Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “dystopian”

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #40 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is something of a tough one to review, since everyone’s read this book and/or seen this movie.  You know the story, so there’s not much I can say about that.  Blah, blah, dystopian not-too-distant future; blah, blah, plucky survivalist, yet of course also beautiful heroine; blah, blah, really awful way of keeping the populace in line.

We all know about the sorting, we all know about Katniss taking her sister’s place (people seem to think it’s a noble sacrifice, but I don’t know one big sister that wouldn’t do the exact same for her little sis). We all know Peeta adores her, he threw burnt bread to her when they were kids, and they end up having to play up that angle during the games so that people will root for them.

I held off reading these books for as long as I could, but when the movie was coming out I felt like I should. Then I didn’t want to like them, but I did. Are they the best written books?  No.  Does that matter?  Not in the slightest.

One caution – do not read any of these books at bedtime, especially if you’re the type who gets completely submerged in stories.  You’ll lose more sleep than you care to.

Malin’s #CBR4 Reviews # 94-99: I’m nearly done with a double Cannonball, you guys!

So in the middle of October, I once again took part in the 24-hour Read-a-thon, and I’ve obviously been reading (and re-reading) books since then, but I’ve been falling behind on my blogging. So here’s a big catch-up post, and hopefully, within the week, I will have read and blogged a double Cannonball. I only set out to do a single one this year, and as a result, it seems that completing twice the amount became less of a chore.

94. A Wrinkle in Time by Madelaine L’Engle. I suspect I would have loved this more when I was younger. 4 stars.

95. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. The first book I’ve read of hers. It won’t be the last. 4 stars.

96. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. I know it’s been reviewed so well, so many times on here, and I have no idea why I didn’t pick it up before. 5 stars. By far the funniest book I read this year.

97. A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long. Yet another historical romance,  surprising no one, I’m sure. “The one with the hot vicar” as Mrs. Julien dubbed it. 4 stars.

98. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. Unquestionably one of the most anticipated books of the year for me, this turned out to be something completely different from what I’d expected. 4 stars.

99. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. So is it wrong that I was more charmed by the film? The 14-year-olds I teach, love it, though. 3.5 stars.


Krista’s #CBR4 Reviews #53-60

All right, I decided that I’m going to finish out the year reviewing all of the books I’ve read, even after the awesome 52! I’m almost at 67 (will be this afternoon/evening) so here’s the first batch of catching up reviews. Once I get the next bunch done, I plan on reviewing everything as I go along. It’s really hard to do a thoughtful review of a book you read months ago!

53. Maine, J. Courtney Sullivan

54. On Being A Servant of God, Warren Wiersbe

55. Insurgent, Veronica Roth

56. What the Dead Know, Laura Lippman

57. Defending Jacob, William Landay

58. The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

59. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

60. In Search of Eden by Linda Nichols

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #42: Gone by Michael Grant

Cannonball Read IV: Book #42/52
Published: 2009
Pages: 583
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian

I did not care for this book. There’s a fine line between interesting plot twists and “WTF did I just read??”. The storyline seems simple at first: In a small Californian town, suddenly everyone over the age of fifteen disappears. Sounds cool, right? Then it starts to seem like a YA version of Stephen King’s Under the Dome (which I really liked) when the kids figure out that there is a weird barrier around the town. Okay…still not too bad.

THEN…the kids start developing weird powers. I can also deal with that, although I was expecting more of a straight-forward dystopian novel.

But then the wolves start talking. We have snakes that fly. Some weird entity called “the Darkness” that lives in an old mineshaft. WHAT. THE. EFF? It just got too freaking weird for me. Not to mention the most anti-climactic ending ever. Most of the book was leading up to this big confrontation between the “good” kid and the “bad” kid (who were twins that were separated at birth by the way). Then they BARELY fight and just kind of walk away from each other.

Read the rest of the review in my blog.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR4 Review #38: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Cannonball Read IV: Book #38/52
Published: 2003
Pages: 617
Genre: Horror/Dystopian

I first read this book back in college. I know now it’s getting a little more press due to the Hunger Games comparisons. I actually first picked up Hunger Games the week it was released back in 2008 because I read that it was similar toBattle Royale. They do share a lot of similarities, but enough differences to make them totally different novels.

