Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent (Divergent, #2)Insurgent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Insurgent...Insurgent. What can I say about Insurgent. I guess the first thing I can say is that this review will contain spoilers for Divergent and some spoilers about Insurgent, so read at your own risk.

I could also say that I thought the plot was pretty interesting and liked that we got to see more of the world. I got bored of all the training in Divergent, so I was happy we got none of that here. I also liked that the book started right where the first book ended. After the cliff-hanger, doing anything else would have been annoying, so I liked that it just went straight into things. I also liked that we got to see more from Tobias. Yes, he's a bit of a jerk here, but considering his upbringing I thought his harshness made sense. The best part was being able to see all of the factions. Overall, I liked it a lot better than Divergent.

The story is about Tris and her gang trying to take down Erudite. A bunch of things happen, sometimes serving no purpose at all, but things happen. In the end, we're introduced to a cliff-hanger and finally answer one of the questions I had back in Divergent.

Sadly, this book and series still doesn't make sense. I'm trying, I really am, but if you thought the world and the faction didn't make sense before, be prepared for it to not make any more sense here. I mean, at all. Amity likes to strum banjos and eat toast that makes you high happy, they also grow all the food, so they still serve their purpose. Candor, I don't understand the point of them other than being jerks. What's the point of having all of your secrets laid out in the open? What do they do? Lawyers? Why would you need one in this world? What is the point of them? What's the point in any of them?

Anyways. That isn't my biggest problem. My biggest problem in Insurgent is still the biggest problem I had in Divergent. Tris. She's a horrible human being, you guys. Just horrible! She's a Divergent, which apparently isn't all that special, but she's more special compared to all the other Divergents. This means that her mind isn't easy to control and instead of falling under one faction, she actually falls under more than one. She falls under Abnegation, her original faction, Erudite, and Dauntless.

This should make her selfless, smart, and brave. Only, she's selfish, stupid, and reckless. I never got the sense that she belonged with anyone other than Dauntless. So why is she a Divergent? She doesn't think and is on some mission to sacrifice herself so she can join her parents. I get that's she's hurt, I do, but she does this so many times without talking to anyone, but expects everyone to tell her the truth and plans. She's irrational. The sad thing is that everyone looks to her for advice, because apparently you can't think properly unless you're an Erudite. The factions...why must they make no sense? Why!

...*deep breaths deep breaths*...

I really disliked how she lashed out at others, even when she's in the wrong. There is a scene where Christina and Cara are talking about her, because she killed Will, and they're not happy about her. Instead of understanding their grief, she makes it all about her and how she's a victim. She's not. She killed Will and went straight for a head shot even though she let Eric and Peter live. Why didn't she shoot his hand or leg? You want to know why. It's a curse, it's the

Remove every couple, so Tris and Tobias look normal curse

In Book One, Will and Christina hook up and it's cute and loveable and you root for them. Then Tris kills Will, leaving Christina alone. Tris also watches both her parents die, even though both were incredibly interesting characters that I would have liked to seen more of, they die because they're protecting Tris. And when I say protecting, I mean getting out of the way so we don't see a healthy relationship.

In Book Two, Edward becomes a psycho making Myra leave him, even though both seemed so in love with each other. Uriah and Maureen hook up and in pretty much the next chapter she dies. Lynn loves Maureen, so she has to die as well. Even when it seems like Christina might have someone else, he dies after saying she's cute. Shauna and Zeke are the exception to this rule, instead of dying; Shauna becomes paralyzed and has to be on a wheelchair. I suppose Caleb and Susan might be an exception too, but we don't see enough of them for this couple curse to happen. Thank God for that, because I actually like those two together.

Thus, every couple that seems to become normal and cute must have someone die so that Tris and Tobias are last couple standing.

I expect more couples dying on each other in the next book. Caleb will probably die then, so Tris can be the only person in her family alive and allowing another couple to 'break' up.

Even though I enjoyed this book a lot better than Divergent, it still has a lot of the same problems. The world doesn't make sense, the need for factions in order to find peace seems okay at first until you find out what the factions do and then you wonder what is wrong with these people. Tris is still annoying and not a strong female character. When she betrays Tobias and goes with Marcus to Erudite headquarters, she lets Marcus hit Caleb and instead of getting angry at that she gets angry that Marcus did the same thing to Tobias. With the Caleb hitting, it's justified because he's a traitor, even though Tris is technically considered a traitor at this point too......

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Why is it okay for her to betray everyone and not tell anyone the reason why, but it's wrong when Caleb does it? Caleb could have a great reason to do so, why don't you...hmm, I dunno. Talk to him instead of getting angry? That would be the logical and selfless thing to do, right? Right?
I just can't with Tris.

Anywho, the ending is interesting so I'll be reading the next book the series to see what happens next. I'm hoping the next book answers my questions and makes me understand this world. I also hope that no couple is harmed by the curse.

So I guess I should end the review here. Insurgent is better than Divergent, but it's still so so flawed.

3 stars out of 5

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

This book was the book to read last year. I got emails talking about how great it was, bloggers everywhere were singing its praises, and whenever I went to the store I saw this book a lot.

