05 April 2014

Book Review: Insurgent

Author: Veronica Roth

Synopsis: Picking up at the end of Divergent, our heroine Tris joins with her few remaining friends after a tragic attack that left many dead in order to recuperate and form a plan. They quickly realize that they cannot remain with the neutral faction of Amity and must rather form a plan to overtake their enemy Erudite and learn the reasons behind a rather unexpected attack at the end of the previous book. Meanwhile, Tris struggles to cope with the loss of close friends and family members and suffers from painful flashbacks and paralyzing fear. However, as in the first book, when she is needed to stand up for what is right and fight the enemy to save innocent lives, Tris steps up to the challenge.

Positives: Tris is courageous even in the midst of fear. She struggles to overcome her fear and saves lives in the most unexpected moments. Additionally, she shares a deep love and committed relationship with her boyfriend, seeking reconciliation after frequent fights. Tris ultimately decides to save lives over following the crowd and seeks truth over fitting in, and she is willing to risk her life and relationships for what she believes is right. Finally, at one point in the story Tris sacrifices her life for the good of many others, willing to die in the place of other Divergent.

Negatives: There are a few instances of language. Tris has suicidal inclinations throughout the book and her boyfriend frequently follows her to make sure that she won't throw her life away. When she is sentenced to execution, she is content to die, not caring about life, but right before the moment arrives, she changes her mind and is ready to live and maintains that passion for life throughout the end of the book. Like the first book, the brutality continues in Insurgent. As full fledged war arises, the violence and body count also rises. Tris has flashbacks of family and friends dying during the attack in the previous book. She stabs an enemy soldier and must shoot a copy of herself in a simulation. Four beats his father in the same way he was beaten as a child. Tris' brother is knocked out. Multiple individuals are shot. A person under a simulation walks off the edge of a rooftop and dies while Tris watches helplessly. An enemy leader is shot and stabbed. Finally, the love relationship between Tris and her boyfriend continues and escalates. She touches him, kisses him, and spends multiple nights in the same bed as him.

-Selflessness v. selfishness
-Faction v. individuality
-True bravery
-Life v. death

Conclusion: This book seemed to very accurately depict the psychological aftermath of a sixteen year old girl engaged in war, and it isn't always pretty. While this book was a dark, there were frequent sweet moments throughout where Tris places others' lives before her own and shows mercy even to those who do not deserve it. However, I would warn readers that while this book may look like fun teen fiction, it is a serious story. Like the first book, it isn't a "happily ever after" kind of story, but it's worth the read.  I would recommend it for boys or girls 15+.

Rating: 3 (Decent)

11 January 2014

Book Review: Divergent

I am learning just how bad I am at blog upkeep, but between school, directing an independent film (www.thescarletlettermovie.blogspot.com), keeping in contact with friends and family, volunteering, and getting involved in Church and Bible studies, I don't think about blogging in my spare time, rather I think about reading (the books I really should blog about) or writing (which I consider a very worthwhile expenditure of time). Anyways, just being honest here. Without further ado: 

Author: Veronica Roth

Synopsis: Beatrice (Tris) is a sixteen year old girl in futuristic, dystopian Chicago which is now a city filled with five factions which each value one specific character trait: Courage (Dauntless), selflessness (Abnegation), peace (Amity), intelligence (Erudite), and honesty (Candor). At the age of sixteen, every individual must take a simulation test which will tell them in which faction they belong. They must choose which faction they wish to become a part of, and they must hold to the saying "faction before blood," leaving their families behind for a new life and a new family within their chosen faction. However, Tris is divergent, meaning that she can warp simulations so that the test does not work on her, and she is not told in which faction she belongs. She chooses Dauntless, a military-like faction and must face her worst fears as part of the initiation process, all the while being told that she must tell no one that she is Divergent because her life is in danger.

Positives: Tris struggles throughout the book with selfishness over selflessness, but when it really matters, she is selfless, even laying down her life in multiple instances. Moreover, Tris shows true courage and compassion in her care for others. Tris' family thanks God for the meal before eating dinner.

