I'm back with some book reviews for you today. These are all books that I've read in recent months, and when I noticed I'd been reading quite a few books which have been turned in to movies, I thought I'd review them all together. This post is going to be a little long-winded, but hopefully the book lovers among you won't mind too much!
The books I will be reviewing include: Water For Elephants, The Hunger Games series, The Divergent series and The Book Thief.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Why I Chose It: I chose The Book Thief because I was intrigued by the title, and I wanted to read the book before the movie came out.
The Hubermanns also find themselves sheltering a young Jewish man called Max in their basement, aware that at any moment their secret will be discovered by the Nazis. Liesel, who does most of her reading in the basement, becomes particularly close to Max, and is able to bring some joy to his life of fear, persecution and confinement through reading and describing things to him. As the bombs begin to fall, Liesel is also able to pacify her scared neighbours during air raids by reading aloud, and she forms a complicated relationship with the Mayor's wife, whose library she repeatedly returns to steal from.
Thoughts: I absolutely adored The Book Thief; it is without a doubt one of the most beautifully written books I've read in my life. It's told through the eyes of Death which is an unusual, perspective but I loved the style of writing, and how beautifully everything was described. "The soft spoken words fell off the side of the bed, emptying on to the floor like powder." I particularly loved the way in which Death described the collection of each dead soul; it added such beauty to the tragedy of death.
I thought The Book Thief was perfect from beginning to end, and I loved the relationships that Liesel formed with Hans, Max, Rudy and the Mayor's wife. Even to a lesser extent, the relationship between Liesel and her foster Mama, Rosa. Each played their part in this beautiful, sad and tragic story, which basically teaches the power of the written word, even during the bleakest of times.
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
Why I Chose It: I fell in love with the film and when I heard there was also a book, I had to check it out.
Thoughts: I thought Water For Elephants was a really enjoyable read and it was one of those books that I lapped up in a couple of sittings. It was a little different to anything I've ever read before, but Gruen's descriptive story telling pulled me in to the era and had me imagining life as a roustabout as if I were there living as one. If you love the film, you'll probably enjoy the book, too, and I recommend it to anybody who loves the romance of life on the road and the enchantment of old travelling circuses.
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Reason I Chose Them: I first read The Hunger Games series about two and a half years ago before the first film came out, after a recommendation from my little sister. Being a fan of dystopian fiction, it sounded like my kind of read.
Basic Plot: I'm sure most of you are familiar with the plot by now, whether you've read the books of have just seen the films. Set in the not-too-distant-future, the districts of Panem are being punished for an uprising against the Capitol that happened over seventy years earlier. As punishment, each year a boy and a girl from each district are selected to fight to the death in an arena until one lone victor remains. The victor is bathed in riches as a symbol of the Capitol's forgiveness, but nobody ever really wins The Hunger Games.
The story follows Katniss Everdeen, who volunteers to take her younger sister's place in the Games. She is a strong character who despises the Games and the hold the Capitol has over the districts. She has had to learn how to hunt (illegally) with a bow and arrow to keep her family from starving, and it's these skills which might just keep her alive in the arena. She soon learns what she will and will not do in order to stay alive and protect the people that she cares about, while getting herself caught in a love triangle with her best friend, Gale, and Peeta, the male tribute from her district.
Thoughts: It didn't take me long to get addicted to The Hunger Games series; I loved this series from the start. The idea of a world where children are forced to murder or be murdered for entertainment is without a doubt fucked up, but the concept is unique and well written. There are plenty of twists and turns, and there are plenty of strong characters I loved or loved to hate. The character's names may be terrible, but there's something very likable and addictive about these books, and they are easily some of my all time favourite reads I've reread these books a couple of times in the last two years, and they're the kind of books I can sit and read for eight hours straight without realising the hours have ticked by. I can never put them down willingly. I felt that the third book ended quite abruptly, like it was missing a few chapters near the end, but overall, I really can't fault this series! Give them a try!Rating: 5/5 (for all three books).
Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Reasons I Chose Them: I discovered the Divergent series after I re-read The Hunger Games saga last Autumn and was looking for something similar to read.
Basic Plot: The Divergent series is about a society that is split in to five factions, each led by a particular human quality that dictates their way of life. Abnegation- selflessness; Amity- kindness; Candor- honesty ; Dauntless- bravery; and Erudite- knowledge. Of course, there are also the factionless, made up of people who don't belong anywhere, who are condemned to a life starving on the streets. And then there's the Divergent. The worst thing a person could be. The Divergent are people who possess the traits of more than one faction, and as their minds don't conform to just one box, this scares some people who see their free-thinking as a threat. Being Divergent is dangerous, and nobody should ever admit to being so as there are people out there who want them eliminated.
Each year, the sixteen year olds have to choose which faction they will dedicate their entire lives to. Do they stay with their families and the factions they were born in to, or do they choose another faction and leave their loved ones behind forever? This is exactly the decision that Beatrice- or Tris- has to decide as the series begins. It becomes clear from the start that Tris is desperate to leave her dull, selfless live in Abnegation behind, and she escapes to the Dauntless; the brave dare devils. She is determined to prove that she belongs with her new faction, but she is also carrying with her a secret that nobody can know; unsurprisingly, Tris is Divergent.
Thoughts: This was another dystopian series that I loved with a capital L, and got hooked on almost immediately. The idea of a world ruled by human qualities is certainly original and provoking, and I found the concept fascinating. I found the main characters Tris and Four well-written and likable, flaws and all, and loved the relationship which developed between the two of them. I saw the plot twist coming in the third book, Allegiant, and I'd be surprised if anybody didn't, but I will say I bawled my way through the last third of the last book. I'm talking actual tears! I don't think I've ever cried over a book before but that is just how much I loved those books. I'm already itching to re-read them, and strongly encourage you to read them if you haven't already.
Ratings: 5/5 (for all three books).