not only because it's a pretty funny story, though sad and heartbreaking at times, but also because Mindy really stood up for herself. Standing up and saying, "No, I will not wear the ugly navy dress just because I'm a size 8," might not be the most revolutionary thing in the world, but the courage it takes to do that is really inspirational, and a good lesson for all of us to learn. Love yourself, and don't let anyone else take that away from you. Don't let other people minimize who you are, and stand up for what you deserve.
The only thing I wish this book had was more stories. More from Mindy's childhood, more from the Office, more from her early struggles to make it as a writer and actor. The lists of things, while hilarious at times (revenge fantasies while jogging! funniest moments in comedy! the unofficial best friend rules!) could also sometimes get confusing. Really, I just want to hang out with Mindy and have her tell me all about her life, forever, until the end of time. :) Don't worry, I'm not a stalker, so I won't actually track her down, kidnap her, and make that a reality. But, you know, if you ever come to Seattle, Mindy, I'm just saying, it would be fun to hang out. ;) That is all.(less)
There is no lack of novels featuring vampires, witches, and other creatures, especially lately, but the world created in this series is particularly r...moreThere is no lack of novels featuring vampires, witches, and other creatures, especially lately, but the world created in this series is particularly rich and steeped in it's own lore.
In this book, there are 3 classes of creatures: witches, vampires, and demons. At one point in their history, the 3 groups decided that they are completely distinct species, and though they have to work together to some degree to make sure the humans don't start to notice them, in all important ways they need to stay separate. That means, no interspecies dating or mating, and the species stereotypes are built up, and much hatred for other species develops, especially between the witches and the vampires. A Congregation, made up of 3 people from each group, was established to make sure everyone kept to their promises.
Enter the main characters of this story: Diana, a witch, and Matthew, a vampire. Diana is a powerful witch, though she hasn't knowingly used magic since she was 7. She attributes this to her parents' deaths and her decision to reject what she saw as the cause of their deaths. What Diana eventually finds out is (view spoiler)[that her parents actually spellbound her before knowingly going to their deaths in order to protect her from the Congregation. Diana actually has more power than any witch in generations, and they would have taken her to study and use her. Her mother foresaw that Diana would meet Matthew eventually, and that he would protect her and help her learn how to use her powers, and only then would she start to be able to access them (hide spoiler)].
Matthew is a centuries-old vampire who is focused on figuring out creature genetics and how they are interrelated. When he meets Diana, he is instantly drawn to her, but in a protective way, not a predator-wanting-to-eat-you way. He knows that Diana is important, both because of the power he senses in her, and eventually because of her (view spoiler)[unique genetic code, which is something he had never seen before (hide spoiler)]. Of course, Diana and Matthew fall in love, and the Congregation freaks out. Of course, it's more than just the fact that they are breaking all the rules. (view spoiler)[It's that Diana has powers that they don't understand, and the witches don't want Matthew to have access to it. And once they found one of the lost pages from the Ashmole manuscript, the depiction of the chemical wedding that clearly showed Matthew and Diana as the bride and groom, it became clear that there were more ramifications to their relationship than Matthew and Diana getting to be together. There is something cosmic and predestined about them, and it all somehow ties into Matthew's genetics research, and his hypothesis that the creatures will die off if they don't start to evolve. Part of that evolution seems to be the for creatures to start having children together. There's the other missing page from Ashmole, which likely depicts the chemical conception, and implies Matthew and Diana could have children together (despite the fact that all evidence says that vampires cannot physically have children). And then there is Nathaniel, a demon, and his wife, Sophie, a demon born into a witch family, who is pregnant and expecting a child that will be a witch (Sophie can tell). (hide spoiler)]Things are changing, and there are always people who fight against progess and change.
There are lots of other great characters in this book, and the length of the book allows us to really get to know them and love them (or hate them, too). Though everyone says she is cold and heartless, Matthew's mother Ysabeau really embraces Diana once Matthew officially marries her, and she treats Diana as if she were her daughter as well. Not a bad person to have on your side. Ysabeau's housekeeper and companion, Marthe, welcomes Diana into their home with open arms, and is continually on her side, despite the fact that it took Ysabeau a while to warm up to Diana. You can tell that Marthe loves her family more than anything, and despite the fact that she is soft and kind, she would do anything to defend them. Sarah and Em, Diana's aunt and her partner, are both strong in their own ways, and forever supportive of Diana. Sarah could be annoyingly argumentative at times, which I found rather off-putting, but eventually, she seems to accent the inevitability of Diana and Matthew's relationship. Matthew's son, Marcus, is a fun-loving jokster, but eventually he has to get serious when it becomes time for him to take over the (view spoiler)[Knights of Lazarus while Matthew travels to the past with Diana. He is the youngest of the vampires, and doesn't seem to embrace that sort of leadership role, but he seems reluctantly willing to step up when he is needed (hide spoiler)]. Miriam, Matthew's old friend and lab assistant, can be rather bratty and condescending, but in the end, she is on their side. Despite the bitterness Miriam still seems to hold on to regarding her husband's death, she is willing to support Diana and Matthew and their quest. I loved hearing from all the ghosts living in the Bishop house, especially Diana's grandmother and Bridget Bishop. And you can't forget the house itself - how awesome that the house had it's own character, and could grow to accommodate more guests, and hide things when needed. I also loved hearing about all the people from history Matthew was friends with or knew, from politicians and scientists to artists, poets, and writers. Those personal connections really helped cement Matthew's relationship with the past.
