Friday, 25 October 2013

Allegiant - Veronica Roth (2013)

3 stars

I was so very excited for this book to come out and find out the end of the world and the characters Veronica Roth created with Divergent.

This is the first book in the trilogy that is written from two perspectives; Tris' and Tobias'. I loved reading from Tobias' point of view because, as I've said many times before, he is the fictional love of my life, also I really love knowing his thoughts on his family and what they've put him through. I know most fans really disliked the ending, but I thought it was very true to the characters because when I think of Tris I think of when she used to say "I am selfless, I am brave" and those are the characteristics she was showing when she did it. I was kind of disappointed as I really love reading the story because it is set in the world of factions and although I know it was neccessary for them to leave that society to further the plot and end the story I didn't really enjoy them living in the real world for half the book. My favourite characters in this book were Tris and Caleb. Although I already loved Tris, this book made me really admire her as a heroine and see her as a role model (considering I already know that the movies are going to be a big hit). I still don't understand Caleb's previous actions, but I really enjoyed watching his character growth through this book and his relationship with Tris change. I would recommend this book to anyone that likes dystopian novels, or wants a really creative world to escape into.

For anyone interested, the first movie trailer was recently released:

The book starts with Tobias telling his mother that he broke up with Tris even though he's lying just to gain her trust. He then gets Tris, Christina and Cara's charges taken off them and they are free to roam in the new factionless regime Evelyn is enforcing. They then get tapped to go to a meeting of the Allegiant - the uprising that wants what was told to them in Edith Prior's video, factions back and divergent to leave. A small group of them then leave the city together with Tori being shot by one of the factionless in the process. Once they make it out of the city they are picked up by some people who explain they are from the Bureau of Gentic Welfare and that they were part of one of their most successful experiments after what is known as the Purity War. The Purity War started after the Bureau started fixing genes that had bad traits, low intelligence, cowardice, dishonesty, agression and selfishness, however it showed that removing those traits took away other traits like compassion, motivation, assertiveness and self preservation. This then split the population into two groups, those who were "genetically pure" and those who were "gentically damaged", it caused a  massive war and the Bureau then took most of the "gentically damaged" and put them into other societies like theirs so they could eventually breed out the damaged genes. The divergent are the genetically pure, however after some tests it is shown that Tobias isn't actually genetically pure, he merely could resist the simulations. Tris doesn't care about that but it clouds Tobias' judgement and he helps some GDs he meets with a terrible plan to take down the bureau and their bias againt GDs (who he discovers are being treated basically like animals) and part of that plan was to have explosions throughout the department as diversions, however one of them ends up putting Uriah into a coma. Tris then comes up with a better plan after the Bureau tell her that they are going to reset everyone in the experiments memories as they are about to kill each other with the war brewing between the factionless and the allegiant. She decides that they should reset everyone in the Bureau's memories so they won't be biased against the GDs and Tobias must go back into the city to reset one of his parent's memories so they won't have a war. Whoever has to release the memory serum into the Bureau has to die because the room is armed to release death serum if you break into it, at first Caleb volunteered to do this job, but at the last minute Tris does it instead of him and although she manages to resist the death serum, David, the manager of the Bureau shoots her and she dies, but she manages to release the memory serum first. Evelyn then agrees to stop fighting the Allegiant if Tobias will allow her back into his life which he does and they work out a treaty where Chicago is the first city free of bias against GDs.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Jessica - Bryce Courtenay (1998)

5 stars

I bought this on my Kindle because I adore Courtenay. It was a good choice - I love this book! It is quite long, which is no issue for me - the longer, the better! This book broke my heart about five times. I really connected with the protagonist and was sad to finish the book.

The great thing about this book is the neverending series of twists and complications. The protagonist  has to work through a lot and you get to read about her life over a span of several years. In 2004, It was adapted into a made-for-TV mini-series, which I haven't watched, but  I plan to. It was voted best miniseries at the 2004 Chicago International Film Festival. Here is a link to the series on YouTube if you are interested.