For instance, both novels take groups of teens and pit them against each other to the death. However, The Hunger Games picks a boy and a girl from each district. Battle Royale randomly picks a ninth grade class who has no idea they were chosen until they’re already there. They pretend they’re taking them on a school trip then gas them on the bus. I think it’s a little more chilling that ALL of these students actually know each other and grew up together vs. HG’s involving mostly strangers.

Read the rest of the review in my blog.

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 38: Partials by Dan Wells

Amazon: “The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.

Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what’s left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she’s not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.”

I’m just going to keep on rolling with the dystopian/survival thing. Partials was a lot of fun: there is a varied cast of characters, personality-wise and racial/ethnically (fistbump for diversity in YA literature,) a great fast pace that had me finishing this one in about a day, and a nice twist in the middle of the book. The protagonist, Kira Walker, is an interesting character. She’s kind of a smartass, and she’s intelligent, moral, and brave. I also really enjoyed the aspect that within the community of surviving humans, it’s not as if there is complete peace and concord. The government has enacted some desperate measures that divide the survivors and has caused some of them to live in the open, beyond the protection of the Defense Grid and therefore more immediately vulnerable to attack from the Partials. The particular law at the center of the ideological chasm is the Hope Act, which states that women 18 and older are required to try and get pregnant as often as possible, in order to potentially have even a single child that is born immune to the RM virus. It’s drastic in the way that government laws often are in dystopian literature, but still, it eerily reflects a political climate today in the US that seems rather focused on legislating women’s bodies. Partials was published early in 2012; I’m not sure, given the timing of writing and publication, if Wells was “inspired” by current events, or that the similarities are coincidental. In any case, the parallels did amp up my reading experience.

Overall, this one is recommended. It’s a quick read, with a story that draws you in, and IMO likeable characters. I’m looking forward to the sequel next year (are there any YA novels coming out right now that don’t have intended sequels?)

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #54: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

It’s been a couple of months since I’ve read this book, but apparently I still have some things to say. This is going to be long, and I have strong feelings about it, so I apologize in advance on both counts.

First of all, I hate that cover. Hate it hate it hate it. What is it with publishers and putting these nondescript shiny-lipped teenage girls on the cover and then calling it a day? And what the fuck is going on with that flower over that girl’s ear? What, is she like, sticking her head out of flower bush or something? HI, MY NAME IS LENA AND I’LL JUST BE SQUATTING IN THIS BUSH WHILE YOU READ ABOUT ME IN THIS HERE BOOK. DON’T MIND ME. MY SKIN IS GLOWING LIKE AN ALIEN AND I’M NOT BEING CREEPY AT ALL. It’s completely awful in every way and not even relevant to the story or theme of the novel. Fail, YA publishers, FAIL. PLEASE STOP DOING THIS.

The surprising news? I liked the book. I liked it much, much, much, much better than it’s predecessor. Delirium was such a conflicting and frustrating read for me, but nearly everything I had an issue with in Delirium was either answered directly or significantly reduced in Pandemonium. I went into the novel ready to give it a fair shake, even though in the back of my mind I had essentially written the series off, and I was completely surprised at how much I enjoyed it.

Pandemonium picks up about six months after Lena’s flight into the Wilds. She has found an ersatz family in her fellow rebels, and has become firmly entrenched in the rebellion. During flashbacks which run through almost the whole book, we watch as Lena transforms from a scared newbie to a battle and loss-hardened rebel. She ends up in New York where, posing as a student, she becomes involved in a kidnapping plot with the wealthy son of a fanatic who is famous for promoting The Cure, even for people too young to handle it. Even for his son, Julian, whom The Cure would most likely kill due to Julian’s previous operations to remove cancerous brain tumors.  The alternating structure of the book keeps it flowing at a lightning fast pace, and the effect is that as we watch Lena growing as a person, in terms of the narrative, she is simultaneously helping Julian to heal and grow as well. And of course they fall in love and have adventures, and there’s a conspiracy and people who live underground, and there were some other details as well, but I don’t remember them right now.

