A Seattle Girl's Blog

Poems, pictures, drawings, and thoughts by Fatima Al-Shemary

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My Review of Insurgent by Veronica Roth (SPOILERS)


This review contains spoilers.

I liked this second installment of the Divergent trilogy. Roth continues the dynamic plot set off in Divergent with the same thrilling pace, action and suspense. Insurgent brings with it a complexity and depth to the characters that really makes you empathize with them. We get a taste of the lives and cultures of the remaining factions, as well as the factionless. The storyline is not as good Divergent, but what makes this book better than the first is the great character development.

The story starts off directly where Divergent ended. Tris, Four, Marcus, Caleb and Peter are heading to the Amity headquarters to escape the disaster in Abnegation. We get a glimpse of the peaceful Amity life for a moment. They are best known for their agricultural contributions to the city, and they get their technology from Erudite. It’s pretty obvious that they have the strongest alliance with the Erudite and a not so strong alliance with Dauntless.

Something really creepy about Amity: they spike the bread with  “peace serum” to make everyone calm and happy and dandy. They administer the peace serum directly to Tris after she gets in a fight with Peter to calm her down but they end up giving her too much and she gets high like she’s on marijuana.

During their stay in Amity, Tris spies on Marcus and hears him telling the Amity leader, Johanna, that Abnegation has confidential information that Erudite is after.

Tris has the time to grieve for her parents, who both died to save her. She struggles to know the difference between dying a needless death and a necessary death, wanting to follow the footsteps of her parents. She also has to accept the fact that she killed her friend Will, and she has to deal with the resulting guilt. She has trouble picking up a gun again, not trusting herself to know when it is necessary to kill someone in light of Will’s death. 

Four and Tris’ relationship is tested as they face new hardships. They both keep secrets from each other and this causes a rift between them. Things get really bad when they are captured by a factionless rebel group and Tobias’ mom is actually alive and he never told Tris about it.

So Tobias’ mom, Evelyn, didn’t actually die. We’re made to think that she had abandoned him when she had an affair, but actually, Marcus abused her and she ran into the arms of another man and was kicked out by Abnegation. She never wanted to leave Tobias with Marcus, and Tobias is so ready to keep her in his life. But Tris thinks she’s using him to get Dauntless soldiers to fight for a revolution she’s planning to bring down Erudite.

At the end of the book, we find out that their entire city, the entire society was “placed there” (whatever that means) I guess as an experiment to see if humanity could actually function peacefully with a society of ordered factions.

I wasn’t impressed by the overall plot of this book, but I did enjoy the strong character development. It’s not something I would be interested in reading if Roth did not create such strong characters.

Filed under insurgent divergent veronicaroth dystopian bookreviews youngadult

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"#WeNeedDiverseBooks because: I’m smart, strong and funny enough to be the hero of any story!" (Nick, 6.)

"#WeNeedDiverseBooks because: My story’s important, too." (Maya, 5.)

Submission from S.K. Falls, author of World of Shell and Bone and others.

(via thegirlandherbooks)

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My review of Incarnate by jodi Meadows

This book review contains spoilers.

I really, really wanted to like this book. The story held so much potential with the idea of reincarnated souls, and dragons and sylph and all these cool mythical creatures. Not to mention the cover is beautiful, with the butterfly across the girl’s eyes tying in perfectly with the metaphor of the entire story. Jodi Meadows had so much to work with and she hooked me with her beautiful prose and depiction of this fantasy world. Unfortunately, there was something seriously lacking in this book. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but all I can say is there were not enough dragons ripping off heads.

In this slightly futuristic-fantasy society called Range, there is a population of only one million souls that keep getting reincarnated when they die. Because they’ve lived so many lives for thousands of years, everyone knows each other and everyone is expected to be born again a few years after they die. However, one soul named Ciana dies and never returns as a reincarnation. Instead, our main character, Ana, is born into the life Ciana should have had, and now everyone hates her.

