Earlier this month I mentioned an event that Tanya at 52 Books or Bust was hosting called Free Range Reading. Basically, it’s an opportunity for book bloggers to take advantage of the lack of new books coming out at the end of the year and read anything they want. Crazy, right?! I’m embracing the concept by beginning with two books that are about as different from each other as possible but I enjoyed both.
Divergent (Divergent, #1) Publication date: February 28th 2012
Divergent is the second series to give YA dystopian fiction massive power in both the book world and in movies. I read Hunger Games and loved it, so was cautious about another similar trilogy. Happily, Divergent has the same qualities I like from Hunger Games—namely a strong teenage female whose interests lie far beyond boys and shopping—but with author Veronica Roth’s unique take on a future world. Instead of starting out dystopian the world of Divergent is based a utopian hope that by dividing people by one of five characteristic traits (Amity, Candor, Erudite, Abnegation, and Dauntless) they can avoid strife and war. At the age of sixteen each person chooses the quality they want to embody for the rest of their life. Into this concept comes Beatrice, raised in a selfless family, who chooses the Dauntless group. In doing so, she is taken out of her element and forced to fight for her life.
Divergent is definitely worth pursuing as a reader, especially if you’ve reached your limit with character-driven, literary fiction that requires a lot of thought. I love that type of reading but Divergent is plot, plot, plot with the only emotional element being a female protagonist who begins the book with little confidence in her own skills and ends by discovering her mental and physical strength—which is a real bonus when compared to the plethora of contemporary fiction that showcases young woman who are lost in cycles of self-abuse. This is good, quick, enjoyable reading, enough so that I will be continuing the series.
In The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin A.J. Fikry is the owner of Island Books, a bereaved husband who loves books but people not so much. It was his wife, Nicole who was the people person and got the books sold. With her gone, he runs on auto-pilot and has little to no patience with the book industry and a penchant for drinking himself to unconsciousness every night. When he has to deal with an overly enthusiastic publisher’s sales rep, his first edition of Edgar Allen Poe’s Tamerlane being stolen and someone leaves an unwelcome package in the store, it’s enough to make him want to shut the doors and close himself up forever.
Instead, it turns out that the sales rep’s recommendations are books he enjoys and his customers buy. More importantly, he begins to enjoy her. In dealing with what life has given him he finds himself opening up rather than shutting down. And on a small island with an even smaller population people begin to notice a change in Fikry and his store.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is a charming book, thanks to the cast Zevin creates around Fikry. For book lovers and those who are fortunate enough to have an independent store nearby it feels like a glimpse into the inner workings of a bookseller’s life. When it goes even further, into the inner workings of the heart, the novel becomes one a reader will cherish.