Friday, August 26, 2016

Review - The Silent Governess

Original Title: The Silent Governess
Series: -
Author: Julie Klassen
Published: January 1st 2010

Publisher: Bethany House 
*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

I was ready to give this book the five GoodReads stars the other works by Julie Klassen I’ve read so far earned in their own right. However, and even when I tried, I can’t give The Silent Governess more than four. Don’t get me wrong. It is far superior to other books to which I gave four stars; but still, I can’t give it five. Let me explain myself.

Something I love about Julie Klassen’s writing is her elegance. Words flow and form beautiful sentences, the dialogues never feel forced, nor the metaphors, and she’s able to create characters you love from page one, like it happened here. Her stories are captivating, beautifully written, and this one is no exception. I love when an author writes a book with a well done research behind it. It is a true pleasure to feel she/he actually knows what she/he’s talking about, and in this book, that can be clearly seen (as in the others, too). I love the fact that Julie tells the story in the third person, but let her heroines tell the prologue and the epilogue with their own voices. It’s a very nice touch.

I must say, I’m not reading Ms. Klassen’s books in the order they were published in. That’s why, upon reading The Silent Governess I noticed lots of mystery elements I had already read in The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Those who have read both will understand: the anonymous letters, the mysterious veiled woman, and the mumblings of an old woman who’s mind is slipping, and no one pays real attention to her (but she knows the truth). Of course, this one is one was published earlier, but I couldn’t help noticing the similarities. I’m not criticizing, just stating the fact.

I loved Olivia Keene. She’s beautiful and smart, really good with numbers, and has inherited her mother’s calling to be a teacher. Something I loved about her is that, during the whole book, she stays true to herself. The novel opens with a prologue in which she’s a kid, and her father uses her quickness with math to place bets in the local tavern, something that leaves a mark on her, after the only episode in which she loses one of those bets, earning her father’s disappointment and disaffection. Years later, she comes home to see his mother being strangled, and flees after hitting the attacker with a fire-iron, fearing she may have killed him. But she doesn’t go far, and ends up at Brightwell Court, a house in which her mother used to work as a governess, and in which a party is being held. There, without meaning to do so, she overhears a conversation regarding Lord Brightwell’s son, Edward, and his parentage, so, upon being discovered, she’s not allowed to leave, and for that employed as under nurse to Lord Brightwell’s wards, his niece’s stepchildren. In despite of the book’s title, Olivia isn’t silent for a very long time. She’s soon able to speak again, though for the whole house, except Edward, she must seem mute. I guess her silence is rather metaphorical, given that she never fully reveals who she is, and where she comes from, except for a few things. 

There were some aspects I need to mention. First of all, I grew a bit tired of how Olivia was a temptation for everyone. First, Borcher, the poacher who almost raped her, if it had not been for Croome, who saved her just in time. Then, Johnny Ross, the stable hand in Brightwell Court. And then, Felix, Judith Howe’s brother. And the three of them without counting Edward, of course. I mean, I understand that servants were usually the object of such desires, but this felt a bit tiring and repetitive. And although some people thought Lord Brightwell himself was romantically interested in Olivia, we as readers (and Edward) knew that it was true he was interested, but not in that way. He thinks Olivia could be his daughter, as he had an affair with her mother back when she was a governess in his house, before marrying his wife, and she was actually pregnant with his child when she left. However, when Lord Brightwell tells Edward he thinks he may be Olivia’s father, I instantly knew it wasn’t true. Somehow I felt it was too early in the book to arise such a doubt, and that told me that Olivia wasn’t his daughter. Perhaps because that kind of revelations use to come closer to the ending of the story, but the question is that I didn’t think it was true.

Edward and Olivia’s love story is beautiful, but... I wasn’t completely satisfied with it. Julie Klassen writes very passionate heroes and heroines, and they are not the exception. A bonus point is that here there’s no love triangle, Edward falls in love with her a short time after she starts working on her house as the kids’ nursemaid, and they have lots of parent-like moments with them, like when they go ice-skating, or play in the schoolroom. But I felt like they only had a few moments together, and always with the kids present, so that couldn’t let anything more to happen. Actually, Olivia spends more time with Edward’s father than with him. I don’t doubt they love each other. But I waited a lot for them to have a truly heartfelt, emotionally open moment just for the two of them (save some furtive glances and stolen moments of closeness -like in the carpentry), and when they finally had it, it was at the very last page! Literally! It was really sweet, and very romantic, but too short! Too rushed! They passed from declaring their love to their happy ending too quickly, before we could truly savor it!