Here are some reasons why I liked Pandemonium so much more than Delirium:

Delirium Complaint #1: Too much flowery language, not enough story.

While Oliver’s style remains consistent from book to book (and thus consistently bothers me), the substance of Pandemonium as a story is dramatically different from Delirium. Because Pandemonium had an actual plot to concern itself with and there were actual things happening on the page, Oliver didn’t have to constantly resort to diving deep into Lena’s psyche, thus necessitating page after page after page of poetic metaphors that are cool at first but then quickly begin to grate once you realize that while it may be a pretty cool trick she’s pulling out of her writer’s handbag, it’s basically the only trick she has. Story is about substance, and metaphor does not constitute substance. In fact, metaphor (or simile) by itself often feels very shallow if it’s not attached to something real and concrete. Pandemonium had concrete shit happening all over the place; it had movement, and thus I was either so busy being caught up in the story that I didn’t notice her overly written poetic imagery as much, or she didn’t use as much of it as filler because she didn’t need to — she had a plot instead.

Delirium Complaint #2: Alex

I know I’m in the minority on this one, but look, I just don’t like Alex all that much as a character, and I was happy he wasn’t in this book. I was holding out hope that he had actually died, but I knew it was a fool’s hope, and not just because I’d been spoiled. It seems YA authors these days just can’t resist the siren lure of a love triangle, lo though it may lead them to their deaths. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of Alex, because I do, or that I think he’s a jerk or something, because I don’t — I just find him useless as a character in this book series. In Delirium, he was nothing but a perfect and deliberately sculpted man-candy for Lena to fall in love with. He was a cypher, a catalyst through which Lena’s change of character was enacted. He was not a character in his own right, and he was much too tragically perfect to read as a real character for me. He was designed to be the perfect lure to make Lena realize how fucked up her life really was, to get her out of Portland and into the Wilds, and he served that purpose admirably. The problem is that he didn’t really do anything for me beyond that purpose.

But Oliver did something really interesting in Pandemonium, which is that she essentially gave Lena Alex’s role. In Delirium, Alex was the rebel, but in book two it was Lena taking the lead, showing new enemy turned boy-toy, Julian, the light. This accomplished two things, both of which I felt were missing in Delirium: 1) It gave Lena a more active trajectory — instead of things happening to her, she makes things happen, and 2) It allowed Julian as the love interest du jour to actually develop some character depth outside of his relationship to Lena. Lena being the new Alex allows us to re-experience the journey through Julian’s eyes, to see how far Lena has come as a person, but more importantly, it finally allows us the chance to see how that change is actually effected internally. Giving Julian a journey like that instantly made him a more interesting, dynamic romantic lead than Alex was because he wasn’t just some perfect dude dropping in from the heavens to get the plot (and Lena’s heart) moving.

I liked Julian. I liked him a lot. I may even love him. I liked reading about his life as the son of someone so entrenched in that world. I liked seeing his assumptions crumble in front of him. I liked seeing him fall in love with Lena and grow as a person. Even if it does turn out to sort of be all orchestrated and even if the Lena/Julian romance is trope heavy as all get out (a couple of problems I had with this book, see below), it was enjoyably so.

Delirium Complaint #3: Predictability

Even though this book was much more enjoyable for me than its predecessor, the underlying problems of the main narrative are still there. And the biggest underlying problem with the story is its predictability. I don’t necessarily have issues with predictable stories as long as its clear they acknowledge they’re being predictable and not like they’re writing this sort of thing for the VERY. FIRST. TIME. EVER. But Oliver is approaching this world like it and all its moving parts is a totally original creation, and that still kind of grates on me. Like we’re supposed to be surprised that Lena falls for Julian, that the whole thing turns out to be orchestrated, that Lena’s mom turns out to be that guard lady, etc. And for that matter, like we’re supposed to be surprised by the whole conceit of the world, which is really just one variation among many, many YA dystopias. And again, this wouldn’t be a problem for me, except that everything about the world Oliver has created feels overly familiar except its central premise. Like you could almost substitute Oliver’s THING (The Cure) with the things from The Selection, Divergent, Everneath, etc. You have to have more than an original central conceit — the whole world has to be fleshed out, and it wouldn’t matter if tropes and predictable things were happening if the world was specific and felt real enough. Pandemonium is a lot better in this regard than Delirium was, but the problem is still there for me.