When souls are reincarnated, all of their memories and past experiences are kept with them. Ana, as a newsoul or “nosoul” as they call her, is totally new to this world and has to learn everything about it herself. No one is willing to teach her anything, not even her bitchy and abusive mother, Li. Ana has had no communication with anyone other than her mother, as they live in the mountains far away from the city where everyone lives. So naturally, Ana thinks everyone on the outside will treat her as badly as Li has, and she’s mistrustful of people in general.

The story starts off when Ana decides to leave Li’s care at eighteen and travels to Heart, the city where all the souls live, so she can find out more about where she came from and what her purpose is. Before she gets there, she’s attacked by fiery creatures called sylph and is rescued by a boy named Sam. Sam decides to take her under his wing and teach her all the things Li had neglected to. A romance between them ensues, but Sam has an issue with loving a “butterfly,” someone who might not be there when he is reincarnated.

Things I liked about this book:

- I loved the idea of reincarnation in a tight and limited population of human beings who’ve known each other for thousands of years. I can imagine how someone like Ana, who had prevented someone from coming back to life, would scare the shit out of them. This causes a lot of conflict for the main character to face, but I don’t think Jodi Meadows delved deep enough into it. Ana spent more time talking about music and dancing than facing these conflicts, which was boring to read.

- Dragons! But even they are really played down in the ultimate plot. They seem to make really brief and random appearances, get killed, and then everything is fine and dandy until the next dragons show up.

- The descriptions in the book were beautiful and painted a very detailed image of this world for me.

- Original dialogue and an interesting, complex character in Ana. She’s spent the first eighteen years of her life not knowing anything and being abused by a sociopath. Her consequent defensiveness and anger with Sam is understandable and believable.

Things that disappointed me:

- When Sam and Ana finally arrived in Heart, I felt like the world building was seriously lacking. It read to me like a mix of greek architectured/arabian flea market/white suburbia/futuristic utopia. Oh, and with dragons attacking at the most random times. I enjoyed Sam and Ana’s time in the woods outside the city more.

- The dragons did not play enough into the story. 

- The history of the world with the religion aspect, “Janan” or the deity they worship, the dragon wars and the sylph, was not clear enough.

- In general, just not enough build up, and not enough of a climax.

Overall, I was a little disappointed with this book. It held so much promise, and then the second half was just such a letdown. I really loved the scenes in the beginning, when Ana is striding through forests and getting attacked by fire creatures, and then the following romantic scenes with just her and Sam. I wish there was more of that throughout the rest of the book, but it just gets boring when they reach the city.

I’ll be returning this to the library soon. I don’t know if I want to read Asunder, the next book in the trilogy. Would you guys recommend it? Does it get better from there?

Filed under incarnate jodimeadows books youngadult reviews

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Dear Fatima Al-Shemary,

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Divergent Movie Review (SPOILERS)


This movie review contains spoilers.

This movie was a great adaptation of the book. It had a lot of great visuals of the city and the faction homes, which I thought the book lacked in description. The pacing was pretty great as well. Some of the scenes were trimmed down to even out the flow of the story and balance the action and nonaction parts. For example, the ferris wheel scene was cut down a little bit.

Some things that were different from the book:

In the ferris wheel scene, it only shows Tris and Four climbing on top and having their moment while tracking down the flag. The part where Four turns on the ferris wheel to get Tris down was not in the movie. I didn’t mind this cut as I thought it helped speed up the pacing.

The flag-football scene was a bit different, but not in any major way. Instead of a tree (which if I remember correctly, was what it was in the book), the other team’s flag was in a lighthouse. And Tris grabs it, not Christina. Again, I didn’t mind this difference.

Tris’s mom doesn’t tell her to ask Caleb to research the simulation serum. When Tris goes to confront him, he’s all team Erudite, but he still doesn’t know about the Erudite leader’s plans.

During Tris’s first fear simulation with the crows, she escapes them by diving under a swamp of water, instead of lying down and letting them peck her into a carcass like in the book. It didn’t bother me that much, but I did feel that that was a particularly powerful moment in the book and was eager to see it played out in the movie. Unfortunately, it was changed.

