Thursday, December 26, 2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Allegiant is the 3rd and final book in Roth's brilliant, dystopian Divergent series. Divergent fans like me have been waiting what seems like a lifetime for this installment, and although the ending had me almost crying and gasping for air, it did not disappoint.

The post-apocalyptic world in which Tris and Tobias must now live is one divided between the divided Chicago that they knew, where groups or factions were determined by one personality trait, and one they never knew existed. Those who showed proclivity for more than one trait were considered "divergent" and therefore dangerous - that is until now. Tris and Tobias find out that there is whole other world where the government watches the city, researching their lives as part of a huge "experiment" to see if people with "damaged genes" can eventually get back to their genetically ideal or divergent state. Divergence is the only good state to be in, according to this government which wants to abolish the factions altogether. While this seems liberating and just to Tris and Tobias and their rebel friends at first, the means by which genetic purity will be obtained is not so liberating. The labels for people are changed, but the outcomes and civil strife that result are just as damaging as the "experiment."

This is the complicated moral landscape that the characters in Roth's world must navigate. Real-life societal issues come into play when one talks about genetic purity, cleansing, war, and human experimentation. When does the end justify the means, etc.? All of this fascinating stuff is wrapped up in a band of very interesting young characters, Tris and Tobias's love story, and their ongoing family battles over power, love, and acceptance.

The intoxicating combination of these elements is what makes this series one of today's hottest tickets, soon to be a ticket at theaters everywhere. So before the first movie comes out in March, do yourself a favor and get lost in the Divergent world. Read the books. You won't be able to put them down until they're done.

The Power by Rhonda Byrne

When I first heard about the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, I thought to myself, "Oh, my gosh. Another dumb self help book full of fake spirituality." Obviously I wasn't ready for it. Then there came a time when I was. I read The Secret with an open heart - a heart that wanted to change my life for the better. And it helped me do just that. This new book in the series, The Power, is a wonderful extension of the teachings of the "law of attraction" which is now a law I try to live by every day.

When you say the term "law of attraction" to people, they immediately think of romance. But that is really not what the law is about at all. It is, simply put, a way to become a happier person by concentrating and visualizing, using positive thought as a means to draw more positive aspects into your life. If your life is full of negativity, people complaining, adversity, illness, or other struggles, then learning the law of attraction is for you. This book helped to reiterate all the practices and also gave them a deeper and more usable meaning in my life. It teaches that by visualizing and living as though your perfect life has already happened to you, those things can come into being. If you are a positive person, positive people, opportunities, and even wealth and properity will come to you.

So, some of you might say that these ideas are still "dumb self-help mumbo jumbo" but unless you try it, you won't see what it can do for you.If you can't do it, or it doesn't work, what have you lost?

Champion by Marie Lu

This third and final book in Lu's Legend series was much anticipated, and I couldn't wait to start it. I was not disappointed in this YA dystopian thriller which contains romance, sci-fi, and lots of twists.

June and Day are estranged at the beginning of the novel, each struggling to make sense of a new government with new military forces. Day tries to adjust to life with his younger brother who now suffers from the left-over symptoms of the plague. June adjusts to her power and influence as the Princepts-Elect, a high ranking military position. They long to be together, but it doesn't seem possible until new horrors in the government threaten them both, and June must ask Day to make a huge sacrifice in order to save their country.

While there are a lot of dystopian novels and series out there right now, Legend is still one of the most exciting. The books got better with each installment, ending with this one, which I think was my favorite. Give it a try and tell me what you think!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Take a woman who literally changes her name to "Strayed" after her divorce and put her on the Pacific Crest Trail - by herself- and see what happens. This is the experiment that the author puts herself through in this unique memoir about the quest for truth, personal understanding, and perseverance.

 When I first heard the premise behind this book, I thought it was extremely fascinating. It almost sounded like something I could do. It almost sounded fun. And then I read the book. The journey that Strayed undertakes is not something I could ever do. It did not sound fun. But what it was to Strayed was a life-changing experience where she learned a lot about herself, other people, and nature. She literally gives up all her worldly possessions except for those in a huge pack on her back. She has so little money, that she sends it to herself in boxes along the trail, $20 at a time, so that she can buy certain necessities, like Snapple and hamburgers.This is not something I could do. But it is something I can learn from.

However, it is Strayed's feet that give her the most trouble on this journey. They betray her at every turn, becoming sore and bleeding, until at many points she has to delay her trek just to give them time to heal. But this battle with her feet is, indeed, the most horrifying part of her journey. And that is what I found most amazing.The people along the trail never disappointed her (well, ok, only once). They were friendly, supportive, and positive, including her and making her part of a strung out family of hikers all doing the same thing for different reasons. No one tried to rob her or kill her or harm her in any way. Nature was her cruelest enemy, and that was a very big, and wonderful surprise to me.

While Strayed was too young to be called "middle aged" in the book, her journey is one that screams "mid-life crisis" or "flower child trying to find herself." But it worked for her. The demons that haunted her throughout life, making her seem like a narcissistic flake to some of our book club readers, came to the surface and hiked along with her. And while she may not have gained closure in all aspects of her life (I mean, that would be pretty difficult for most of us to achieve), the journey gave her a kind of peace that allowed her to move on. And isn't that what we all want to do? So, give Strayed's story a try. You might just find yourself in the pages.