Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly – Book Review

Revolution is a young adult novel that is absolutely full to the brim with important subjects. I listened to this book on CD, and the voices of the readers were excellent. This book kept me interested and on my toes waiting to find out what would happen next. The story opens with the protagonist, a rich teenage girl from Brooklyn named Andi, not coping with the death of her ten year old brother Truman and the impact that it had on her family. This whole part made me angry, since as a mother myself, I found the way her parents reacted and continued to react two years after the event terrible. Andi’s’ father left them, and her mother was so emotionally upset she really was unable to cope herself.

The book follows Andi to Paris where she goes to do research on her final paper which she needs to write in order to graduate from her private high school. While in Paris she discovers the diary of a girl from Revolutionary France. The girl, Alexandre was the minder to the French Dauphin, Louis-Charles. Of course the diary chronicles the demise of the King and Queen and the terrible way that Louis-Charles was treated before his death.

In order to present such a wonderful way to showcase the facts, Andi is actually researching Malherbeau, a composer (not a real figure) and his effect on the evolution of music. This is the figure that Andi meets when she hits her head and time-travels to revolutionary France. Every time that I thought I knew where this book was going, the author surprised me. Her ability to bring 1700’s France to life was one of the parts of the book that I liked best.

This book is an excellent rendering of the facts of the French Revolution when ordinary people were put to death for most times no reason, and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. This story brings the reader into the revolution and shows what life was like during such a dangerous, turbulent time period.  The author also brings into the mix the idea that nothing ever changes. I have to say that Jennifer Donnelly wrote an excellent novel that I would recommend to all. Well done!

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Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth Book Review

    

     This week I’m not just reviewing one book, but the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. I really loved this series. If you haven’t heard of the book or the movie Divergent, you should check them out. These books are excellent. The characters are well-drawn and the writing is fast-paced and exciting. We are introduced to Beatrice Prior (known as Tris) on the eve of the “Choosing Ceremony” when the young adults are to choose which of the four factions they want to join. This is a world where you are told that faction is stronger than blood; and your alliance must be to only your faction.

     The parallels between our world and Tris’ world make the books so interesting. This is where I myself got drawn in. My question is: exactly what is Veronica Roth saying about our society through these books? The city where Tris lives is divided into factions, and there seems to be no cohesiveness in the society. I drew comparisons to the non-cohesiveness in our own society. We also tend to stay in our own groups, and perhaps that is simply human nature, but the separateness in Tris’ society is much more obvious and extreme.

     As you read the second and third books, Insurgent and Allegiant, you come to understand that this world is separated by more than just the five factions; there are also the faction-less; and then the Genetically Pure and the Genetically Damaged. The separations seem to go on and on, allowing extreme bad behavior by one group toward another, even though you understand that the Genetically Pure are assumed to be “better” than everyone else.  However, humans are human and their behavior is the same as the other groups’, no better and no worse.

     I don’t want to ruin this book for those of you who haven’t read it yet, so I’ll end there. Hopefully I’ve given those of you who haven’t read these books enough to think about and read them! If you have read them, let me know what you thought about what I said about the separations in the society, and how it affects the citizens in this community.

Books I’m Glad I Read – the Series Edition

     Instead of writing a book review this week, I thought that I’d write about some of the series that I’m glad I took the time to read. I guess that I’ll go about this from first to last. When I was young I read The Lord of the Rings. I have actually re-read this series many times. There are so many things about the books that I like, but I have to say that in the beginning it was the elves that did it for me. I wanted to grow up to be as wise as Galadriel and have the very bestest of adventures. And, how about those 1st and 2nd breakfasts? Those Hobbits have got it made!

Terry Brooks’ Shannara series is another one that I’m glad I read. I haven’t read each and every one yet, since there are just too many books and too little time. This is something that I’ve never read over and over. Although when our son was little I read the first three aloud to my husband in the evenings. We didn’t have TV, and he enjoyed them very much. What I’d like to do is re-read them all in order. Maybe this winter?