Negatives: There are a few instances of language. When someone commits suicide in the Dauntless compound, one of the leaders extolls it as taking great courage, however, Tris is disgusted by his eulogy and mourns the loss of a friend. Tris is brutal at times, taking her anger out on others in hand to hand fighting or later, shooting an enemy in the hand to make him talk. Additionally, Tris shoots a friend who is being mind-controlled by the enemy. There is also a love relationship between Tris and a leader in Dauntless. She touches him, kisses him, spends an afternoon in the same bed as him, and they discuss sleeping together in the near future. Additionally, a Dauntless leader, Four, has a history of abuse from his father including getting whipped with a belt and locked in a closet. Finally, in the end there is a lot of death as war breaks out, and Tris is engaged in the battle, killing and watching friends be killed.

-Selflessness v. selfishness
-Faction v. family 
-True bravery 

Conclusion: This book would make for an excellent discussion. There were a lot of thoughts concerning true bravery, selfishness, and strength. It also didn't sugarcoat real life which I appreciated. However, I would warn readers that there is negative contact (as discussed above), and the book is geared toward a more mature audience. It doesn't end happily ever after, but it's worth the journey. I also enjoyed the bits of psychology that Veronica Roth wove into her story.  I would recommend it for boys or girls 15+.

Rating: 4 (Liked it!)

12 August 2013

Book Review: The Host

Title: The Host
Author: Stephenie Meyer

Synopsis: Told from the point of view of an alien species invading earth and taking over human bodies by inserting themselves into the brain, this science-fiction story follows an alien named Wanderer (nicknamed "Wanda") and her human host, Melanie. When Wanda is still hearing Melanie in her head even after she should have subdued her, she struggles with mixed feelings of whether she really belongs in this body and annoyance over Melanie's presence. When she begins to follow Melanie's desires for a boyfriend and brother she's never met, she begins to see things from the other side and suddenly taking over other planets by controlling their species' minds doesn't seem so appealing as it once did.

Positives: Wanda is self-sacrficing and counter-cultural. While her species promotes peace and love, they cannot see that they are destroying the human race. Wanda tries to see things from the other perspective and grows in a genuine love and care for the human race and is willing to give up her life for them on multiple occasions.

Negatives: There are a few instances of language and some references and suggestions of experimentation and torture of the aliens (small creatures you could hold in your hand), which appalls Wanda. Additionally, this story has romance in it, and there are a few instances where Wanda kisses men with Melanie's body and the author describes the feeling of contact. Also Wanda talks about feeling a burning sensation every time she touches Jared (Melanie's boyfriend).

-Giving up a life for a friend
-Seeing life from another's perspective

Conclusion: I'm not a big fan of aliens but I do enjoy some sci-fi, and I enjoyed this story. The self-sacrifice by Wanda was to be applauded, and I was not expecting the selflessness I found in her as a main character. There are also some thought-provoking ethical questions (For example: there is an ethical dilemma when a human hiding out in the middle of the desert is dying of cancer and there is only enough morphine to last him a few days or give him an overdose so that he can die quickly), and the whole story asks "Is it okay to wipe out a race because they aren't perfect?" as the aliens believe that they are benefitting earth by bringing peace in their destruction of humans. It was a thought provoking book with minimal negative content and an overall good message. I would recommend it for boys or girls 16+

Rating: 3 (Decent)

04 January 2013

It's all about the story line . . .

I like to write, and I especially like to write screenplays, and therefore, as I watch films or read professional screenplays, I dissect them, and recently, I've begun to dissect some independent films. I may have reached an obvious conclusion, but I believe it's worth stating nonetheless: a well-filmed, well-acted, well-edited film can fail if it's story line is not well-written. This seems to be the underlying error of so many films. Whether they're one-linear weak story-lines or they're lacking a real problem it comes down to the plot. So now I find it very discouraging to write screenplays because I'm catching my storyline errors so early on now it's taking much of the pleasure out of it. :P Oh well, I'll keep trying and keep trying to improve!