Another bonus point, in addition to the no love triangle topic, is that at the end, once the mysteries are solved, we learn who Edward’s real parents were, and get to know that his illegitimacy will deny him the earldom he thought was his during his entire life, there’s no magical solution for that. He can’t inherit, and he won’t. That door is closed. And that is what makes the ending atypical, and hence, a little gem. There’s not much to be done, no distant relative who suddenly leaves a generous amount of pounds that end’s up being the hero’s salvation, and allows him to live richly ever after. And needless to say, I liked that Olivia accepted him knowing that theirs wouldn’t be a perfectly comfortable life, because she’s no meek miss, and she’s more than ready to roll up her sleeves and work for a living. As for Edward’s true parents, I knew from the very start that Croome was related to him, in a way or another. I thought he was his father at first, so I only missed the target for a few inches. What I didn’t see coming was the identity of his real father, because his physical similarity with Lord Brightwell wasn’t entirely unjustified. He was a Bradley, after all, but the illegitimate son of the one he always considered his uncle, and Croome’s daughter, a servant in the household. Lord and Lady Brightwell adopted him, because they could never have a child of their own. And for the entire book, the family is stalked by an anonymous blackmailer who writes letters threatening to expose the truth (it bothered me a bit that Edward thought it was Olivia, but still). It was well written, and it kept me guessing to very end.

Something that bothered me a little where the unsolved matters. Like the missing cubes Edward carved for baby Alexander (Judith’s son) in the carpentry, and then those mysteriously painted ones that appeared when he gave them to the kid. Was it Croome? Probably, but we don’t know for sure. On the other hand, was Martha’s baby Felix’s child? Probably, again. And even more, I felt a bit disappointed that we don’t know how Eliza Ludlow and Mr. Tugwell’s story ended. Or at least, we don’t know if he finally proposes to her. But this three things are very small, and the story has a lot more, bigger pillars to sustain it, so they are only a tiny something I noticed.

The Silent Governess is not a book in which you can enjoy the parties and balls of the highest society, because it isn’t the point (sadly, because I like that). I guess that for many of us the word “governess” has become synonymous with “Jane Eyre” (she’s even mentioned in the little research extracts Julie Klassen adds at the start of every chapter). But here, I have to say, I saw more likeness to another Brontë sister’s work, Anne. Rather thanJane Eyre, this book reminded me more of Agnes Grey. Those who have read it will remember that both Agnes and her mother were teachers (like Olivia and Dorothea Keene), and worked as governesses, and by the end of the book, they both start a school for girls together, much like Olivia and Dorothea’s dream, that Edward helps them fulfill (by the way, Agnes Grey’s hero is also named Edward). Perhaps that book is generally less known, overshadowed by Jane Eyre, but it is still there, and it also features a governess, even when we instantly think of Jane at the mention of that word.

I did loved this book, and I was more than willing to give it five stars, but those were the little things I couldn’t help but notice. However, I will keep reading until I have devoured each and every single book written by this amazing author! If you like historical novels (especially Regency), hers -along with the classics by Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters- are the best I’ve ever read.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A bit about myself

Hello, everyone!

Today I just want to share a tiny post with you. I've been asked a couple of times why I named this blog "A Book and a Teacup", and first of all, I need to tell, it wasn't an easy choice. Before creating this I spent literally a month trying to figure out a good name for it. It is always the hardest part for me. Character names, or titles... They always take me most of the time.

So here is my story. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out a really poetic, beautiful name to catch the attention, and none of the words I came up were up to the task, as I know, it happens to everybody. It also happened that some of the names were already taken, so there wasn't luck there either. But the thing is that I wanted to make it special so bad, that I forgot the essential part. This blog was going to be about me, about the books I read, and my thoughts about them. So I simply thought, "what represents me?"

And only when I asked myself that question, I noticed that every single time I found myself reading, it was with the book in front of me (obviously), and next to it, a cup of tea. I've read lots of adventures and romances next a good old Earl Grey, but also red tea, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom, blueberry (I'm into not so common teas lately)... So I noticed I didn't need a fancy name for my blog to show who I am. I just needed to be honest about myself, for the blog to be a reflection of myself. 

So if you are thinking about opening a blog or something of the sort, and you can't figure out the name or the title, think about what defines you, what face do you want to show. It took me some time, but I noticed that I was making things a lot more complicated than they really were. For me, reading is sitting quietly with a good cup of tea, and I feel perfectly fine and happy, so that's the face I chose to give to my personal diary, this space entirely of my own.

Hope this answered your question, guys!
'till next time!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review - The Little White Horse

Original Title: The Little White Horse.
Series: -
Author: Elizabeth Goudge
Published: March 2nd 2005 (originally published in 1946)
Publisher: Salamandra (the Spanish, Hardcover edition) 


This is one of those books I read because I saw the movie first, The Secret of Moonacre, which I loved a lot more. And when I learned it is a favorite of my hero J. K. Rowling? So much better! But the truth is that, after a thousand difficulties, and the countless bookstores I went to find it, reading it was... disappointing. There was a moment in which I found myself reading and saying "Really? This is what I made such a fuss for?".