Jessica is a tomboy who works with her Dad on their farm. He gets Jessica a job at the shearing sheds and she befriends two boys her age - Billy and Jack. Her mother and sister Meg have their eyes on Jack as Meg's future husband as he is from the richest family in town. The rest of the boys at the shed dislike Jessica and when they pick on her, Billy stands up for her. A fight starts and it ends with Billy's head being trampled on by a horse. Billy is left with permanent brain damage and is never the same. Jack gives him a job as a gardener at his place, but the rest of his family mistreat him. Jack and Jessica begin to fall in love. One day, Billy is pushed too far and murders Jack's mother and sisters. He runs off and Jess finds him killing her dogs. She manages to calm him and gets him all the way to town. Jack has slowed down the mob and carries Jessica when she collapses on arrival. She feared that if she didn't get him away, a mob of vengeful men would kill Billy themselves and he would never get a fair trial. Jack goes away to war. She then begins to show and her family realises that she is pregnant and she refuses to name the father. The family think she was raped by Billy. She is exiled to a tin shed in the bush and eventually gives birth in a creek with help from an Aboriginal woman, Mary. Her mother takes her baby and passes it off as Meg's. Her father is furious about being tricked and then has a heart attack and dies. At his funeral, Jessica breaks down, screaming that they stole her baby and then is put in a mental asylum. Jack is killed in the war. There she makes friends with a Jewish man and when he is released, he helps get her out with the help of a lawyer. The lawyer also makes her mother give her their old land on the condition that she will never approach her son. Mary's half-caste children are taken and Jess with the help of her friends manage to get them back in a historical court case. She returns to her house to find her dog bitten by a snake, she kills it, but then is bitten herself by its mate. Knowing she is dying, she goes to her hut, where later Mary finds her dead. Mary finds a letter she wrote to Jack, but never sent - telling him that she is pregnant with his child.

Bridget Jones Diary - Helen Fielding (1996)

2.5 stars

I read this because a friend told me that it was even funnier than the film. It was not. I found it quite boring most of the time and very repetitive and predictable. I feel that in the movie, you can sympathise more with the main character, whereas in the book you just want to tell them to shut up and get over it. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed by this book. This book is also a reinterpretation of Pride and Prejudice. I drew many similarities between the mothers and love interests in each story.

I think I may be part of the minority as the book sold over 2 million copies worldwide. It won the 1998 British Book of the Year and there is currently a musical in the works - with the lyrics score and being written by Lily Allen. Not to mention the popular film version - which I find hilarious. Here is the trailer to give you an idea. It has Renee Zellweger as Bridget and Hugh Grant and Colin Firthe as her love interests. I love the casting of Colin Firthe as he plays Mr Darcy in the BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice as well. All in all, I think this story was executed much better through film.

Bridget is thirty and unmarried, which means everyone she meets is constantly asking about her love life. This book is a diary that goes over twelve months. It includes Bridget's quest to lose weight, stop drinking and smoking and find love. Along the way there are many witty comments from Bridget.

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling (1997-2007)

5 stars

Back in 2001, when I was seven years old, my mother bought me the first Harry Potter novel because of a glowing staff recommendation. I was at a stage where it was hard to find me a book as it was either too easy or too mature. I ate it up and my mother went on to purchase the next three in the series. I was hooked and my mother constantly found me late at night, still reading after I had promised "just one more chapter". Thankfully for me, Harry Potter has quite long chapters. I then had to wait another couple of years before I got my next fix. Because I read them in such quick succession, the first four are mingled together in my head. My far and away favourite was the Chamber of Secrets (which unfortunately, the movie scared me out of) and my least favourite is and always will be the third - which I suspect is for the lack of Voldemort.

