Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Divergent (2011)

While traveling to and from Mexico this month, I read Veronica Roth's YA novel Divergent.

My niece Maya is a huge fan of dystopian fiction and this book came highly recommended (as did The Giver many years ago and the book that launched this site).

I have decided that my job (as a LiAM blogger) is not to sell books or entice people to read stories. I want instead to discuss books I have read without having to speak cryptically or tip toe around the plot. So with that in mind, here is a general description (taken from Amazon) to be following by my SPOILER-filled discussion of the book.

"In Beatice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, 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."


What did I like best about Divergent? 
I like the visual language of the story, most specifically the symbols of the five factions (mentioned above and shown below) and how the members of Dauntless each get a meaningful tattoo to represent what's important in their lives (such as family in spite of the expectation that their faction comes first) and also as a marker in one's growth when difficulties are overcome and mastered. This is a great message for YA readers.

I also like the love story between Tris and Four. The relationship is sweet in spite of the brutality they have opted to take part in. The two characters work together as a team and respect each other. Be true to yourself and those around you. Another great message for YA fiction.

What makes for a dystopian YA novel? 
Having read only a few, here are the re-occuring characteristics I have noticed in the genre.

Dystopian stories often include a strong female protagonist who can fight and isn't afraid to take on responsibility.

These books are rough. Tris is involved in a competition of strength and ability. She overcomes her fears and pushes through obstacles as part of her initiation into the faction Dauntless. While The Hunger Games has been the catalyst for most of the media attention given to this genre, Divergent is a little less upsetting. Tris isn't involved in a gladiator-style fight to the death where teenager is pitted against teenager. Her conflict is dangerous but it's somewhat controlled and not being held for entertainment purposes. I think of Tris as a Ronda Rousey character taking part in an MMA bout. She can handle the challenge. She is tough, and even though she's small, she can win.

According to an article published in the Guardian and found here, the real pull for these books is the excitement they generate and I have to agree. The second half of the book flew. After a slow start and maybe one too many simulation drills, I was lagging. Then the pace started to quicken. The computer program is stalled but not dismantled. Tris and Tobias are on the run. Caleb is faction-less. Christina is missing. The parents are dead. Then, wham, the book is over. The ending was so sudden.

Will I read the follow-up book Insurgent? 
You bet, I will. Too may things were left unanswered. Is Tori a good guy? I have a sneaking suspicion she might not be. Are they being kept inside the compound or is the fence really meant to keep something out? When I find out, I'll let you know.

Divergent is the first of the trilogy, followed by Insurgent and a third installment due out in October 2013.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Top 25 Love Stories of All Time

Esther Freud, one of my most favorite authors, provided a list of her top 10 love stories in the Guardian a few years back. Using her picks as my starting point, I made a few changes, added my own selection of books, legends, films, and plays to come up with the following Top 25 Love Stories of All Time

Which titles would you add or take away?

Tristan and Iseult
Abelard and Eloise

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Jane Eyre* by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Anna Karenina* by Leo Tolstoy

Tess of the D'Urbervilles* by Thomas Hardy

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Ghost and Mrs Muir by Josephine Leslie (R.A. Dick)
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
An Affair to Remember* with Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant

Barefoot in the Park* with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford

Love Story by Erich Segal

The Way We Were* with Barbra Steisand and Robert Redford

Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson
(filmed as Somewhere in Time)

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Love Falls by Esther Freud

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

One Day by David Nichols

* = read or seen but not yet blogged about.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Anne of Green Gables (1908)

Anne of Green Gables is a sweet story about a young girl's adoption, growing up, settling down, and getting an education. It's also the first novel I've read completely online through iBooks. :-)

Anne Shirley, when we first meet her, is an overly dramatic, extremely talkative 11-year old. She has a temper she cannot control and a passion to speak her mind. She is high-spirited, scatterbrained, and always in some kind of innocent but problematic trouble.

As the young girl ages, under the strong care of Marilla Cuthbert and her quiet but loving brother Matthew, Anne becomes more balanced. She works hard, achieves recognition as a scholar, and makes solid decisions that put others before herself.

Mark Twain is said to have called Anne "the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice." The character is certainly well developed with both positive qualities and youthful faults. Anne is driven by her emotions and imagination and later by her ambitions. She can be set apart from other young heroines by her rich inner life. Additional characters within the story are less developed, though, and men are positively absent or barely significant to the plot.

Which of the following portrayals come closest to how you IMAGINE Anne Shirley to look?

Mary Miles Minter
Dawn O'Day
Meghan Follow

Sunday, March 24, 2013

50 Classic Matchbook Girl Novels

Are you a Matchbook Girl?  Matchbook is an online magazine that covers "past and present fashion ... the arts, travel, and culture." It seeks to "inspire women around the globe to design a life they adore."

And here is the Matchbook list of Classic Novels.

How many have you read?

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Emma by Jane Austen

Jane Eyre* by Charlotte Bronte
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Little Women* by Louise May Alcott

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Anna Karenina* by Leo Tolstoy
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Tess of the d'Urbervilles* by Thomas Hardy

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

The House of Mirth* by Edith Wharton
The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (Canadian)

A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter (American)

The Secret Garden* by Frances Hodgson Burnett (English-American)

My Antonia* by Willa Cather (American)

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (American)

A Passage to India* by E.M. Forster

The Great Gatsby* by F. Scott Fitzgerald (American)
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (British)

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway (American)

In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (French)
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (British)

Lady Chatterly's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Little House of the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (American)

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (American)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn* by Betty Smith (American)

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

The Catcher in the Rye* by J.D. Salinger

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

To Kill a Mockingbird* by Harper Lee

Franny and Zooey* by J.D. Salinger

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Play It as it Lays by Joan Didion

The World According to Garp by John Irving

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

* = books I've read but not yet blogged about.