I'm not one of speaking ill of a book; it has to be very bad -or terrible- for me to give it one or two stars, or review it unfavorably, but the truth is that I didn't like it as much as I was expecting. There was a time in which I started wondering "when will the story begin?"

There's not a real conflict, and everything is so absolutely beautiful and perfect, that it is cloying. I never understood which was the evil the men in the Forest caused -besides being the atheists, and hence, the villains-, and the truth is that, thanks to the movie, I thought the pearls would have a more active role (that they were, at least, magical). Besides, I didn't think Maria's role in the whole situation was worthy of calling her a "Moon Princess", because that title didn't give her any special ability, or anything of the sort, in addition to being a "moon Merrywheater", because she was born at night.

I don't deny that there are nice moments, and that the descriptions of the places, like Maria's bedroom in Moonacre, are beautiful. But they are too extensive. Too many pages with descriptions, at the expense of what could have been a good story.

I've read enough books in my life as to know that not everything is so black-and-white as it is depicted here. The good guys are too good, and the bad guys are... well, bad, but I never understood which one was the real evil. Plus, at times I thought this book was cruel to women, like when the parson tells Maria that excessive curiosity in women is dangerous. It was like to yell at him, "What? Only men can be interested in things?". Perhaps it was a way of thinking during the era in which the book is set, but it clearly bothered me. How is Maria supposed to be a heroine in those terms? A hero is such because he decides that rules -mostly the stiffling ones, like here- no longer apply to him/her if they won't help to reach his/her goal. At least for me, if the hero estrictly follows the accepted rules, then that's not being a hero, but an obsequious idiot. 

In general, I recommend to watch the movie before reading the book; but The Secret of Moonacre is one of those movies in which, I think, if they are going to alter the original story that much, it is easier to change the names, and done! A new story to tell. I passed the pages eager to get to the moment in which Maria jumped from the cliff to the sea, and the white horses brought her back, but that never happened. Huge disappointment.

But every cloud has a silver lining, and it had one thing that fairly deserves to be mentioned. The moment in which the white horses appeared. I think it was the only one in the whole book in which I could truly feel inside the story. With this:

"...And it was not only that the darkness was yielding, for the silence was broken too. Far off, faint and mysterious, they could hear the sound of the sea."

The idea of hearing the ocean, even when it was far away and it shouldn't be heard, was lovely. The first touch of real magic I was expecting from page one. And then...

"To the east, where was the sunrise and the sea, light was stealing into the woods, like a milkwhite mist, and as the light grew so did the sound of the sea grow too. And then it seemed as though the light was taking form. It was still light, but within the light there were shapes moving that were made of yet brighter light; and the shapes were those of hundreds of galloping white horses with flowing manes and poised curved necks like the necks of the chessmen in the parlor, and bodies whose speed was the speed of light and whose substance seemed no more solid than that of the rainbow."

That was the most magical moment in the whole book, and I loved it. But it didn't make up for the fact that I passed the pages bored, and I never stopped waiting for the true conflict to begin.

Lots of people adore this book, because they probably read it as kids, and I understand it perfectly. But, sadly, it is not for me. Personally, I prefer happy endings after an uphill fight to conquer it, to deserve it, and not as it happens here, where everyone gets married and is happy (including Maria, and at 14! - seriously?).

So, in short, this isn't such a bad book, but it is definitely not for me.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A MUST VISIT for bookworms around the world!

Hello, everyone!

The world has many wonderful places, and today, I want to share with you one of my favorites, a true jewel of my beautiful Buenos Aires. As you know, if you read my little bio, I am from Argentina, and the truth is that not many people know of the treasures our southern country holds in its cities. Buenos Aires has true gems in its streets, and today, I want to share with you one of those I love the most, that must be in every traveller and book lover bucket list.

Yesterday, I had a dentist appointment, but going there isn't always bad. One of the things that always makes those days better is that, three blocks away from the clinic, I can visit one of the most amazing bookstores ever built. And it's not just me saying it. The British newspaper The Guardian named it as the second, most beautiful bookstore in the whole world. Let me introduce you to El Ateneo Grand Splendid.

I just can't resist it. Every time I'm around the area, I have to visit this place. If you look up, and let your eyes wonder on that wonderful decoration and splendor, you can easily lose yourself in the fascination, and believe you actually are in the 20th century. Let's explore some of its history, ok?


It was built in 1917, and opened in 1919, meant to house a cinema-theater, on the foundations of what once was the Norte National Theatre, which took the name of Grand Splendid. Back in its theater days, this place had four rows of boxes and the capacity for a 500 people audience, and was famous for the tango presentations and the important figures that performed on its stage, like Carlos Gardel. The theater even had a Radio, installed in 1923.

Today, the bookstore still keeps that old, wonderful splendor, with the original decoration intact, and the red, velvet curtain; but, most definitely, one of the most amazing things this place has are the frescoes in the dome, painted by Nazareno Orlandi, which have their own story to tell.