My expectations were high and for good reason. Divergent is an action packed face paced novel that will keep you reading and reading and reading. Sunday is the only day when I can actually sleep a few extra hours, so after I prayed Fajr I decided that I was going to sleep. Somehow, the book came up and well I didn't end up sleeping much after.

So there are a lot of good things about the book, but it's also doesn't really make a lot of sense. Let me explain. Divergence takes place in a notreally dystopian city, where people are separated by their beliefs on how the end war. You see, a long time ago, people decided that religion, race, nationalism, and politics were not the causes of war. Humans were the cause. In order to change this, they created five factions to eradicate war. Abnegation believed that selfishness was the reason. Amity believed that aggression was the cause. Candor thought it was duplicity. Dauntless said it was cowardice, and Erudite blamed ignorance.

And thus, the five factions were created, despite the fact that getting into groups like this will probably mean you're in for some discrimination of some kind or another. But whatever, they wanted to end war and end it they did. Oh, and to make this even better, each group only has a specific job. Dauntless are guards, Abnegations are in the government, Amity are farmers, Candor are lawyers, and Erudite are reporters and researchers. Again, not sure what the old citizens of Chicago were thinking when they thought up these rules, because it seems like a recipe for disaster to me.

If you’re wondering about the other jobs, the factionless peeps do those. We meet one in the book and he seems like a crazy hobo who is dirty and smells bad. At this point, you might find yourself wondering, “Why was Old Chicago so desperate to separate them like this and have lower people work for them? Doesn’t this mean that eventually there will be a revolt or factions will start fighting against each other? Why try to eradicate war, by presenting a problem that can cause it?”

Don’t worry. That’s part of the fun that is Divergent. There is one interesting factor that isn’t ever developed in this novel. The city, for some reason or another, is barricaded. The Dauntless guard these doors. From what? From who? I have no idea, but I’m really hoping its explained in the following novels.

Anyways, let’s get back to the book. Divergent starts off with sixteen year old Beatrice, our heroine, who has to decide which of these five factions she belongs to, to help her decide; she has to take a test. There’s only one problem, Beatrice belongs to more than one faction. People who are like this are called Divergent.

After we learn this and then see the ceremony, I started to wonder what was so great about being a Divergent. According to the rules, the test tells you which faction you belong to, but then you can choose whatever faction you want at the end. I don’t really see the purpose of the test, other than finding Divergents. This could very well be the case, but it’s never really explained either.

So Beatrice decides to go to Dauntless. Dauntless are a brave people. Brave in the sense that they are kind of psychotic and incredibly stupid. They jump down buildings, jump into moving trains, beat each other up, and get tattoos.

Seriously, Old Chicago, you really should have thought these things through.

I mean really, there are some huge flaws with every group. Dauntless are stupid. Amity spends their days smiling, hugging, and playing the banjo. Abnegation think of others before they think of themselves, which sounds nice, but it’s caused them to bottle up everything. I’m surprised there are not a few crazies in the group. Erudite are arrogant. And Candor are loud, brash, and don’t really care what others think.

As a whole, this doesn’t really matter because the story is about Beatrice’s, now named Tris, journey in becoming a Dauntless member. If she fails, she becomes a factionless. If she succeeds, then she’ll discover a new world that she never had in Abnegation and get to experience some good ol’ fashion YA loving.

Divergent is well written, but the world that Roth created has a lot of holes. Not that this is necessarily a problem, but since it’s a dystopia, I’m left wondering how something like this could ever happen. People may be stupid, but not stupid enough to do something like this. I kind of wish the genre was different. If it was fantasy, it would have been fine.

Also, I didn’t really care for Beatrice. She’s told that being a Divergent is dangerous, but does she listen? No. She continues to do things that will get her into trouble.

The last few chapters were great though and the story started to finally make sense and the arc about Al was really well done. (view spoiler)[ I also liked that we learned that Beatrice’s mom was a Divergent also. After we find out she dies, which sucks since it would have been nice to hear more about her. (hide spoiler)]

There are some good things and some bad, so I gave this three stars.

ps. (view spoiler)[ Was I the only one who was kind of troubled to see Beatrice kill Will? She doesn’t do the same thing to Eric and Peter, but Will, her friend and ally, she kills. When I read this I had two feelings about the situation. 1. Beatrice is a jerk. She could have shot his leg and continued running. 2. The moment there was another couple, they had to separate. Edward and Myra left together after he got stabbed in the eye, and once Christina and Will become an item, he has to die. Kind of sucks for the guys in these relationships, eh? (hide spoiler)]

2.5 stars out of 5

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Muslim Reading Challenge

After reading Skunk Girl, I thought it would be fun to read more books that deal with Muslims. As a Muslim myself, there are not that many books about us and when there is, it isn't always in the best of light. Still, I wanted to read more books about Muslims, so I thought it would be fun to try a Muslim Reading Challenge. Not only because I wanted to see what was out there, but I also wanted to read a book and say, "Hey, I can relate to this."

If you have any books that come to mind, please let me know. I've made a list that is currently found on goodreads - you can see it here.

