Divergent – Veronica Roth // Odd and the Frost Giants – Neil Gaiman // The Whispering Skull – Jonathan Stroud

Divergent:

“In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions – Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is-she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are-and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.”

It’s possible that, up until this week, I was the only YA-addicted person who had not read Divergent. But I finally read the first one! Admittedly, it was because Veronica Roth was coming to my office and I felt I should at least pretend to know what was going on, but still, I read it.

I didn’t know what to expect, but it was better that I thought it would be. Initially, I didn’t want to read it because a) dystopian’s not really my thing and b) ever dystopian novel I’ve read has always reminded me of the first dysptopian novel I ever read (Lois Lowry’s The Giver which I remember liking when I read it in grade six). Both of those reasons remain true even after reading Divergent, but it wasn’t bad at all.

The problem with reading something popular, of course, is that you occasionally already know what’s going to happen. For example, I already knew who “Four” really was, so the Big Reveal wasn’t as surprising (sidenote: I liked Four, but I cannot take him seriously because the guy who plays him in the movie will forever live in my mind as the Turkish ambassador in Downton Abbey who  – SPOILER ALERT – is felled by Mary’s feminine wiles). Plus – though this didn’t really affect my reading of book one – based on the general angst over the end of the series, I guessed what will eventually happen to Tris (and Wikipedia confirmed it for me). So while I’ll probably read the rest of the series, I’m not in any rush.

Odd and the Frost Giants:

“In this inventive, short, yet perfectly formed novel inspired by traditional Norse mythology, Neil Gaiman takes readers on a wild and magical trip to the land of giants and gods and back.

In a village in ancient Norway lives a boy named Odd, and he’s had some very bad luck: His father perished in a Viking expedition; a tree fell on and shattered his leg; the endless freezing winter is making villagers dangerously grumpy.

Out in the forest Odd encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle—three creatures with a strange story to tell.

Now Odd is forced on a stranger journey than he had imagined—a journey to save Asgard, city of the gods, from the Frost Giants who have invaded it.

It’s going to take a very special kind of twelve-year-old boy to outwit the Frost Giants, restore peace to the city of gods, and end the long winter.

Someone cheerful and infuriating and clever . . .

Someone just like Odd.”

I needed something short and light-weight to read on Friday (because I had left my actual book at work), so I went with Odd because it’s only 117 pages and I really wanted to read it.

It was super cute! Well, I thought so, anyway. Odd, in my imagination, was just adorable, all precocious and clever. Just over one hundred pages doesn’t give you a lot of time for extraneous words, but Gaiman still managed to throw in plot and character development. I also liked the way the Norse mythology was presented. Short, but cute.

The Whispering Skull:

“In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood’s investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in theTimes newspaper.

Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George’s curiosity attracts a horrible phantom.

Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood’s annoyance. Bickerstaff’s coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found.

Even though my “To Read” pile is literally half my height, I could hardly wait to get my hands on this book. When the first Lockwood & Co book – The Screaming Staircase – came out last year, I could barely put it down. The same goes for this one; I paused it to read Divergent, and then waited anxiously for the moment when I could pick it back up.

I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Stroud for years. The other day, I realized that, since I have the original cover (you know, the one that doesn’t match the rest of the series? Not that I’m bitter about that or anything), I probably read The Amulet of Samarkand when it first came out – in 2003. It’s been 11 years, but The Bartimaeus Trilogy is still high up on my list of “books that are awesome that I want to re-read”.

Though my memories of Bartimaeus and Nathaniel are a little fuzzy, I still absolutely love the adventures of Lockwood and co. Their dry humour occasionally makes me laugh out loud, and some scenes are quite scary, considering it’s a middle-grade book. Sidenote: I just want Lockwood and Lucy to end up together…I know it’s going to happen, their colleague George knows it’s going to happen…I can’t wait.

Also, HOLY FRACK, THAT CLIFFHANGER ENDING. I gasped so hard, I almost choked.

I sort of wish I had waited longer to buy this because then I wouldn’t have to wait so long for book 3.

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