Divergent Trilogy #2: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Read: 11 August, 2014

In the second installment of the Divergent trilogy, we find Tris on the run from Erudite. As she travels through the factions and the factionless areas of future-Chicago, she seeks both revenge and to understand why Erudite attacked Abnegation.

As I read the series, it keeps occurring to me that Divergent is really just a speculative fiction version of The Breakfast Club. Everyone has partitioned off into little cliques that rarely mix, each has its own narratives, it’s own traditions, and each has its own (false) beliefs about the types of people in the others. Then something happens and members of each clique are forced to spend time together, and to recognize their shared humanity. Sounds familiar?

Then I was describing the plot to my darling gentleman friend and, when I got to the part about choosing factions, he asks, “did they wear a special hat?” That’s when I realized just how much of Harry Potter is in here, too. I don’t think I even need to bother talking about The Hunger Games, ’cause, yeah. That one is a little too obvious.

And that’s all okay. Divergent isn’t great literature. I’m borrowing the books form the library and I won’t be bothering to buy copies of my own because I doubt that I will want to reread or reference or just build book forts out of again once I’m done with the series. And that’s all okay. It’s proving to be a fun read, if cringe-worthy at times.

It’s the kind of serious I like to refer to as “filler.” It’s a series you read between two amazing, impactful books when you just need to give your brain and your emotions a little rest.

As a side note, here is a hilarious Honest Trailers about the first movie:

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    Wheel of Time #1: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

    Read: 4 August, 2014

    I’d heard of the Wheel of Time series and thought I might like it, so I started collecting the books as I found them in thrift shops. I had planned to start reading them once I had at least the first couple, but Eye of the World eluded me. I must have accidentally bought at least three copies of everything from Great Hunt to Knife of Dreams, but Eye of the World apparently stays, doggedly, on people’s shelves.

    Then a friend who generally tends to have good taste was raving about it, so I gave in and took the audiobook out from the library.

    The book is long, very long, and it’s written in a style that I think would have been hard to slog through if I hadn’t been listening to on audiobook instead. As it was, I found it extremely engaging – enough so that I was volunteering to do the dishes quite frequently so that I had an excuse to continue listening.

    The borrowing from Tolkien was quite frequent and groan-worthy. The “little guy” from a somewhat idyllic country community is caught up in a big, world-shattering battle against the forces of evil (but at least his friends come along!). Their hometown’s principle crop is tabac (a product that is known and valued outside their community). There’s the local colourful family (in this case the Congars and the Coplins), and the odd folk in the village down the way (Taren Ferry). They are taken on their adventure by a powerful wizard (in this case an Aes Sedai), are attacked by the monstrous armies of the dark one (the trollocs) who are lead by shadow-y quasi-undead commanders (Myrddraal). While on their adventure, they discover that they are being followed by a pathetic, half-mad creature who was once the same as them before being corrupted (Padan Fein).

    I could go on, but I think I’ve touched on the biggies. Point being, the borrowing is obvious and frequent. It isn’t so bad that I would call the book a rip-off (or, rather, it has enough other content to save it), but it certainly is bad enough to make bigger Tolkien fans dismiss the series, if the GoodReads reviews are any indication.

    Jordan’s saving grace, in my mind, lies in his female characters – a large percentage of whom are interesting and powerful in their own way (right down to the tavern cook who loudly and vehemently defends her beloved cat when a large quantity of rats turn up dead). Reading a Tolkien-ish novel (or Tolkien knock off, if we’re being less charitable) with women who have stories and goals that are independent of the main character and who have relationships with each other that exclude the main character, well, that’s just wonderful. In my admittedly limited experience, Tolkien knock-offerism tends to lend itself to writing women out entirely, despite Tolkien’s own inclusion of a shield maiden sort of character.

    In that sense, part of me enjoyed New Spring better, as Moiraine’s relationship with Siuan was front and centre, and Moiraine is just delightful as a main character.

    I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series, though I think that I will stick with the audiobooks. Otherwise, I think I’d just never get through it, interesting as it is.

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      Can you own too many books?

      According to this Toast article, you can:

      How many books does a person have to own to officially be labeled a book hoarder? According to Shelfari’s Compulsive Book Hoarders Group, the answer is simple: 1,000 or more.

      Being well above this number, I’m obviously resistant to the idea. But I thought that the idea warranted a little more than a “NO! You are!”

      My personal rule is that every book I have must either be a) something I really enjoyed, or b) something on my To Be Read list. If I’ve read something and didn’t like it (or even just found it “meh”), it’s got to go. That, to me, is the line – keeping books for the sake of keeping books, not because a particular book has value of some kind.

      Even if I won’t read them again, I like having the books I’ve loved around. I like having a friend over for tea and being able to send them home with a loan to read. That has value, and it keeps the behaviour of owning books purposeful rather than being a possible sign of mental illness.

      If you have any thoughts on the matter, I’d love to hear them! Am I way off base?

        Cool Cars by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker

        This is one of my son’s favourite bedtime books. It’s a lovely rhyming description of cars with colourful, fun illustrations. The rhymes make it fun to read, and I like that it’s a good introduction to the concept of cars – between the words and the pictures, it’s helped my son and I talk about rules of the road, the mechanics of how cars work, and types of vehicles.

        It’s a staple of our bedtime bookshelf!

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