Friday, April 20, 2012

Divergent

Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2011
501 pages

This young adult (YA) dystopian novel has been on my list for several months. After watching the movie The Hunger Games (which as most of you know is based on the first of another YA dystopian trilogy), I decided to jump in. I was immediately hooked.

Beatrice Prior is a sixteen year-old living in a futuristic Chicago where people are divided into five factions: Candor (truth/honesty), Amity (friendliness/peacefulness), Erudite (intelligence), Dauntless (bravery), and Abnegation (selfless). Beatrice's family is Abnegation. They wear colorless clothing, are very modest, and never take more than their share of anything. They're the folks who volunteer, and they're also in control of the government, according to the rules set up by their forebears since their faction is considered incorruptible.

Beatrice and her brother, Caleb, are at the age where they must choose a faction. Everyone expects them to choose Abnegation, since that's what their parents are. But Beatrice has always been a little different in her thinking, and that's a major dilemma. If she chooses another faction, according to the rules, that faction will become her new family. This means she would no longer be able to associate with her parents and brother. I guess you know where this is going. As it says on the book cover: One choice will transform you. Beatrice (who becomes Tris after making her choice) is about to be transformed in a huge way. And there's no turning back.

Of course, in the process of her transformation, Tris will discover her strengths. She'll also learn that her world isn't as perfect as she thought it was. Family and friends turn out to be not what you expect. Things are happening with the factions that were supposed to have been impossible. In fact, it's impossible not to draw parallels to problems in today's society while you're reading Divergent.  For this reason alone, I think Divergent is worth a read if you're into YA stuff.

Divergent appears to be the first in a planned trilogy. The second installment, Insurgent, is set to be released in May in the USA. That one's already on my list for sometime in the near future. :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Circle of Bones

Circle of Bones
Author: Christine Kling
Tell-Tale Press, 2011
560 pages

The Caribbean is rich with history, and when you add to that a vivid imagination and some tough characters, you get Circle of Bones.

Maggie Riley is a former Marine who experienced great loss a few years back when something went down in Peru. Now, she spends as much time as possible on her sailboat. She takes care of her elderly father from a distance, touching base often with his caretaker in Washington, D.C.

Somewhere off the coast of Guadeloupe, Riley spots a man floating in the ocean. Riley rescues him . . . and immediately regrets it. He gives her a fake name and a wild story, then disappears soon after they reach the harbor.

Turns out he's Dr. Cole Thatcher, a marine explorer, and he's being chased by modern-day pirates. For real.

Meanwhile on Guadeloupe, Riley planned to meet her ex-boyfriend, Diggory ("Dig") Priest, who mysteriously dumped her after the incident in Peru. But their reunion isn't happy. In fact, Riley quickly discovers that Dig (a CIA agent) is a bad, bad dude.

Cole, Dig, and the freaky pirates are all looking for the same thing, and now Riley's caught in the middle. Unfortunately for her, some more bad stuff is about to go down. And it looks like some people in high places are behind it all. 

Circle of Bones is a clever thriller that also has its funny moments. I liked the Caribbean setting . . . and the sailing. Clearly the author knows her way around a boat, and I found that aspect of Circle of Bones to be refreshing. Although she's not perfect by any means, Riley is a formidable character with a great deal of potential. I hope to see her again in a future book.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Righteous

The Righteous
Author: Michael Wallace
Thomas & Mercer, 2012
338 pages

Deep in the heart of the US state of Utah lies a polygamist community called Blister Creek, where a young wife of an elderly husband is brutally murdered. From their sister community in Alberta (Canada), Jacob, a medical student from a highly respected family, is requested to go to Blister Creek to investigate the murder. He takes along his sister Eliza, who at seventeen is considered of marriageable age, with the intent that (despite her own wishes) she will choose one of three Blister Creek men to marry.

When they arrive in Utah, they find a community who wants to blame the murder on a group of immigrant laborers working in the area. But when Jacob examines the body, it becomes clear that the murder was not committed by an outsider. However, someone doesn't want Jacob to uncover the truth, and soon both he and Eliza are in serious danger.

Meanwhile, Eliza is being forced to choose one of her three potential husbands. One is in his seventies and already has several wives; another is the same age as Eliza but not a nice person at all (in fact, he's so despicable, it's creepy); and the third, while handsome and seemingly honorable, has his shortcomings. Eliza is fully aware of the female role in her community, but this doesn't stop her from wanting more options.

It's difficult to write much more about this book without revealing spoilers. Let's just say the pace is fast, the plot is unique, and the bad guys are really bad. I found the setting (both the physical location and the polygamist community) to be intriguing; this may be a point of interest for other readers, as well.

I enjoyed the book and can't wait to read the others in The Righteous series. There are currently three available (Mighty and Strong and The Wicked), with a fourth (The Blessed and the Damned) expected in October, 2012.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Keeper of Lost Causes

The Keeper of Lost Causes
Author: Jussi Adler-Olsen
Dutton, 2011
400 pages

A while back, there was a great deal of buzz on some of the European book blogs I follow about a book called Mercy by Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen. Unable to find it here in the States, I came very close to ordering Mercy from Amazon UK. Then I found out that for some unknown reason, the same book was called The Keeper of Lost Causes when it was published for the market over here. I don't know why publishers do this, but sometimes they do. However, after reading it, I can say that either title works well for the story.

This is apparently the first book in a series featuring Copenhagen detective Carl Mørck and his increasingly capable assistant, the mysterious immigrant named Assad. (Assad is the best sidekick character to come along in ages. I like Carl, but I adore Assad.)

When the book opens, Carl is just coming back to work after being on leave for a while following an incident in which he and two police partners were gunned down on the job. One of the partners was killed and another was badly wounded. Carl is left to wonder why he survived and is also going through a sort of mid-life crisis, re-thinking career and all that. But when an opportunity comes along to lead a newly-funded crime unit looking at cold cases, Carl takes it.

The first case involves the disappearance of a beautiful young politician who went missing five years ago. Merete Lynggard was at the top of her game and one of the paparazzi favorites when she disappeared from a ferry. Although no body was ever found, she's been declared dead, but to Carl, it just doesn't feel right. As he and Assad look into the case, they find out that Merete had at least one big secret that few people knew about.

[Actually, she isn't dead. She's being held captive. Take a look at the official book teaser trailer (for Mercy), you'll see that I'm not giving away any spoilers by saying this.]

The Keeper of Lost Causes is a wild ride and one of the best psychological thrillers I've ever read. I read the last 50% in one sitting. I LOVED it, and recommend it highly to fans of this genre.

Another special thing about this book is that it was the first Kindle book I got from my local library. This is a super-cool service and yet another reason to support libraries!!! :)