It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

Boys of Summer Anthology edited by Steve Berman

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Slightly Scandalous by Mary Balogh

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

Reading Now

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Week Ahead

Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found by Sophie Blackall

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers

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Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I’ve just set this book aside after having turned the last page, and I’m struggling to synthesize my feelings toward the story overall. On the one hand, I don’t feel that this book is nearly as strong as Roth’s debut, but on strength of writing alone, I feel uncomfortable giving the book anything less than a four. Since this is the same rating I gave to its predecessor, Divergent, I’m not altogether certain if this is an accurate reflection of Roth’s sophomore effort, but it’s what I’m sticking with nonetheless.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I picked up Divergent last year without knowing much about it beforehand and so was pleasantly surprised to find that it achieved the feat of providing a believable dystopian plot without succumbing to the gratuitous bleakness that often clings to the genre. Tris was a strong heroine whose merits shone despite her faults rather than without them. It was easy to root for her because her choices, her thought processes, her maturation earned my respect. Thus, it was with a heavy heart that I slogged through Insurgent only to find traces of the character that I had previously admired. I believe my main problem with Tris’s characterization in this installment isn’t that it marked such a stark departure from her previous persona; in the aftermath of the events she witnessed and unwillingly perpetrated, it is understandable that she would need a little time to assimilate her feelings. Whereas the Tris of Divergent was remarkable because she was able to push past her own fears and misgivings, I could forgive her a temporary lapse into self-indulgence or incompetence after the actions she is forced to take. Yet, the reason I had such difficulty reconciling the Tris of the second installment with that of the first was due in large part to the fact that Tris didn’t begin to exhibit any signs of  weakness until Insurgent began. Had Roth hinted a bit at Tris’s vulnerability in this regard as Divergent wound down, it would have seemed believable, yet I can’t help but think that Tris’s character progression was decided after Roth had already finished writing the first book.

Compounding my frustration with Tris’s personality turn for the worse is the fact that she succumbs to that hated device of failure to communicate. Unfortunately for readers, she is not alone in this error, as Roth insists upon altering Four’s personality as well so that he and Tris spend the majority of the story running deceptive, distrustful circles around each other. For two people who supposedly epitomize bravery, they are infuriatingly incapable of taking the scary step toward trust. Roth succeeds in maintaining my interest in her secondary cast of characters, yet by novel’s end I found myself struggling to identify which side everyone stood for. The book features so many double-crosses and ulterior motives that it becomes tedious at times and, worst of all, feels manufactured in a way that contrasts with Divergent’s refreshing simplicity.

Overall, while Insurgent held my interest throughout and certainly never lacked for action, I felt that it was something of a mess structurally. Obviously, Roth had to find a way to further the story without the initiation as a backdrop, and visiting the different factions that weren’t highlighted in Divergent was a clever way of doing so. Yet, the continual back and forth among locations came across as somewhat sloppy. While I always understood what was going on, I nevertheless found that the narrative thread was lost so that, despite understanding the developments in each individual scene, I never had a sense of where the overarching story was going. This might be fitting, and even desirable, under different circumstances, but where as here it seemed an unintentional consequence of poorly planned plot structure, I think it was a detriment.

Still, despite my complaints, I can’t say that Roth’s second novel suffered from sophomore book syndrome. Her story is still engaging, her characters sympathetic despite their flaws, and, thankfully, her plot devoid of any hint of a love triangle heading into the final installment. I’ll definitely be around to see how Tris and Four’s story concludes next year.

Book Beginnings on Fridays

Book Beginnings on Fridays is a meme hosted at Rose City Reader designed to feature the book you are reading right now by sharing the first few lines of the story.

Today I’m reading Insurgent by Veronica Roth.

“I wake with his name in my mouth.”

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I’m approaching the final portion of the book, and I’m a bit conflicted about it. Perhaps if I hadn’t reread Divergent in preparation, I would be more confident in my feelings toward Insurgent. Then again, I’m not sure the novel would have made the necessary emotional impact had I not refreshed my acquaintance with the characters and setting beforehand. As it is, I’m stranded in that nowhere land where I feel ungracious  giving the book anything less than a four-cup rating, yet conflicted since I don’t feel that it lives up to its predecessor. Hopefully I’ll be able to articulate my concerns more fully when I’ve finished the novel and had a chance to wrestle with my thoughts before reviewing it.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Flat-Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Reading Now

Boys of Summer Anthology edited by Steve Berman

The Week Ahead

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Sunday Showcase

Showcase Sunday is a meme created by Vicky at Books, Biscuits, and Tea to share new book acquisitions, whether bought, gifted, received for review, borrowed, or won.

Bought

  • East by Edith Pattou
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

For Review

  • The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee (from NetGalley)
  • Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins (from NetGalley)

Won

  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Thanks to Melissa at I Pick Pretty)

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Book on My Spring TBR List

1. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Considering that I’ve read and loved every Marchetta book I’ve come across (and that includes every young adult title she’s written), this one is a given. Add in the fact that my tastes have been running toward the epic fantasy genre lately, and I’m salivating for this title.

2. Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling

Since recently discovering Flewelling’s Nightrunner series, I’ve been feverishly reading through Alec and Seregil’s adventures. I count myself lucky that I’ve come upon these books after Flewelling has already written five; I can’t imagine the torture of waiting for each new installment since 1996.

3. Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

I’m trying to keep my expectations in check, since I’ve heard enough rumors to let me know that the storyline so many of the Warden’s fans have been waiting for takes a step back in this book before its inevitable leap forward.

4. Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

I’ve gotten a few recommendations for this title, and since McGuire’s Toby Daye series counts among my favorites, I have high hopes for this new series. The fact that it focuses on cryptids is a bonus.

5. Wicked As They Come by Delilah Dawson

This paranormal title sounds like the perfect blend of sexy and strange.

6. Alien Diplomacy by Gini Koch

I’m hoping that the fifth in the Kitty Katt series returns to the high octane adventure and humor formula of previous installments, but I’ll settle for anything I can get from these crazy A-C’s.

7. Black Heart by Holly Black

Black’s Curse Workers series is one of the most original young adult urban fantasy series I’ve come across. I’m on the edge of my seat for this conclusion to the trilogy.

8. Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Singh’s Psy-Changeling series has been a tad hit-or-miss for me, but I like many of her readers am eagerly anticipating seeing where this series goes in its second story arc (and hope that Kaleb gets his own book soon).

9. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Roth’s Divergent is one of the few young adult dystopian novels to have captured my interest last year. I’m interested to see how she develops her world in this sequel.

10. Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore

I didn’t love Fire as much as I did Graceling, but Cashore’s elegant way with words, intriguing epic fantasy setting, and unusual love stories have me anxiously awaiting the third release in her Seven Kingdoms series.

“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

This week I’m waiting on Insurgent by Veronica Roth.

From Goodreads:

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

I enjoyed Roth’s debut, Divergent, and so am looking forward to seeing how she continues to build up her world and characters in this sophomore effort. I particularly love how this cover continues the theme established in the first, yet tells such a different story through shading and color palette.

Released on May 28, 2012.