Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Young Adult, Dystopian Society
Author: Veronica Roth
Title: Divergent

First Impressions:
Oh- another Hunger Games. People living in a society that decides how they will live our their lives. A world surviving from a long ago post apocalyptic war. Instead of districts- like HG- there are factions. But despite the similarities, Divergent stood on its own plot. 

Main Characters:
Tris Prior is the main character- a young girl of 16 deciding where she wants to fit in. The story opens with her on the day of her evaluation. Through a "simulation" she is presented in different fields that will help categorize her in the faction she belongs. The four factions are Amity, Candor, Abnegation (where Tris currently resides) and Dauntless. Apart from these are the factionless- people who failed initiation or decided to abandon their faction. They are pretty much the representation of the current day homeless and indigent. Four becomes the trainer assigned to the group of potential initiates when Tris decides to join the Dauntless faction. Eric is one of the Dauntless leaders whom has a subtle rivalry with Four. Among these are others such as Christina, Will, and Al, all initiates from different factions whom become Tris' friends.

In a Nutshell:
It's hard to step into Young Adult Dystopian territory without thinking of a few other movies and books. Personally, it reminded me of The Giver and Hunger Games. Tris, unlike Katniss, isn't a butt-kicking, independent powerhouse right out the gate. Instead, she evolves, she makes human mistakes, and gradually blossoms. I particularly liked the fact she shows moments of weakness- which is a reality for anyone. The conflict arises when Tris realizes something is stirring and her life may be in danger. Unlike most people, whom easily fall into a category, Tris displays multiple and conflicting passions, which make her a Divergent- an obvious target in a society that prides itself in uniformity. Before you know it, betrayal, ugly competition and even death hang in the air and at every bend. 

Nina's Take:
I gotta say, there was something that kept me turning page after page of this book. I could tell where the romance was headed- the love story was pretty standard young adult cheese factory. But, the determination in Tris to survive, and her grappling inner conflict for identity were charming. Who hasn't been on that roller coaster at the age of 16? I enjoyed it, although in some parts I felt the story dragged a little. One thing that did annoy me was the overuse of the word "bile" by Roth. Every chapter, the word kept popping up three or four times. Other than that, the climax and resolution of the story were at expectation. I wasn't blown away- I suspected two of three surprises in the book. But then again, what was I expecting from a Young Adult trilogy? Will I read the other two? Well, I'll definitely read Insurgent. We'll have to wait and see after that. 

My rating is 3.8 out of 5

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Hunger Games

Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Young Adult
Author: Suzanne Collins
Title: The Hunger Games

First Impressions:
The funky names and the odd setting of the story threw me off at first, but I chugged on and read past the slow exposition and uphill plot. The common terms in this book, such as tasserie, Panem, tribute, take a bit of reading and comprehension to understand exactly what they mean in the layout of the story. Suzanne is the kind of author that ends every chapter cliffhangingly.

Main Characters:
Katniss is the Xena style warrior for the young adult crowd, a child without a father, and with a seriously depressed mother and vulnerable, sweet little innocent thing of little sister, whose name is Primrose. Gale is Katniss' best friend and hunter partner, and Peeta is the boy from the district whom has done favors for her in the past but whom she's not really close to; until they are cast in the hunger games together to kill each other.

In a Nutshell:
Combine Lord of The Flies, the Gladiator, and as I've heard many others say, Battle Royale, and you've got yourself the Hunger Games. Like LOTF, Hunger Games features kids whom not by their choice are placed somewhere away from family and friends and then turn viciously on each other. Unlike LOTF, the Hunger Games is an annual sport, and many districts train for the young ones for it all their lives. Like Gladiator, it's either win and kill, or lose and be killed. Unlike Gladiator, it's 24 tributes (one boy and one girl from each district), and there can only be one sole winner.

The plot gets thick when Peeta reveals he has feelings for Katniss, and then the two fake (or do they?) a romantic relationship, never seen before between two people out to kill each other. This grabs the audience's attention enough to make things intriguing.

Nina's Take:
I'm probably going to get stoned for this, but I really didn't LOVE The Hunger Games. Maybe because I couldn't get past the unrealistic sudden surprises that "floated down from the sky" or the unnecessary gross gore and visual imagery of blood and yuck. But that's just me. It was action-packed, and there were teary moments, but it left me wanting in the end. I didn't want it to turn into a hormonally confused teenage girl's pseudo love-triangle; but I liked that it kept the romanticism suited for the age group (as suited as it can be in today's day and age.) However, it just failed to keep me motivated enough to finish it all in one sitting -as I usually do- and left some unanswered questions, but I guess that's what you sign up for when you read a trilogy. Am I reading the next two? Negative.