They catch my attention every time I look at them. It shows an allegorical representation of Peace, painted in 1919 as a celebration for the end of the I World War. The Peace is represented by a sensual female figure, next to a ladder sorrounded by flower garlands, clouds, doves, angels and nymphs, everything as a way to show that the world has left the cruel war and its horrors behind. And on the opposite side, on the left, we can find another female figure holding a projector whose film wraps around the Peace, as if connecting the new technology with the praises towards love, peace and harmony.


It's beautiful, isn't it?

The bookstore has worked there since 2000. In what used to be the private boxes, now you can sit to read and have some coffee, or find one of the comfortable chairs where you can take any book with no purchase required (there's a very nice table with comfy chairs around the romance area). Or you can take a sit in the restaurant and confectionery (where the old stage used to be), order your favorite drink, and simply enjoy a good moment listening to the piano music that always floats around.

If you ever have the chance to visit Buenos Aires, you won't want to miss this place (and you will probably find me walking there). Any book lover will find it fascinating. I can tell many people from other countries visit it; once I helped two Chilean women to find the price of a book, and yesterday, I saw and heard people from Japan, the USA, France, England, and many other countries. After all, who can resist going there? Even if you don't love books, the place itself lures you in with its great beauty.


If you want to see more, you can find more pictures and see the decoration details here: http://www.ba-h.com.ar/buenos_aires/libreria_el_ateneo_grand_splendid.htm#.V6-ImHVS3VN

Thanks for reading! And please, feel free to leave your comments and opinions!
'till next time!




Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Typical Bookworm Problem!

Hello, there!

So far, I've just posted my reviews on some of the books I've been reading for the past year, and the past months, as I followed my reading challenges, both of them to read at least twenty books in twelve months. This year, I'm almost there, there's only three books left!

If you are like me, probably you have a to-read least with over a hundred titles, and every time you read one, you end up adding two or three more to the list. It's an ever growing novel bucket list. Right? So, there's a point in which we bookworms asks ourselves, "and now? What I will read next?", and the answer simply doesn't come, because we have so many options, that we don't even know for which genre we are in the mood for. Maybe fantasy, or romance, or a nice chicklit to relax a bit after your last reading left you reeling on your sit. Personally, it happens to me a lot. So I decided to find a possible way out for our little big dilemma.

True to my love for Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, I went for the method that lead them both to be two of the greatest stories I've ever read: the sorting.

Let me introduce you to my to-read jar.


Isn't it cute?

I got the idea from Pinterest, and I loved it! So I searched my house, grabbed one of the many empty jam jars left around, and used an old stencil to decorate it, painting those butterflies, and the black arabesque on the other side, in acrylic. Very homemade, nothing very hard for us who don't do very well with art (but still love it), and true to its purpose. Inside, I put little papers with all those titles I've been adding to my to-read list over the years, and they look pretty much like this:


I was going to make them handwritten at first, but then I typed them; after all, it was faster. Those went into the jar folded in two, so I wouldn't cheat. From there, I would I pick randomly, and voilá! There is my next reading. The fun thing is that anything can come out, but I admit (not very proudly) that more than once I returned the paper to the jar, whether because I wanted to leave that book for another, better moment, or simply because I couldn't get it yet (as you know, some books are more difficult to find than others), and went for another I already had in the ever growing pile. 

It has worked so far. Sometimes we don't read not because we don't have books, but because we have too many, and all of them present a unique path, with their own charms and twists and turns, luring us in... All of them at the same time. So here it is an idea to help you make the choice. If not for reading the first book that comes out sorted, at least you can clear your head and discover which genre you feel more like reading this time.

Please, feel free to comment and leave your questions! Also, you can visit me in my Pinterest account, here https://es.pinterest.com/cintiatch/, and see my collection of book covers. And if you don't know what to read next on whatever genre you like (or want to try something new), and need recommendations, feel free to leave a comment, and I'll do my best to help you to figure out your next book!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Review - A Spy's Devotion

Original Title: A Spy's Devotion
Series: The Regency Spies of London, #1
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Published: February 9th, 2016

Publisher: Waterfall Press

*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

First of all, I need to say something. This is my second book by Melanie Dickerson, and as I didn’t like the first one I read, I had very low expectations with this one. However, I decided to give her another chance, as this novel came out sorted [twice] from my to-read jar. And I’m glad I did it. It is such a beautiful book!