I think this will be a fun challenge. I'm usually a bit more critical when it comes to books about Muslims, so I'm hoping that this will also help me read the books for the sake of reading.

Anywho, I'm excited to see what books I'll be able to read.

Review: Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya Ahmed

Secrets of the Henna GirlSecrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya Ahmed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've never been outside of my country since I got here when I was a wee lil one. I haven't left the city for an overnight stay in years and I work in the summer. But if you have a life and go places in the summer, then imagine being sixteen and going to visit your home land. The beautiful landscapes, the relatives, and the food, all await your arrival. Your parents seem testy, but you're not too bothered. It's been awhile for them since they've been back home.

But once you arrive, you realize why they were acting so differently. Not only do you get to visit your home country, but you also get to get married against your will. It's what every little girl dreams for. Only not.

Zeba Khan thought a trip to Pakistan would be a summer without much fun, but all that changes when she's told that she will get married to her cousin Asif and that her consent doesn't matter. Zeba doesn't want to be married to him. She's only sixteen and has her whole life ahead of her. However, her parents will not listen to her, her uncle won't either, and everyone keeps telling her that she should simply put up and shut up. (not exactly like that, but it's the same thing).

Will Zeba find happiness with Asif, will she make her escape, or will she die trying? Dun Dun Dunnnnnn!

Before getting to the actual review, I just want to send some major props to Sufiya Ahmed for making a clear distinction between forced marriages and arranged marriages. They're not the same, and surprisingly, not many people know that. Often, when it comes to books like this or articles or tv shows, they don't mention that Islam condemns forced marriages. There is no marriage without the girls consent. Since this isn't mentioned, when non Muslims see this, they think our religion is all for it.

Let me make it clear, Islam forbids the practice of forced marriages. Arranged marriages are very different and are more like marriage meetings or blind dates. You get set up by your parents, but you get to decide whether you want to go through with it or not. A good example of this is found in Love In A Headscarf

Forced marriages. It's illegal, it's stupid, and it's completely from culture and not Islam.

Arranged marriages. It's okay and not as drama inducing.

With that out of the way, here's the review.

The Good

The setting, the topic, the characters, and the writing was great. You feel horrible for Zeba and wondered how her parents could ever think of doing this to her. At the same time, you kind of understood where her father was coming from. Shame is a big thing for them and he wanted to keep his nephew safe. It was wrong, but it was somewhat understandable.

Nannyma, Sehar, and Farhat were my favourite characters in the novel. All of these women were strong in their own way. Nannyma had respect and status in her village and tried to get people to see women and the world differently. Sehar was feisty and never gave up her dream to escape and live her own life. She was stubborn, but she had a good heart. Farhat, despite her upbringing, was cute and always tried her best to do the best job that she could possibly do. Her love for Sehar and her change in attitude was a real joy to see. I wanted to meet and befriend all of them while reading this.

I loved that religion was seen as a good thing. Like I mentioned before, whenever you see stories like this, Islam is always to blame. As a Muslim, this always saddens me, because Islam is as much against this as everyone else.

In the novel, we're told that there is an Imam (religious leader) who ordained the marriage of Sehar and her husband against her will. At first, he's seen as part of this horrible system and that there will be no hope. Later on, we find out that he's against this practice and thought that she accepted. Had he known that she was against it, he never would have done it. I loved that this was revealed and that the Imam was actually a good guy.

The Okay

Zeba's parents forcing their daughter to marry her cousin, is something I can never understand. But I'm also left wondering how her mother truly felt. While her dad was fleshed out nicely and had some nice conflict going on with him, the mother just seemed cold and distant. I wonder why she didn't try to have a proper relationship with Zeba and how she could be so different from her mother and sister.

The book is straight forward, and while there are some twists, you know how the story will be in the end. This doesn't make it a bad book. With a topic like this, you only have three possible directions to go. 1. She escapes. 2. She dies. 3. She ends up falling in love with Asif and lives happily ever after. Since this is in the YA category, I guess there is another option. 4. She starts to fall for Asif, but starts to fall for the mysterious stranger who promises to help her escape.

So yea, there isn't much of a change up in this story, but that doesn't really hinder it.

The Bad

I kind of wish we got to see more of Asif. He ends up being a decent enough guy, who is simply oblivious to the world around him, so it was kind of a shame that we didn't see enough of him.

This bad isn't really a bad thing for the book, it's more of depressing. Through Secrets of the Henna Girl, we got to see a different side of Pakistan and it's one that I hope changes, because I don't want to see stories like this in real life. The men kept talking about their honour this and their honour that, never realizing that the honour that they have in God's eyes diminishes while they do stupid things like this. It's sad. That's all you can really say. I do hope it's changing though and it's not as bad as what was written in the book. It's such a stupid mentality that really needs to be changed.


I really loved this book. The characters were great, the message was important to tell, and the writing was clean and crisp. The only downside is that Zeba's mom never really warmed up or felt human and Asif wasn't shown as much. Despite all that, Secrets of the Henna Girl a lovely book that more people should read.

4 stars out of 5