My rating is 3.5 out of 5

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Scarlet Letters

Genre: Mystery
Author: Daniel Nathan and Manfred Lepofsky under the pseudonym Ellery Queen
Title: The Scarlet Letters

First Impressions:
This book is a typically older book than the kind I usually enjoy reading. No science fiction or time machines, but a great plot- which a lot of newer books lack. The chapters are all assigned an alphabetical letter which makes more and more sense as the book pursues.

It turned out to be a real page turner. I was hooked to the point of sacrificing sleep, and finished it, while trying to maintain a facade of a real life, in two days.

Main Characters:
Ellery Queen is the writer/detective whom begins trailing his secretary's best friend for purely protection reasons, but throughout the course his motives change completely. Nikki Porter is his loyal secretary and even more die-hard loyal friend to Martha Lawrence, the woman being followed. Martha is married to Dirk Lawrence, a failed writer of somber detective stories.

In a nutshell:
At the beginning, everything appears fine, but soon the real issues come forth as Dirk develops an extreme jealousy complex and Martha becomes more and more emotionally fragmented. Nikki moves in to avoid Dirk's tantrums eventually seriously hurting Martha, posing as his secretary. What she doesn't realize is that her involvement in this couple's marriage is actually going to work for someone's benefit- a clever twist, and opens an entirely new can of worms. Suddenly a man appears in Martha's life whom seems to take all her worries away and both Nikki and Ellery fear the worst: adultery. Without spoiling it, let's just say its definitely a great mystery when the case goes out of Ellery's hands and into a crazy maze.

Nina's Take:
I loved this book. It kept me glued from page 1 to page 239. Once I thought I had it figured out and was literally trembling at the climax, I was blown away by the truth. It's all too good and a reminder that often times, things are not as they seem. A must read for anyone over the age of 16.

Rating: 4.7 out of 5

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"The Athena Project"

Genre: Action/ Sci-Fi
Author: Brad Thor
Title: The Athena Project

First Impressions:
I'd never heard of Brad Thor until my friend suggested reading "The Athena Project". I checked it out of my local library and noticed right away the cover boasted "Number One Best Selling New York Author". New Yorkers are difficult- so if they liked this book, it must be action packed.

So I opened it up and continue reading. Thor is the kind of author that ends each chapter cliff hangingly, nail-bitingly, edge of the seat suspense. It works sometimes, but he uses it indiscriminately and without regulation at the end of each of the 60-something chapters.

Main Characters:
The Delta team of highly trained female spies: Gretchen Casey, the Texan fireball and leader of the group. Alex Cooper, the analytical, rather subdued type. Megan Rhodes, an athletic, tall blonde and Julie Erricson- greatly adventurous. Their boss is Hutton- kind of like Charlie in Charlie's Angels. There's a great deal of bad guys, like Armen Ambressian, a independent entity that is recruited by the lowest of the black and dark market to carry out evil schemes with no connection to the actual culprit. George Cahill is the mad scientist whom is working tirelessly on the Engeltor, recruited by Ambressian. Jack Walsh is practically head of Special Operations group, whom deploys the operation the Delta team has to go through. 

In a nutshell:
If we mixed in a mad scientist, Charlie's Angels, and teletransport, we've got ourselves The Athena Project. An operation veiled in mystery throws an all girl team of four macho-women into the lion's mouth of the world's most dangerous men. Their mission is to secure an object the US Gov is after, the Engeltor, or Angel's Gate. A device believed to have been designed and built by a Nazi recruited scientist named Kammler. Post war, nazis believed there would be the rise of the Fourth Reich and did their best to cover all their intel from anyone else while they were running for their lives. The goverment hand picked four of the best looking, most active, highly intelligent women and use them to find and recover most wanted targets- hence the name, the "Athena Project"- named after the Greek goddess.

The Engeltor operates in a way as a fax would, but instead of digital information, it's actual physical objects they are intending to send through. The chase of finding who, why, and when is what the Delta team of four is after. What they don't know is that halfway around the world someone else is also very interested in the device and will stop at nothing to achieve it. It's a thrill/suspense/action packed book, full of car chases, explosions, double and triple spies, and everything else you'd expect in one of these sci-fi undercover books.

Nina's Take: I was expecting a little more plot, a little more depth on the actual object, and the scientific intelligence that it was based on, but it left a lot of loose ends to "just because" and saturated the book in more aggression than anything. i think more than anything it was a book to satisfy the feminine ego of the "can do it too, and possibly better'" attitude and play out every guy's fantasy. Me, not being either hardcore feminist nor a dude, felt the plot and characters were a bit cheesy at times. So, if you're looking for practically all action and light sci-fi, this is the book to read, but if you actually enjoy the sci-fi part of the book, then I'd suggest you stick to something else.

Nina's Ranking: 3.5 out of 5