In A Spy’s Devotion, we find ourselves in Regency England, and meet headfirst the lovely Julia Grey, our heroine. She’s an unloved orphan, ward to her aunt and uncle, the Wilherns, who took her in when her parents died, leaving her homeless and penniless, so she grew up alongside her cousin Phoebe, who is, by the way, the only person in the family who actually cares for her. Upon first meeting Julia, I thought I wouldn’t like her, as she was so innocent and sweet, and had one or two moments that kept me rolling my eyes, like when she feels guilty because she only smiled to Nicholas Langdon –our hero–, when her cousin Phoebe is so hopelessly “in love” with him, determined to marry him, and Julia has agreed to say everything in her power for Nicholas to pay attention to her, fall in love, and hence, propose. She actually feels guilty way too much, and there were some moments in which I felt a bit tired of her saying so over and over again. But there’s some things I really loved about her. Julia Grey is everything a lady should be during the era. She’s beautiful but modest, unaware of her own charms and beauty, and although she often ends up relegated in favor of her cousin –given her wealth, her social standing, and her many more chances of making a good marriage–, that doesn’t mean the world doesn’t see her blue eyes, her dark hair, and her wonderful talents. I truly loved the fact that Julia definitely has bigger dreams than those of getting engaged to a rich, titled man; she’s romantic in her own way, as she has an amazing talent for music. But as we know, women’s art was to keep them entertained rather than having the chance of turning into their livelihood, and though Julia would have a rightful place as a performer and composer, playing for kings and queens in the courts of Europe, the fact of being a woman has closed all the doors for her, limiting her talents to a few pleasantries when she plays for others to dance, or for herself.

However, she doesn’t go completely unnoticed, and of course, the one who sees all her virtues is Nicholas Langdon, the man Phoebe Wilhern wants to marry desperately. I loved him, utterly and completely, since his first page. He’s kind, loving, honest, and brave, a good man in every possible way. He falls in love with Julia since the first moment he sees her (and she, with him), in a ball, in despite that he notices her efforts to turn his attention to her cousin Phoebe, but he’s unable to marry her; he has no fortune, and neither she does. He’s just a soldier, convalescent after a war injury, in possession of a diary containing coded information about General Wellington, something he must keep away from the traitors’ hands. But he’s assaulted in the street, and the diary is stolen by two men sent by Julia’s uncle. And so begins her brief involvement in espionage, secretly gathering information to pass to Nicholas, to prevent the general’s assassination. I admit I was terrified when her uncle found out about her (though it wasn’t so difficult to connect the dots and discover who was passing his information to the War Office), and when he told her he wanted to marry her off to Edgerton to shut her up, or he would kill her himself, he was truly scary. I hated him, and Edgerton, and I loved Nicholas when he rescued her from him at the ball, without thinking twice that it was the second time he was asking her to dance, and without noticing that he was going to be the talk of the ball. He just thought of her, and the situation she was in, and he did what he had to do. He is a true gentleman.

By the way, I also loved his sister, Leorah Langdon, as a character, and I really hope the next book on this series is about her. She’s definitely an amazing young woman, with the best attitude towards the world she lives in and its rules, always honest, and always true to herself. She’s a great friend to Julia, as she is her polar opposite, and proved to be the best of friends.

There were a few things in this book that I want to mention. First of all, Sarah Peck’s story. Her introduction is too brief as to feel something as a reader when she leaves to become a governess, and although, in the next chapters, Julia warns her about her master’s son’s intentions, she still falls for his charms, and ends up pregnant. Upon knowing that, I knew exactly how her story would continue, and in fact, that’s what happened, actually; there wasn’t much of a surprise for me there. I knew she would go to the Children’s Aid Mission, and eventually, would marry John Wilson. It wasn’t so difficult to guess. But I was happy for her, anyway. And on the other hand, I wish we had known more about Edgerton and Henrietta’s ending. They stubbornly wanted to marry Julia and Nicholas, respectively, and all the sudden they eloped, out of nowhere, and there was no more information about it, even after all he did to have Julia’s hand, and how hateful he was. I thought at least, he would end up arrested. Plus, Henrietta’s appearance is a bit sudden, all we know is that she was Nicholas’ first love, and I think it was silly of Julia to think he could possibly marry her, after everything she and Nicholas went through; not just the espionage, but all those dances they shared, his help and loving care when she was ill with pleurisy, and when she was shot trying to save his life, not to mention all of those lingering looks and brief kisses he managed to sneak onto her hand. After all those moments, in which he proved how much he cared, it truly bothered me that she still thought him capable of doing such a wretched thing, when he told her to meet him in the garden, and she saw him with Henrietta. After all they went through, she really thought he did that on purpose, and I couldn’t believe her. Come on, Julia, you are innocent but not stupid, you can’t think that way at this stage of the game!

He even tells her so: “I would have married you even though I didn’t have a fortune to offer you.”. He truly loved her, we knew that already, and Julia could have guessed it, but she didn’t. She never had the hope that Nicholas loved her back. But I liked her because of her evolution as a character and as a person. She starts the book being a sweet, almost naive girl, but she’s no fool. And along the way, she grows into a more determined woman, knowing that the rules of society don’t always match the ones in her heart, and that she needs to be honest with him about her feelings, finally giving him the letter she had poured her heart into.