As we all know, this series is record-breaking. Despite its success, I found lots of critical reviews. I cannot help but think they are simply kicking themselves for not writing the series themselves. Here is a video that runs through the plot of each book in song to the theme of each movie.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry is an orphan who discovers that his parents were wizards and so is he. A Dark wizard, Voldemort, killed his parents and tried but failed to kill Harry. He goes to a wizarding boarding school and befriends Ron and Hermione. Voldemort is using the body of a teacher, Quirell, to house his soul. Harry, Ron and Hermions realise that something is hidden within Hogwarts and suspect that Voldemort is after it. They go to recover the object - the Philosopher's Stone, only to find Quirell. Quirell/Voldemort tries to kill Harry, but Quirell himself dies as Harry is still protected by the charm of his mother dying for him and Voldmort's soul manages to escape.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
When Harry goes to Hogwarts for his second year, mysterious messages written in blood appear on the walls of Hogwarts saying that the "Chamber of Secrets" has been opened and that the "heir of Slytherin" is going to kill all Muggle-born students. A number of students are petrified, but not killed. Harry, Ron and Hermione all try to work out who it is. Harry and Ron open the chamber and discover that Ginny has been possessed and she has been letting the creature - a Basilisk- out of the chamber to attack the students. She has been writing in Voldemort's old diary and he has been writing back to her. The more she confided in him, the stronger his soul grew. Harry kills the Basilisk and destroys the diary and therefore the form of Voldemort with the tooth of the Basilisk. He gives the diary back to Lucius Malfoy, who planted it, with a sock inside. Malfoy gives it to his house-elf, inadvertently freeing it.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry accidentally inflates his Aunt when he loses his temper and runs away from home. The Minister of Magic tracks him down and puts him up in a wizarding pub until school begins. An escaped murderer, Sirius Black, is rumored to be looking for Harry. To protect the students, the wizarding prison guards are stationed at the school. Problem is, they make Harry faint. The new teacher works with Harry on a spell to repel them. Harry learns that Black betrayed his parents and got them killed and he is Harry's godfather. Ron's rat Scabbers also goes missing. Harry, Hermione and Ron try to save Hagrid's beloved hippogriff Buckbeak from being executed for attacking Malfoy (after being provoked). They find out Sirius' innocence and that Scabbers is actually a man called Peter Pettigrew who framed Sirius. Using time travel, they spirit Sirius away on Buckbeak and travel back to the current time.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
An inter-school tournament called the Triwizard Cup in being reinstated at Hogwarts. The students are only allowed to enter if they are older than seventeen. Harry is not eligible or interested and doesn't enter, bu nevertheless his name appears out of the cup. Along with another Hogwarts champion - Cedric Diggory. The champions go through a series of challenges and are given clues to each challenge weeks in advance. Harry fumbles his way through all of them  with a bit of help. The final task is a maze with lots of magical hurdles. Harry and Cedric make it to the end and touch the Cup at the same time, only to be transported to a graveyard. There they find Voldemort and some Death Eaters. Pettigrew takes Harry's blood and uses it to resurrect Voldemort. Cedric is killed by Voldemort and Harry escapes. He uses to Cup to transport back and announces to the awaiting crowd that Diggory is dead and Voldemort is back

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry is stuck at the Dursley's and is miserable because he hasn't received any mail from his friends. He and Dudley are accosted by some Dementors and Harry uses a spell to ward them off. He then receives an expulsion letter for using magic out of school. He is collected by a group of wizards and taken to Sirius' house. There he is told the place is serving as the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix - which is a group led by Dumbledore dedicated to fight Voldemort. Ron and Hermione have been there for weeks. It has to operate secretly as the Ministry of Magic refuses to believe Voldemort is back. Harry goes to trial for his misuse of magic and Dumbledore manages to clear  him. Umbridge, who is from the Ministry is the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Umbridge and Harry clash and she is given a promotion that allows her to create new regulations, Harry, Ron and Hermione form their own Defence Against the Dark Arts group called "Dumbledore's Army". They meet and practise defensive spells under Harry's direction. After predicting Mr. Weasley's injuries, Dumbledore suspects Voldemort can probe Harry's mind and gets Snape to give him Occlumency lessons. But as they pair clash, the lessons soon stop and the pain from Harry's scar only gets worse. They start taking their exams and when Umbridge confronts them they take her to see their "secret weapon" and they lead her into the forest where she is taken captive by the centaurs when she provokes them. Harry sees a vision of being Sirius being tortured at the Ministry. The DA all go, but it is a set-up and Sirius is killed. Harry is distraught and smashes the prophecy Voldemort wants, which is about him and Harry. Fudge appears at the Ministry, faced with the proof that Voldemort is back

