Mar 25, 2013

Divergent and Insurgent

Veronica Roth
I seem to be reading a lot of dystopian novels recently, what with reading The Selection (see my previous post to view that review) and most recently Divergent and Insurgent, two popular teen novels by Veronica Roth. She has only written these two books thus far, and has the third in the trilogy coming out this October (2013)! Definitely check them out in time to read the third one! (Come on, it's not that hard! If I can do it, you can too!) Divergent, the first of the two novels, tells the story of a young girl named Beatrice Prior, growing up in a different Chicago from the one we know now. In this Chicago, people are arranged into 5 groups based upon their roles in society, their general dispositions, and what they value most. These are the Abnegation (self-denial), Erudite (knowledgeable), Candor (truth), Amity (peace) and Dauntless (bravery). Beatrice belongs to Abnegation by birth, but after taking a test to see which faction she is most amiable with, she discovers she is one of the Divergent, a despised and feared group, which often leads either to death or becoming one of the Factionless. 

Beatrice chooses to become on of the Dauntless (her twin, Caleb, chooses Erudite), finding their fearless way of life to be alluring, and undergoes a series of challenges to be chosen to be initiated into Dauntless. During this she meets a trainer named Four, named for the fact that there are only four fears he faces in his challenge course, an unusually low number for even a member of Dauntless. She also renames herself Tris, retaining a piece of herself while still changing to absorb the new courage she's found. I finished this book rather quickly, taking about two or three days to read it in between classes. It was pretty good, though a comparisons could be made between it and The Hunger Games, it had enough of it's own plot line to warrant individuality. I'd give it an 8 on the ADDICTING SCALE, for those of you who enjoy this type of novel. For those of you who aren't particularly addicted to teen novels, it'd probably be a bit too low level of reading. 

The second book in the series, Insurgent, focuses on the changes and trials that Tris faces as she goes up against those in control of the factions of Dauntless and Erudite. Full scale war erupts as the Erudite attempt to gain control over the other factions, killing many and using fear serum to control the Dauntless warriors. Only Tris' Divergency aids her in disrupting and going against those who would seek to control her. Her family is disrupted by all that occurs and Tris questions Caleb's family loyalties.  Four is taken captive, and they seek to free him as well as take down the Erudite operations, but the only way this is possible is through the rest of the factions uniting. Will they unite and save lives, or submit to the will of the Erudite leader Jeanine? I'm not gonna tell! Read it for yourself! I'd give this likely the same rank as it's predecessor, though it is full of a lot more action.

Subscribe, read the books, and look out for (currently unnamed novel) Divergent Series 3 coming out October 22, 2013!

The Selection

The Selection
The Selection is the first novel in a trilogy by Kiera Cass an up-and-coming author. This was only her second work, and may I just say it turned out wonderfully! I finished the book in under 3 hours... and I may not have a life, but I am not one whit ashamed! It's a dystopian novel about a kingdom called Ilea, which resides where the United States is currently. In this new country, there are castes based upon your occupation. The royal family members are all ones, celebrities are twos, soldiers are threes, manual laborers are fours, artists are fives, and servants are sixes. America Singer, a girl that sings (okay, so maybe the name isn't all that inventive), is a five along with her family. She is in love with a six, Aspen, which is unusual because girls typically marry up, much like America's sister, who marries a four.

The Elite
She has relegated herself to living life as a five, or even as a six, as long as she gets to marry Aspen, but when the Selection, or the kingdom's process of choosing a queen, comes around, and she is chosen to join the competition at the palace, all of her plans are upset. She's one of the people lowest on the caste system there and quickly discovers that the palace lifestyle is not her favorite, but remains in the competition for the good of her family. Will she win the hand of the dashing Prince Maxon? I'm not gonna tell you the entire plot for the good of... ya know, making you read it and all! You guys definitely should. I got it from my friend, and gave it to another girl who finished it in a day... not a single one of us had any complaints about the writing style or plot line or anything. Judging by this I'd say it rates a 9 on the ADDICTING SCALE, so check it out!

Also, the new book, Elite, is coming out on April 23, 2013! I'll review it as soon as I can get my hands on it!

Mar 21, 2013

In Cold Blood

Truman Capote
Truman Capote, famed author of Breakfast at Tiffanys, also wrote a less popular, but equally acclaimed novel based upon the brutal murder of the Clutter family in 1959 in Holcomb, Kansas. In Cold Blood, catchily named after the maddeningly shocking quality of the preemptive murders, chronicles the movements of the family and their robber-turned-killers before, during, and after the awful occurrence. Herbert Clutter, a family man and devout Christian, lived with his wife, Bonnie, suffering under prolonged postpartum depression, and two younger children, Kenyon (male, 15) and Nancy (female, 16). One of their previous farmhands, Floyd Wells, was in the county jail when he met two men named Perry and Dick. He told Dick that Clutter kept loads of cash in a safe on his farm, sparking an interest in Dick. After Dick gets out of jail, he formulates a plan to take this cash and escape to Mexico, and recruits his old jail buddy, Perry, to aide in his plot. The plan goes on without a hitch, the robbers entered the house while the family slept and roused the family to discover where this money-laden safe is, but when they discover that there is no money to be found, and they'd been lied to, Perry erupts in a fit of rage, slicing Clutter's throat and killing him with a shot to the head.

In Cold Blood
The robbers engage in a shooting spree; each of the children were murdered, then Clutter's wife, leaving the house a bloody and gruesome mess. The robber-turned-murders flee the scene, heading to Mexico, and are eventually arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada after an extensive investigation by the police who got a tip-off from Floyd Wells. Both Dick and Perry confessed to their crimes, then pleaded temporary insanity to their crimes, which was denied by the doctors in charge of them. Perry, in his confession, stated that he though that Clutter was a nice guy "up to the moment I cut his throat" (Perry, 244). He also, when questioned, said "Am I sorry? If that's what you mean - I'm not. I don't feel anything about it. I wish I did. But nothing about it bothers me a bit. Half an hour after it happened, Dick was making jokes and I was laughing at them. Maybe we're not human. I'm human enough to feel sorry for myself." (Perry, 282) The murderers felt no real sorrow for the brutal murders, showing their  loss of human emotion, and hardening to the brutality of what they'd done.

Throughout the book, readers are offered a glimpse into the past and present thoughts of the two murders, which serves as a sort of connection between the actions of the murders and the understanding of the reader. Despite this connection, I did not feel any form of sympathy for them, which surprised me since I'm typically very empathetic toward people with as rough of a background as Perry or Dick. The book concludes with the hanging of the two men, committed after 5 years of them sitting in a jail cell on death row. The gallows are still held in the Kansas Historical Society, and various movies have bee created based upon the murders and Truman Capote's fascination with them, the most recent being Infamous with Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig and Toby Jones, with two other movies being nominated for multiple awards for their portrayal of the murders. The 1967 movie, bearing the name of the book,  was nominated for multiple Academy Awards.  I wouldn't say that the book is particularly entertaining, though it is gripping in the suspenseful sense of knowing that something awful will happen at the end and wanting the killers to get caught and punished for their crimes against humanity. I'd rate it at a 8 on the ADDICTING SCALE, for you blood-thirsty crime-lovers out there. While I didn't particularly enjoy the book to it's fullest, I feel that it was a worthy academic pursuit and also that it displayed the entirety of humankind's occasional lack of discretion and ability to be truly evil to one another.