She marveled at what she had done. The old Julia would have been lightheaded and faint at the thought of writing such a letter, of flouting society’s rules and laying bare her heart. And though he may reject her love, she still did not regret that she had told him. He was a respectable man who would not take advantage of her, and she saw nothing wrong with him being so straightforward, even if society strictly forbade such declarations from a woman.

She evolves as a human being, knowing that she needs to break society’s rules to stay true to herself. Nicholas and Julia love each other mostly because they’ve seen each other at their worst, and they still want to be together. Maybe they are a bit too flawless as characters, almost with no faults, but that doesn’t take away the beauty of their story. They faced losing each other to marriage to someone else, and even to death (Julia twice, no less), and it was enough to see there was no way they could be happy without each other.

The ending was beautiful, and it left me with a big smile on my face. It wasn’t like I doubted they would end up together, but it was utterly beautiful the way he ran after her when she left the house where she worked as a governess, and saved no kisses, when they finally acknowledged their feelings. Something I truly value is the fact that it wasn’t a happy ending for everyone; not everything ended up perfectly. Julia’s relationship with Phoebe ends up in suspense, as it cannot be what it was again, not after she worked against her father, and he’s a fugitive, wanted for treason. Phoebe never heard Julia’s advices about the open display of her feelings, and she didn’t change in that aspect, but in the end, she was cured of her obsession with Nicholas, and married Daniel Dinklage instead. Their relationship ends up broken, but Julia doesn’t regret she helped her country, if briefly. But, among all the nonsense Phoebe talks, I agree with her when she tells Julia she needs to stop being so cautious and let herself flirt a bit, without feeling so guilty about it. She means no harm, after all, but she mistakes being nice with being flirtatious, and that kept me rolling my eyes from time to time. Come on, Julia!

Still, I’m definitely going to read the rest of the books in this series, it was a nice surprise from this author. I can’t wait for the next one!
 

Review - Allegiant

Original Title: Allegiant
Series: Divergent, #3
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: October 22nd, 2013

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books

*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

I can’t even explain how I feel. I’ve been unable to smile or laugh for hours. I can’t think of other things. Because now, I know what it is to have your heart ripped out from your chest, and crushed into a million tiny pieces of the most numbing pain I’ve felt with a book in, literally, years. Allegiant is the very definition of ugly crying. I know lots of people for whom the ending was spoiled (I was not among them), but one thing is having known it like that, and actually reading it in the book, passing the pages and trying to bite back your tears with every word confirming the truth of what happened. Until the last moment, I had the hope that something –anything– would happen, telling me that it wasn’t true, that what I just read had only been a trick. But though I’m pretending that I haven’t been stabbed in the chest, the pain is blinding, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ll do my best with this review, even in denial, as I am, right now. There was a lot of revelations in this book, but it is like the ending dominates everything, and I can’t concentrate.*Deep breath*. First things first.

I was originally going to give it a more negative review. But then I thought better, and I decided to be kind, not because I liked or disliked the ending, but because of the huge step that writing it actually meant. It is a big risk, but it put aside all possible cliches and platitudes expected from a YA novel. Veronica Roth was truly brave (dauntless, if you want) when she made the decision of sealing Tris’ fate like that, in despite of what we readers may think after it. We all can agree that it was a decision you don’t take lightly, and, in despite that I cannot stop thinking “She’s gone, she’s dead, she’s not coming back”, trying to wrap my head around it, I suddenly realize how much the characters in this story grew on me. Upon this ending, I discovered that this wasn’t just another book, that I came to love all of them in a way I didn’t even noticed during this whole journey.

Sometimes, all it takes to save people from a terrible fate is one person willing to do something about it

They say that there’s some fictional deaths you will never recover from, and I feel this is one of them. I loved Tris. Since the first book, I liked her more than I thought I would. But most of all, I respect her. She is brave, determined, honest, and kind. She proved she was more than what met the eyes, she honored her parents legacy, and to the last moment, she was true, and loyal, to her friends, and to herself. She truly earned the “heroine” title, and I will always remember her, and admire her for what she did. Her death is not the end, but the beginning. Reading those pages, I suddenly felt the tears in my cheeks, knowing that, even when I was begging it were all a trick to make us believe something that wasn’t real, I knew there was no turning back. But although I can’t help the pain, I know she wasn’t completely gone for those who loved her, proving that her sacrifice was worth it. 

I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me.