Of course, there were some characters you couldn't help but hate, and pretty much all of them had something to do with the Congregation. There's Peter Knox, witch and member of the Congregation, who followed Diana as a child and repeatedly threatened her as an adult, after she found the Ashmole manuscript. Then there was Satu Järvinen, another witch and member of the Congregation, who (view spoiler)[kidnapped Diana from Sept-Tours and tortured her, trying to find a way to see her magic. (hide spoiler)] Pretty much as evil as you can get. Then there's Gerbert, a truly evil vampire that we didn't get to spend much time with, but you can just tell he is evil to the core. Both the creepiness of his meeting with Diana and hearing about how he "created" the damaged Juliette as a lure for Matthew is enough to convince me that this guy is not to be trusted in any way.
There were some things that felt over the top and ridiculous. Matthew could be really overbearing at times, with his demanding to be in control, and have everyone acknowledge that he is the leader and head of the house. His insistance that Diana listen to what he said was rather annoying at times. I understand that he lived through many different eras, most of which were very patriarchal, but having an equal relationship with someone involves trusting their decisions and judgment as well. It will be interesting to see how Diana and Matthew's relationship changes as they get to know each other more and as Diana grows in her power. I also found a little ridiculous how important their particular relationship is. It's a little too far-fetched that their relationship and potential future has sweeping ramifications for the future of their whole community, but I guess the book wouldn't be about them if they weren't so important. There were also some pretty theatrical makeout/non-sex scenes, which gave this book more of a romance lean than I expected from a book that had the critical acclaim this one did. It's not that the scenes felt out of place necessarily, it's just that I wasn't really expecting them. Also, the whole everyone's-in-love-with-her and she-doesn't-see-how-beautiful-and-appealing-she-is thing ALWAYS annoys me. If people are really falling in love with you left and right, you notice. Full stop. End of story.
I'll admit, there are times when I'm still confused, especially when they talk about chemical things and the alchemical process. That whole thing at the end with the dripping fire place and mercury and blood went right over my head. I know it must mean something significant, with the whole house sighing and all, but I really didn't get it. Hopefully they'll explain it to me in the next one!
I looking forward to the next book, which I'm sure takes place in the 15th century, and we get to meet Christopher Marlowe and other long-dead people, and will hopefully see Diana finally taking control of her powers and her life for once. I should be getting the next one from the library in a few days, but in case I forget, here is where book 1 left off. (view spoiler)[Matthew and Diana had timewalked (a power passed down from her father, but that she really got from her twin brother than she absorbed in utero through vanishing twin syndrome) back to the 1500s in order to give Diana time away from the Congregation in order to develop her powers and in order to find a more powerful witch to train her. Matthew was able to get a letter and book to Sarah to reassure her that they actually made it into the past safely. He had written in a book and left it with his things, which Ysabeau forwarded to him at the house. Yes, it's all very confusing. Sarah and Em left the house ostensibly on a road trip with some witch friends, but eventually they will separate from those friends and head to Sept-Tours to stay with Ysabeau and Mart under their protection. Marcus and Miriam headed back to Oxford, and will eventually meet up at Sept-Tours, too. Marcus was made head of the Knights of Lazarus, and will work to convince other vampires that they need to fight against the Congregation. Sophie and Nathaniel headed back to Sophie's home in South Carolina, and Nathaniel accepted a role in the Knights of Lazarus, as their official hacker, to fight the good fight online. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The main issue with any biography of Cleopatra is one that Schiff addresses immediately - the vast majority of what we know about her was either propa...moreThe main issue with any biography of Cleopatra is one that Schiff addresses immediately - the vast majority of what we know about her was either propaganda produced by her enemies or stories told by men that didn't like her or even know her at times. We don't really know what is true and false about her, and are left with assumptions and guesses based on the vaguest sort of outline of her life.
While telling the story of Cleopatra's life, you also have to tell the stories of both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, the most influential men in her life. Though the focus of the book is clearly Cleopatra, I was surprised by how much time was spent telling the history and fate of each of these men. I suppose their lives were just so intertwined that it was impossible to separate them. Overall, this book had a lot wider scope than I expected. I don't know that I necessarily wanted to know that much about Roman politics and war, but now I do. :) I found parts of this book a bit dry, but in the end, it covers an important part of Egyptian history. Cleopatra was one of the most powerful women in history, and I only wish we could have a better, more complete picture of who she was.(less)