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Snape makes an unbreakable vow to Malfoy's mother that he will protect her son. Dumbledore gets Harry to convince an old Potions master to come out of retirement. Harry, Ron and Hermione see Draco going into a Dark Arts store and this only aids Harry's suspicions. Harry starts doing very well at Potions thanks to second-hand Potions textbook with useful annotations from the "Half-Blood Prince". Harry has fallen for Ron's sister, Ginny and is constantly following Malfoy's movements. Dumbledore tells Harry about Voldemort's Horcruxes and how he believes Voldemort has split his soul seven times, one was the diary, the other was a ring, three are objects belonging to the founder's of Hogwarts and the last lives in Voldemort's snake. They leave to destroy one, only to find it had already been taken. When they return, Dumbledore is suspicious and petrifies Harry. Draco walks in and threatens to kill Dumbledore, but Snape walks in and kills him instead. The spell on Harry is broken and he tries to avenge Dumbledore but Snape escapes, but not before revealing he is the Half-Blood Prince (he had a Muggle father and his witch mother's maiden name was Prince.) Harry tells Ron and Hermione that he will not be going to school next year, but instead plans to hunt Horcruxes. The pair promise to join him.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry flees to the Burrow with help from the Order of the Phoenix as the protection he had at his aunt and uncle's place will be broken when he turns seventeen.. On the way, they are attacked, George Weasley loses an ear and Mad-Eye is killed. Harry, Ron and Hermione go to Sirius' place, where the house-elf tells them that Umbridge has a Horcrux - Slytherin's locket. They infiltrate the Ministry and steal it. They all wear it to keep it safe, but it makes them argue and Ron leaves. Harry and Hermione go to Harry's birthplace and talk to Bathilda Bagshot - a historian - but Voldemort expected this and Batilda is actually Nagini  and attacks them. They escape to a forest and Harry is led to Gryffindor's sword at the bottom of a lake. When he tries to get it, the locket tries to kill him, but luckily Ron returns and saves him and uses the sword to destroy the locket. Luna's dad tells them about the Deathly Hallows; the unbeatable elder wand, the resurection stone and the infallible invisibility cloak.With these items you can summon the dead. Harry realises he already has the Cloak and this is what Voldemort is looking for. The three of them are captured and thrown in the Malfoy's cellar with Luna, Ollivander, Dean and Griphook. Dobby helps them escape, but is killed in the process. They continue to look for the Horcruxes and even break into Gringotts and steal Hufflepuff's cup. They sneak into Hogwarts and destroy the cup with a basilisk fang. Harry finds Ravenclaw's diadem in the Room of Requirement. The Death Eaters attack Hogwarts, and Harry and the Order defend the school. Tonks, Lupin, Fred are killed. Voldemort kills Snape to make the Elder Wand his own. Harry realises that he himself is a Horcrux and that he must die in order for Voldemort to die. He finds that Snape never betrayed Dumbledore and that he loved Lily Potter. Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him as he was already dying from wearing the ring (a horcrux and the Resurrection Stone) He also found out that Dumbledore knew Harry had to die. Harry uses the Resurrection Stone to bring back his loved ones to support before he walks to his death. When Voldemort uses the killing curse, it does not kill Harry, but sends him to limbo. In that state, Dumbledore appears and explains that Voldemort has only destroyed the Horcrux, and hasn't killed Harry. He says that Harry is the true master of the Hallows, as he faced death, instead of trying to avoid or conquer it. Harry returns to his body and feigns death. Neville does as Harry asked and kills Nagini. Harry reveals he is alive and the battle resumes, with Bellatrix being killed by Molly. When Harry and Voldemort begin their final duel, Harry reveals that because he willingly sacrificed himself, his act of love would protect the entire wizarding community, just like his mother's sacrifice protected him. He reveals that Snape was always loyal to Dumbledore and never was the master of the Elder wand. Draco was, when he disarmed Snape, and then Harry was when he disarmed Draco. He claims that the wand will not kill its master. In the duel, Harry refuses to use the killing curse and encourages Voldemort to feel remorse, which could save him. Voldemort dies when he attempts to use the killing curse against Harry's disarming curse. Nineteen years later, at platform 9 and 3/4, Harry and Ginny are married with three children; James Sirius, Albus Severus and Lily Luna. Ron and Hermione are also married with children. Harry's godson Teddy Lupin is found kissing Bill and Fleur's daughter in a carriage. Harry even sees Draco with his own son. Neville is now a Herbology professor. Harry comforts Albus who is worried he will be in Slytherin. He says that one of his namesakes was in Slytherin and he was the bravest man he's ever known - and that the sorting hat will take his wishes into account. Harry's scar hasn't pained him for 19 years.