Hopefully I haven't discouraged any of you writers who read this blog. Rather, be encouraged to keep working and keep writing quality story lines! Because a good storyline could outdo many of the films or books written today.

09 December 2012

Movie Review: Lincoln

Title: Lincoln
Genre: Biography, Drama
Rated: PG-13

Synopsis: Following the last three months of Lincoln's life, the film covers his undying resolve to pass the 13th amendment to end slavery. It reveals his family struggles, his inward conflicts, and his unique personality, as he also strives to reach peace with the Confederate States and a reconciliation of the union.

Positives: Lincoln is a compassionate and caring man, loving his young son and stubborn wife, and taking time to stop and talk to passerby's. He also is greatly concerned that slavery ends once and for all, speaking up for the slaves, stating that they are human and equal. Lincoln, his cabinet members, and many congress members have fought and continue to fight hard for the freedom of slaves, each of them individually carrying the heavy, caring burden.

Negatives: As a lawyer, Lincoln did twist truth and lie, and he struggles with what he's done, but he believes that the end justifies the means. There is some language, one battle that is not gory, but clearly displays warfare, and one hospital scene where a pit is filled with amputated limbs. There is also drinking and smoking throughout the film.

-It's worth fighting for life
-Take the time to care for the people around you
-Be quick to reconcile and forgive

Conclusion: This felt like a history lesson in a film, and a very well done film for that matter. It was excellent, and I truly appreciated the way the story dug into Lincoln's character, the good and the bad, and I have a greater appreciation for what he did during such a difficult time. It also makes me question what I would have done, if I would have twisted the law or stretched the truth. The film was not action packed or romantic, but it was thoughtful, like Lincoln. I would recommend it for ages 13+, boys and girls.

Rating: 5 (Loved it!) 

26 August 2012

Not posting. . .

So folks,

I figured I should post about why I'm not posting. I guess I've been really busy, and I kinda forgot I had this blog for a little while. I've started school for the fall, so life has been more demanding, but I'm still reading books and watching movies.

Some books I'm consuming at the moment are .  . .

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas  (Fiction)

Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge (How-To)

Against the Night by Charles Colson (Political from a Christian Perspective)

They are all very interesting books, and I'll have to review each one when I'm done!

Well, keep checking for updates, and at some point I'll have a real post up here!

30 July 2012

Book Review: Wuthering Heights

Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Bronte

Synopsis: When Mr. Lockwood rents Thrushcross Grange, just a little ways from Wuthering Heights, and decides to visit his landlord, Mr. Heathcliff, master of Wuthering Heights, his life is changed forever by one long story told by his housekeeper, Nelly. The story follows Heathcliff, his lover Catherine, her lover Edgar, his sister Isabella, her son Linton, Edgar's daughter Cathy, and Heathcliff's likeness, Hareton. All these characters are bound up in one large story of abuse, revenge, hate, romance, and love --- as some give into the odds and some defy the odds.

Positives: Nelly seeks truth, justice, and true love above all the revenge, hate, and grudges that gather thickly around Wuthering Heights. Nelly encourages Heathcliff to look to the Bible for truth, and she tries to instruct her young charge (Cathy) in the way she should go. Mr. Lockwood is only a curious onlooker, meaning no harm.

Negatives: This book shares the effects of abuse, hate, and revenge, which can be dark themes. There is a lot of abuse in this book, verbal and physical. There is some minimal language; marital unfaithfulness; and Cathy lies to and deceives her father multiple times.

-Someone else's hate can't destroy your love
-Hate destroys lives
-Forgiveness and reconciliation brings healing

Conclusion: I loved this book. I thought it was an excellently written story, engaging and interesting, and the way the author revealed the effects of abuse and later revenge and hate and more abuse, was powerful. The end I found a bit abrupt and somewhat confusing, but as I've thought about it more, I've liked it better. It is a dark story, and so I understand that some people may not like it. Finally, it's hard to describe, so you're better off reading it yourself. :) I recommend it for boys and girls ages 16+. It is definitely written for a more mature audience.

Rating: 4 (Liked it!)