My already broken heart broke even more, if that was even possible, when they took her ashes and spread them in the wind from the zipline in which she felt so free, during the one that would be the Choosing Ceremony day, if the factions hadn’t been eliminated. I can’t even explain how much I cried. Because of her choosing that day she cut her hand and let the blood drop fall in the Dauntless bowl, things started to change. She was set free. And because of her, people were able find their freedom, and their chance to finally live instead of only existing in a couple of places and activities they didn’t even chose by themselves, determined by someone else. As I said before, Tris is a true heroine, and she earned my respect and my admiration. She truly gave everything for love, and for the greater good. In the first book, she called herself “selfish”, but now I understand things better. She may have been selfish in the little things, but in the end, she was who I saw she was since the first page of the first book, and since that first blood drop that fell in the middle of the two bowls, during the Choosing Ceremony. In the end, she was both: selfless, and brave, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for those she knew it was worthy. Tobias said once “I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren't all that different”, and at the end, Tris proved him utterly right.

As for the rest of the book, it is very good. There’s plenty of new villains, like Nita, and David, in addition to Evelyn and her iron-fist system in the factionless city. I had more questions about the experiment that weren’t answered. In the Bureau, they said there were other cities that were like Chicago, in which the government had installed the faction system as a way to control the population and try to perfect their genetic material, in order to improve human nature, but they didn’t give more information, except for what happened in Indianapolis; I wanted to know more, like if the factions were the same five we knew in Chicago, or if there were Divergents there, and how the people there dealt with Divergence... But there’s not much about them. Though I find very interesting the whole plot around their genes, and how things turn out for Tobias and his not-so-full Divergence. I noticed it was research there, and it was good to finally get some answers about the mysteries we came to read about both in Divergentand Insurgent

As for the love story, Tobias and Tris aren’t really my favorite couple ever (I actually liked better Tris’s parents love story). They fought a lot, which they wouldn’t have if they talked more, but I don’t want to say anything negative about them, not after the way they ended. Tobias’ despair and denial killed me, because even when they disagreed in many things, there was real love between them. Their night together was brimming with happiness, honesty, and pure love, and for that I knew something terrible was coming. But I have mixed feelings about them. I still believe their story shouldn’t have ended that way, but at the same time, it wasn’t the typical ending. It was painful, it was terrible, but it made the story all the more unique.

As for the other deaths in this story, I was really sorry about Tori, especially after I read her brother was still alive, and she had killed Jeanine to avenge his death. But more than her, I suffered for Uriah. I came to love him as much as his friends, and I didn’t want him to end up like that. But just like Tris, he was loved until the last minute, and forever remembered as the great guy he was. He didn’t had to die, but he did, and I hate it. However, I was able to make peace with other characters, like Caleb, after knowing that it wasn’t utterly his fault when he made the mistakes I hated him for. And Peter! What a coward! He choose the easy path, and the worst part is that he didn’t remember doing it. I thought I would like him more after what he did in the second book, but it didn’t happen.

I can’t say it was a happy ending, but it wasn’t a bad one. There was too many painful losses as to end this book with a smile. But, in a way, I felt all that sorrow was worth it, because, though the story doesn’t finishes with happiness, it does with hope. Tris’ sacrifice brings hope, and I would hate this story if it had been in vain. But it wasn’t. Her death brought the people in Chicago the chance to be free, to truly choose their own destiny, and be at peace with the world. One death brought the opportunity to live to hundreds of people, and I think that’s why I can deal with it, because otherwise, I don’t think I would accept it easily.

My applause and respect to Veronica Roth, she earned it! She did a risky, but brave move with this book, and in despite of how much it made me suffer, I’m glad I decided to read this whole trilogy. I’m sad, but not disappointed, that’s for sure!

Review - Insurgent

Original Title: Insurgent
Series: Divergent, #2
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: May 1st, 2012

Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books

*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to paraphrase myself. 

NEVER judge a book by its movie. Ever. Especially with this one.

I liked it more than I thought I would. Definitely, there’s is more about this saga than what the movies show, and we can’t take them as reference for the books, because they are not the same. In Insurgent, we find a new set of characters, as well as those we already know from the first book. After the disaster Dauntless caused, manipulated by Erudite, Tris, her friends, and part of the Abnegation and Erudite factions need to flee in order to avoid capture, finding a refuge in the Amity farms, outside the fence that isolates Chicago from the rest of the world. And things only go from bad to worse.

Surprisingly, I discovered that I like Tris. At first I thought I would hate her, that I wouldn’t be able to swallow her as narrator, but I actually like her. She’s no mild, lame heroine, but a strong, honest, selfless, and brave one. She doesn’t wait for things to happen, or solve themselves. If she wants somethings, she goes and makes it happen (like any self-respecting Dauntless, for that matter). Life only gets more complicated for her, and if she were another type of heroine, I would probably be here criticizing the fact that she mentions how guilty she feels –over Will’s death, and teaming up with Marcus, Tobias’ abusive father– too many times, but then I think, she’s only sixteen years old, and only one month has passed since the events in the previous books. She’s still a girl, and, given all this, she needs to grow up quickly, so I excuse her. Still, she clings to the hard-won freedom she found in Dauntless –the faction she still considers hers–, and I like that she’s so very determined; once she made her mind, nothing can dissuade her. She doesn’t want anyone to suffer in her place, and when Jeanine threatens to use her friends as puppets and force them to kill themselves if at least one of the Divergents doesn’t appear on Erudite, she is the first one stepping forward, ready to save her friends, the people that has become her family.