And on top of all that, Oliver decided it would be a good idea to add in a damn love triangle. It would have been incredibly brave of her to kill off Alex. I mean, can you imagine? That is probably the least predictable thing she could have done. As it is, this all feels like familiar territory, so why are we stomping all over it? I’ve been here before, didn’t really like the view the first time. Show me something new, not something that was done as soon as Twilight wrung it to pieces and then handed those pieces off to The Hunger Games (which is actually one of the better done love triangles because of the way it poses the choice between Gale and Peeta as Katniss choosing between different versions of herself, as opposed to OMG THIS IS TWU WUV). I seem to be in the minority in not really liking Alex here, and I KNOW I’m in the minority in wishing he was actually dead, but I want it to be clear that it’s because he was more of a function than an actual character for me. In contrast, Julian is INCREDIBLY likable precisely because he’s dreamy on top of actually being allowed to grow and change, and we’re also allowed actual glimpses into his psyche. We learn about him and learn to love him as Lena does, and also in contrast to Delirium, I can see exactly why Lena might fall for him. They’re kindred spirits.

Really, this book probably deserves more like 3.5 stars, mostly because of the ending and the predictability, but I was just so taken with my surprise enjoyment of the rest of it that I was clicking 4 stars over on Goodreads before I even knew it. For those of you who liked Delirium, you probably won’t like this one as much (you might even hate it), but for the rest of you, check this one out. If it could surprise me, it might surprise you, too.

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 36: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Amazon description: “The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners–a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life–has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God’s Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren’s bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers…

Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo’hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can’t stay locked away…”

(This is going to be kind of a lazy review — sorry.) Like Oryx and Crake, I had a bit of trouble with this one. Not so much with the story or the book itself, I suppose, but the way that Atwood (and many reviewers) seem to think that this world is an inevitability. I suppose only time will tell if I’m the one that’s naive here, but I find all of the “a world so similar to our own” rhetoric around these two books a bit overdramatic and tinfoil-hat-y. I mean, sure, genetic engineering and gene-splicing exist, but not like this. There are elements of truth and feasibility, but I don’t think we are depraved enough collectively to move in the direction portrayed in these novels. We’ll see, I guess.

Anyway, story-wise, I liked this one more than Oryx and Crake, mostly because I liked the narrators in The Year of the Flood a lot better than I liked Jimmy/Snowman in Oryx and Crake. What can I say — Toby and Ren’s backstories of survival and coping with adversity were a lot more interesting than Jimmy’s “Woe is me, my best friend is smarter than me and I’m in love with a manic pixie dream former child prostitute” memoir. The narrative gets a little jumpy, as the characters’ backstories catch up to the present, and the switches between character POVs are broken up by God’s Gardener sermons and hymns, which I found a little trite and tiring. Overall though, it was an interesting read, but not one of my favorite books this year.

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 34: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Summary: “One choice can transform you–or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves–and herself–while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable–and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.”

I liked this one a lot, but I’m going to get kind of senior thesis-y, so the rest of my review is going behind the jump. Read more…

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 33: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Amazon: In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

This one has been reviewed already and loved by many, so I’ll not get too long-winded, and just add my voice to the chorus. I loved this one; I’m truly a sucker for dystopian YA, it seems! Books of this ilk will be inevitably compared to The Hunger Games for awhile, but while Divergent shares its tone of dark anxiety and element of dangerous competition, the novels are otherwise obviously different. I liked that the reveal of what it meant to be Divergent wasn’t given away immediately — it allowed suspense to build and the conflict to become more urgent. I did not like, as much, that some people were revealed as Divergent, a bit too conveniently, I think, toward the end; though Tris (the protagonist) still did have to force her own resolution without relying too much on these reveals.

I don’t have it in me to do a much longer review, so suffice it to say that if you’re into YA or dystopian lit, you should absolutely check this one out. I, myself, am waiting for the sequel to come off of hold at the library!

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