Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reading Insurgent

Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, is the sequel to the fun, thoughtful, action-packed Divergent. There have been mixed reviews of this latest installment in Roth's series, and I land in the camp of people who thoroughly enjoyed it. To me, the pace was in keeping with the first book and with the story -- never letting up, but not rushed. And the depth of the story never suffers from the awesomeness of the action. Like the real world, Roth's world contains a lot of gray - life is messy and complicated and rarely clear clut. But in the midst of that muddle, there's also a few things to hold on to as truth. And I really dig that.

The characters continued to grow and evolve; I love how complex Tris is. One minute, I want to smack her, then next I want to hug her. I often disagree with the decisions she makes, but I respect her, so I want to see how things work out. I also liked that we got to see Tris and Tobias fall in love in the first book, and in the second we get to see their relationship develop (without a there-just-for-tension triangle). We get to see more of Amity and Candor and the inner workings of the factions (slight spoiler - am I the only one who now pictures the people of Amity just being stoned all the time? Happy Bread!). I think it's worth noting that -- as my husband says -- this is the second book in a trilogy, and it reads like the second part of a trilogy. Some stuff happens, and one or two things get sort of resolved, but in the end things are possibly in a bigger mess than when they started.

bottom line - a satisfying second part to an excellent trilogy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A few books I've read lately

Wilfair, by Alysia Gray Painter
Redwoodian, by Alysia Gray Painter

These two books are moving onto my list of top 10 favorite books ever. A bold statement? Yes, but hear me out. They are quirky and odd, but saved from being too twee by their humor and heart. Are they slightly ridiculous? Yes, but in a way that completely speaks to my own ridiculousness. I smiled or laughed almost the whole time I read them. A socially awkward hotel heiress, her foul-mouthed best friend, two motel-owning cousins, extravagance,  a road trip and a funky as-yet-to-be-explained magical mystery: these books aren't for everyone, but they are definitely for me. Read them when you're in the mood for something fun.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, by Mindy Kaling

I'm not usually a big non-fiction reader - and even when I do start the occasional non-fiction book, I don't always read the whole thing. But I thoroughly enjoyed Kaling's book. It's loosely a "how did I get here?" book, with some funny randomness thrown in. And I appreciate her respectfulness toward the other celebreties she talks about in the book - even the ribbing and jokes are clearly in good fun, the kind of teasing that occurrs between good friends. Kaling is - or at least comes across as - honest, sarcastic, funny, self-deprecating, and refreshingly grounded.

A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash

This is a debut novel by a North Carolina author (local for me!), and I've got a feeling it's going to be getting a lot of buzz and accolades in the near future. Cash's novel is set in the Appalachian mountains and tells the story of a heartbreaking tragedy of the death of a young mute boy; and as the telling of that event unfolds, the reader also gets to see the backgrounds and history of those involved in event. The story is told through three different narrators, and is written in such a way that brings to mind the rich tradition of oral storytelling that has lived on for so long among mountain people. There's a distinct rythm and cadence to each chapter, a way of meandering through the present and past that is captivating rather than distracting. It isn't long-winded, and no part of the narration is unnecessary. Cash's storytelling is simply beautiful. And despite the fact that it's a sad story, there's never a sense of despair or grimness to the book. Instead, I walked away from it with the idea that somtimes, in this fallen world terrible things happen for no understandable reason. But we pick up, and we move on, and hopefully grow and learn and become stronger in the process.