The only thing about her that kept me rolling my eyes was her relationship with Tobias. In the first book, there was actually feelings there, if not very well written, but you could tell why they fell in love. But here, even when there was some character evolution, I got tired of them fighting over and over again, over the secrets they weren’t telling to each other. All the time arguing about this or that thing they hid or didn’t mention, never agreeing on anything, except on their physical attraction, of course, something that makes Tris sneak into his bedroom more than once, in a couple of pointless scenes, except one (when he makes her promise she won’t turn herself in the Erudite headquarters, and she lies, doing it anyway). They kiss a lot, but there’s not much written around their feelings. Thankfully, the whole story has other pillars sustaining it, because if it depended entirely on the love story, there wouldn’t be much there to keep the whole thing going (and interesting).

Something I really liked about this book is that we get to know more about the other factions. I was curious about them, about how their customs were, and their initiations, and luckily, here we get more insight. I even grew a bit fond of the Amity faction, they seem to have a really peaceful lifestyle, with their apple orchards, their farms, and their no-conflict life philosophy. And on the other hand, we have Candor, the truth-seeking faction. Their occupation is a bit scary, especially the initiation process, because they force you to spill out your secrets, after the injection of a serum, so you have nothing to hide, and hence, no reason to lie. I wouldn’t have picked that faction for the world, and I support Christina on this one; some things must remain hidden. 

As I wanted when I finished the first book, here in Insurgent we get to know more about Jeanine (if only a little), whose part as the villain mastermind continues. She’s fascinating, in the way she’s more a machine than a human being. She’s scary because of her Erudite mind, as she can both command an army from a computer (previously dominated by a serum and being used as puppets, not being aware of their actions), and use cruel, almost-torture methods in the name of scientific research. She’s scared of those things she can’t control and/or frame in a scientific explanation. She’s driven mad by Tris’ divergent nature, and I shared her satisfaction when she realized she broke her, and her only solution for her to stop being a problem was getting rid of her. I love a hero/heroine when only death can stop them, and only with a syringe they can stop them from fighting back, tooth and nail. As for Jeanine’s death, I was expecting it would happen as I saw it in the movie, when actually, the whole scene is completely different, and I never saw it coming. Tori turned out to be fiercer than I thought, and though she made a mistake branding Tris as a traitor, after all ended up doing what Jeanine wanted: killing her, and thus eliminating the only person who knew how to handle the computer containing the secret Abnegation sought to protect and reveal at the right moment. Her death was a lot more bloody and cruel than I thought it would be, and somehow I felt sorry to see her gone, because she was intelligent and rational, but also a bit mad, and she made a great villain.

And if we are talking about villains, I hated Caleb on this one. My God, he really swallowed that “faction before blood” thing. Influenced or not by Jeanine, I was so mad at him for being a traitor and doing that to his own sister! I was sympathetic with him when he left Abnegation for Erudite (I would have left that gray faction too), but this is just unforgivable. He calls himself an Erudite but he doesn’t have much of a brain. As I read once, intelligence is not the same as wisdom. He maybe smart, but he knows nothing about the bonds of love and friendship, and doesn’t see that the whole faction system isn’t right. However, the Erudite people are still nice and funny (when they are not in Jeanine’s team, as the ones living with the Amity faction), so Caleb is just an idiot and a traitor. 

And on the other hand, we have Evelyn, Tobias’ estranged mother, until then considered dead. She left Abnegation when Tobias was still very young, and has been living among the factionless (who, by the way, are so many that practically make their own faction), eventually becoming their leader. I don’t know if I should consider her a villain. She’s definitely strong, and bold. She did a risky move after taking over the Erudite headquarters, depriving their allies from their weapons, and I think that she reflects the true potential of the factionless group: underestimated, mistreated, but capable of great strength, unity, and loyalty towards a common goal. She wants to put an end to the faction system that left them out of society, and create a whole new city where everyone can live without the pressure of belonging here or there, or, in their case, being social outcasts. I think that she has a lot of potential as a character, and knowing about her past was really interesting, so I hope there’s more development ahead.

And the ending!! That cliffhanger was just mean!! Now, I just need to know more. It’s not an option. The sole mention of the Prior last name there made my jaw drop, I just can’t... I don’t... AH!!! I never thought I would like this saga, but it is great, and I definitely recommend it if you like dystopian books. Do not let the movies convince you, especially the one based on this book. That phrase we use so much, you know, “the book was better”, is here truer than ever. Give it a chance, it is a pleasant surprise!