     The Hunger Games trilogy is another series that I really enjoyed.  I liked these because of the way they made you think about how our world works; and the similarities between the fictional world and ours.  Thinking is really good for us, and I liked how she made you see things that normally most people wouldn’t put together.

     What can I say about this series?  I haven’t seen the TV show past the first season.  I think that I prefer the books to the show, as the show couldn’t possibly do justice to the intricate plots in the books.  Just when is George R.R. Martin going to publish the next one??  How can I keep waiting….and waiting….and waiting!!

     I’ve read other series, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind.  How about you?

Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

     I enjoyed almost everything about this book; from the relationship between Ivy and Rose Adams to the depiction of New York City during the roaring Twenties. The sisters are orphaned by their less then forthright father, and then discover that the estate was left to a brother they did not know existed. They decide to take themselves off to New York in search of this brother in a scheme to find him and get him to basically right the world for them.

Like a lot of families, the Adams’ family pigeon-holed the sisters seemingly from the beginning of their lives. Rose, the eldest by a mere year, was seen as the nurturer and responsible one. When their mother died, it was Rose who took over as mother, while at the same time sewed in order to earn enough money to keep the household going. Ivy, while only one year younger was able to continue her life of play and frivolity. She was her father’s favorite and was taken with him on trips that had to do with his research for the botany books that he wrote.

     While Ivy and their father were gone, Rose was content to stay at home and read her books. She believed that she would never marry, but stay home and keep house for their father. Ivy, on the other hand was adored by their father, and believed herself to be a great actress, always claiming that she would go to New York and become famous. So, when the sisters need to go to New York, Ivy is thrilled, and Rose is dismayed.

The book continues with their need to find work and solve the mystery of finding their brother. While searching, Ivy and Rose’s relationship take a turn for the worse, since they have found no way to have a relationship other than one based on the old pigeon-holed views of each other. Somehow the authors made us feel for both sisters, and managed to portray each of them in an understanding way. Showing how families can ruin, without meaning to, even what should be the closest of relationships.

     This book is a story of the Roaring Twenties; sisterhood in all its glory and lack thereof; and a mystery all rolled up in one. While reading it, I felt that I was in the middle of those gloriously boozy days and nights of Prohibition; the hysteria that seemed to accompany the few years before the Depression; and a mystery that was a thrill to solve. I enjoyed this book very much, and highly recommend it.

 

Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark – Book Review

    

I wanted to start this review off with the observation that as a Vegan I found this book hard to read, not simply because I’m squeamish, but because I have looked into what is in prepared food and I am all too aware of the real-world consequences of it. So, on to the review.

A lot of other people who read and reviewed this book apparently found it really funny. I did not. I found it overwhelmingly sad. David Leveraux has a lot of issues, and one of his main ones is to be emotionally distant. He believes that his problems stem from his failure to act in 1972 when he began his career as a flavorist working on flavor #9, or The Nine as it is widely known in the industry. At the time he noticed the way it affected the rats and monkeys it was being tested on. He stated his fears and was fired. He was subsequently hired for another flavor company and continued working in the industry. Even after seeing the harmful effects that #9 is having on his family, David says nothing, simply refusing to take any kind of action to protect the ones that he presumably loves.

This book takes us into the food industry and shows how little testing is required by the FDA to get food additives and/or sweeteners approved; and how the industry is fluid with employees moving between the FDA and the industry and back again. This part of the novel is actually fact, and a problematic fact at that. It is at this point, and others that the novel brings up real-life concerns.

Without going into detail, this book shows the reader a family that completely comes undone by forces both out of its’ control and by what one member of the family did control. The one member of the family that could have made a difference within the family dynamics refused to act until it was almost too late. While the impact of that omission blew the family apart, by the end of the book, the family members had reconfigured in a new way.

I would recommend reading Sweetness #9, however, I hope that if you take away anything from this book, it’s a new knowledge of how the FDA works. Even though the food industry is portrayed here in fiction, the fiction isn’t too far from fact. And, please, use this novel as a way to find out just what is in your food, and the potential threats it can have to your health.