What I’m Reading | Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I’m going to start simply by saying this:

YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK! *deep breaths*

Beautiful Ruins according to Nick Hornby is “a novel unlike any other you’re likely to read this year.” the New York Times says it is a “monument to crazy love” and the Times calls it “an ambitious, large-hearted, exhilarating novel” and they are right. The book itself is about a man who lives in Italy and he falls in love with an American movie actress (with cancer) when she comes to stay at his hotel. Fifty years later he travels to California to find this woman who he lost way back in 1962 and embarks on an epic journey to find his love. 

beautifulruins

I first bought it initially because it is set, sort of, in Italy which is my favourite country and the blurb sounded incredibly sweet, how could I not want to read something so cute!? It’s also about California and actresses which is also what made me drawn. Normally I wouldn’t read something like this (I tend to go for more ‘dark’ stuff) but I had been drawn to it for a while- probably partly because the cover was all bright colours- and I gave in.

At first I couldn’t get into it. I admit that, but having came out of reading ‘Divergent’ which is a pretty easy read for someone my age, the writing style seemed a bit difficult and slow. Since I normally like to devour books I took the slow pace as a sign of it being bad and left it on my bookshelf unread from page 21 for three or four months and I picked it up again last week when, looking through my books, I realised I had not finished a few and this was one so I resumed reading. 

Once you come at it having taken a break from reading the style of the book is actually magnificent, if anything the slow pace helps you to contemplate everything that the book throws at you and therefore makes every word feel significant. And every word is significant. If there’s one thing I like it is when a novel uses words eloquently to create a story, where no word out of thousands is wasted and it is definitely a feel I get with Beautiful Ruins. 

The chapters are also well set out following the ‘points of view’ (though not in first person- thank god) of multiple people. It starts in Italy, 1962 and then jumps to California in a time simply known as ‘recently’ to 2008, and so forth, as the story unravels not only in the ‘present’ day Los Angeles but also in the past, in Italy and America, and it tells the story of how Pasquale fell in love with a woman, and how he found her. Every time a new character is introduced the next chapter is about them, it tells their part of the story. Though I’m not going to give examples because I want you to find it out for yourself. 

I love it. Beautiful Ruins is, I have to say, Beautiful. I’m only a little over a half way, if not more, and although I’m still reading it and do not know what is going to happen yet I could not recommend it enough. This book feels like it matters. I root for the protagonist- which is rare- I adore all the characters and how they all unwittingly held a significance. It’s a book that is uplifting and devastating at the same time, a tribute to love and cinema and so much more. If there’s one book you read this year it has to be this one. 

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What I’m Reading | ‘Four’ by Veronica Roth

Earlier in the year I read the Divergent series, following the story of the character Tris Prior on an adventure through a divided Chicago as she comes to terms with what, and who she is. My review on the series was a bit mixed, but I have actually came to the conclusion that I do actually really like the books, which is great (because I’d hate to have wasted my money)! It is for this fact that when I walked into Waterstones, the book shop, yesterday and discovered that Veronica Roth has released a new book I was ecstatic and bought it immediately. 

‘Four’ by Veronica Roth is a ‘prequel’ to the Divergent series, set two years in the past, however is not written in the voice of Tris Prior but in the voice of ‘Four’ or Tobias Eaton, a former Abnegation citizen who, on the date of the choosing ceremony, decided to transfer over to the Dauntless faction. The background of the story, as I read in the introduction, is that Veronica Roth started writing Divergent in the voice of Tobias but stopped thirty pages in because she didn’t think it was right, and then chose to write in Tris’ perspective for the most part (apart from half of Allegiant). Tobias is perhaps my favourite character in the series which is why I was excited to read it. I am currently halfway through. 

The story of ‘Four’ is written in four parts, wonderfully enough, as Four in the series only has four fears, hence his name, so it is only fitting to write it in four parts (and I do like a good play on words). After the story of Four, however, there are also three deleted ‘scenes’ which Veronica had changed or omitted and this intrigued me to see how these scenes may have played into the story. Great, my curiosity is held. The names of the four sections are:

The Transfer

The Initiate

The Son and

The Traitor and essentially follow Tobias as he chooses to leave abnegation, go through the initiation stages in Dauntless, settle into his new life and then find his place in Dauntless and become one of the most powerful members of the faction. The final quarter, The Traitor, then documents meeting Tris, though is not the first moment they meet as that is contained in the deleted scenes under the title ‘First Jumper, Tris’. Ah, it seems confusing. 

Reading it I am currently halfway through ‘The Son’ which the name itself intrigues me (I won’t say why that will spoil everything) but judging from the other titles I can only take a guess at the contents on the pages. The story itself is great. As I said, I adore Tobias Eaton and his voice as he is a strong and well developed character which comes across well in these short stories, which may be due to being the earliest developed character that Veronica Created. He almost, almost puts Tris to shame. At points the voice of Tris and the voice of Tobias sort of blend, as they compete with the authors own writing style but they’re still distinguishable enough to see them as separate characters. 