The part with drunk Four never makes it into the movie. Tris only gets the tattoos of the birds on her collarbone, but not the Dauntless and Abnegation symbols.

The part when Edward gets stabbed in the eye by Peter never makes it into the movie. I was actually disappointed that this didn’t make it on screen.

In the final fear simulation tests, when Tris has to face Four about her fear of sex with him, he’s rough with her instead of sweet, like in the book, and she kicks his ass. I laughed out loud in the theater.

In the book, Tris doesn’t know about the simulation serum disguised as a tracking device until it’s too late and everyone is already being controlled. In the movie, Four warns her about it beforehand. This bothered me at first, but then as I thought about it, it made sense for the movie because it wasn’t something that could easily be shown and understood.

The biggest difference between the book and the movie is near the end, when Tris has to find the simulation computer. In the movie, Four doesn’t appear to be guarding the computers but instead he’s trapped in the manipulated simulation created by Jeanine. The computers are actually guarded by some of the Erudite and Jeanine herself, and they set Four loose on Tris to kill her, but she wakes him up the same way she did in the book. After that, Four and Tris kick everyone’s ass and Tris tries to force Jeanine to shut off the system. She holds her at knifepoint but can’t get herself to kill her.

This is the part that made no sense at all to me. On screen, I felt like Tris’s character was way different in this moment than in the book. In the novel, I’m pretty sure she would have had no hesitation in killing this bitch if she got the chance. And didn’t she just shoot Will, and a bunch of other Dauntless soldiers? Makes no sense at all.

Anyway, Jeanine refuses to shut down the computer, so Tris injects the simulation serum into her neck and forces her to shut it down.

I was definitely not happy with this twist at the end. I think the ending in the book, where Four and Tris shut down the system together was way better. I’ve heard that this change was made because Kate Winslet, who plays Jeanine Matthews, wanted “more to work with.”

My overall thoughts:

Shailene Woodley did an excellent job playing Tris. There were things in the book that she made work really well on screen. One little thing I noticed was when she continually bit her cheek as she sat there, lying to Jeanine in the Erudite quarters when she went to see her brother, and this was something that Christina commented on in the book - “You always bite the inside of your cheek when you lie.” Also, her expression when she confronts Al after he tried to kill her is so powerful. I’m not surprised that he killed himself after that look she gave him, like she was disgusted and heartbroken and betrayed all at the same time.

Theo James was the perfect choice to play Four in my opinion. He channelled Four’s quiet strength and intelligence and masculinity so well. He balanced out his vulnerability and strength perfectly. I especially liked the moment when he emerged from his fear simulation with Tris, all shaken and trying to suppress that vulnerability.

Shailene and Theo have excellent romantic chemistry as Tris and Four. You could really tell in the beginning how Tris was kind of infatuated by him, and it was clear that Tris’s strength was something that Four admired. The change from mentor to friend to boyfriend/girlfriend was perfectly paced. I think there was only one major kiss, and that was the first kiss that they ever have. It was very passionate, sweet and tasteful. Another change from the book is that they don’t have their first kiss in the chasm. They’re up on a balcony overlooking the city as the sun sets. I quite liked this change from the book.

The knife throwing scene was very powerful, as well as the part where Tris flies down the cables over the city, and when she jumps off the trains in the beginning.

I didn’t like Kate Winslet as Jeanine. Definitely too subtle for what I would say is a bitchy, manipulative and proud character.

Overall though, I enjoyed this movie. It encompassed all the major elements of the book wonderfully. The anticipation was great, the action scenes were thrilling and scary, perfectly matched to the book. The only thing I didn’t really like was the big change made to the ending. I wasn’t really satisfied with it, but I liked the movie as a whole and would recommend watching it if you are a fan of the book or if you like action-packed thrillers.

Filed under divergent movie shailenewoodley theojames veronicaroth