The story itself is a little bit repetitive as the training processes and initiation are just the same as Tris’, only less detailed and in a slightly different order, however that is understandable given the background to the story, it therefore is not quite Hunger Games repetitive with the multiple games. Also, the story sees behind the scenes of Tobias starting a career which is not talked about as much which is where I am at the moment in the book, and this is roughly where the repetitiveness ends and Tobias becomes more his own. I can only assume there will be a little bit more repetition as we here about him meeting Tris, as obviously both of the characters were there at the time, but of course they lead different lives and talk to different people so it won’t be too samey in the end. I would call this book ‘un-put-downable’ but I have been doing other things since I last read this book. 

I can normally testify how good a book is when I choose it over sleep, and last night I was battling with my eyelids into the early hours, just to keep reading, despite the similar early plots. If you are a Divergent fan then I truly recommend this book (but if you are a fan you most likely don’t need my instruction). If you are a fan of Dystopian futures (like me) and have not read the Divergent series yet, but want to, I also recommend it. Four’s character is more dramatic and developed than Tris, and is therefore a good way to introduce yourself to the fandom. You could also play around with the chronology of the stories and read Four before you read Divergent, and so forth, in an almost Star-Wars-esque fashion, or not. Just a suggestion. If, however, you have already read Divergent and was not a huge fan at all then I would not recommend it as the repetition may irritate or bore you a bit. However I personally love it and would solidly rate this book a 7/10. 

What I’m Reading | The ‘Divergent’ Series (Veronica Roth)

I’m very much aware that I am late on this bandwagon. You’d have thought I’d be on it like a moth to a flame given the fact that I am obsessed with books about dystopian futures. But the books were HUGE last year and has been turned into a film that was in cinemas just a couple of months ago, I am reading the Divergent series by Veronica Roth (if you couldn’t tell by the title). I admittedly watched the film before I read the books which is sure to earn a horrified gasp from a few people. I didn’t love the film all that much, it was good, but not brilliant, still the movie made me want to read the books to see how they compared, so I did. I read Divergent a couple of weeks ago, Insurgent no less than five days ago and I have started Allegiant today.

Divergent_UK_cover

Divergent, compared to the film, was a lot better in the book. If you’ve seen the film you might share my opinion that it felt like a one and a half run-up to the second one, with the most action happening in the last twenty minutes, but in the book there actually seems to be a point behind riding a zip-wire, eating hamburgers for the first time, and playing capture the flag, more of a point than is made in the film. Instantly the book was better than the film. On it’s own I still like it, it’s genuinely exciting and well written and is fun to read.

INSURGENT

Insurgent was better than the first book, by far, which is surprising, usually the second book is favoured as the worst in a series (see: Catching Fire in the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy and New Moon in the ‘Twilight’ saga) by popular opinion. It started with action and had thrill in just about every chapter and I was genuinely immersed in the story as it all unravelled. It was a lot heavier than the first book also, which made it feel less ‘teenage’ than the first book, which I liked. If I was to go all pretentious-literature-A-level-student-mode I would say it reflected Tris’ maturing in the aftermath of what happened at the end of Divergent, but perhaps it’s just a coincidence.

allegiant

Allegiant is the one I’m unsure of. For a starter I don’t like how it’s a hard-back while the other two are paper-backs, which is a very fussy thing to pick apart, but now it just looks weird. I also saw in the blurb that, unlike the other two, it is written in a dual perspective. For a starters it now ruins the consistency of the series, like Stephanie Meyer did with Breaking Dawn. Personally I dislike different perspectives, I often find that the structure is less fluid, often jaunted, opposed to if there was just one voice, but also they can sometimes be badly written if the author doesn’t manage to create separate the characters personal voices. I’m currently only four chapters into Allegiant, and at the minute am finding the dual-perspective a bit pointless and am finding it really hard to get into, but we’ll see.

Over-all I think the Divergent series is a bit of a tricky one. Divergent was mediocre, Insurgent was great and Allegiant I am really not sure of right now, but the concept is magnificent and if you are also obsessed with the dystopian worlds like I am then I think you definitely should read it once as it makes some particularly good points about human nature and the world as a whole.

***UPDATE***

Having now read over 100 pages I have no gotten into Allegiant  and am enjoying it. I still find the dual-perspective-thing a bit jaunty and at points hard to keep track of who’s talking, and get a little bit irritated when I’m really enjoying reading a perspective but then it suddenly stops and goes to the next person, but I’m getting over it. The storyline is none the less superb.

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