Blood Price (Review)

Title: Blood Price

Author: Tanya Huff

Publication Year: 1991

Pages: 272

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Source: E-book version borrowed from the public library

From the cover:

Vicki Nelson, formerly of Toronto’s homicide unit and now a private detective, witnesses the first of many vicious attacks that are now plaguing the city of Toronto. As death follows unspeakable death, Vicki is forced to renew her tempestuous relationship with her former partner, Mike Celluci, to stop these forces of dark magic — along with another, unexpected ally…
Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII, has learned over the course of his long life how to blend with humans, how to deny the call for blood in his veins. Without him, Vicki and Mike would not survive the ancient force of chaos that has been unleashed upon the world — but in doing so, his identity may be exposed, and his life forfeit.

(This is the first book in the Blood Books series.)

Of all the vampire books I’ve read, this is the only one I’ve seen so far that’s written by a Canadian. (I’m not counting Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series, because vampires only feature peripherally.) It was nice to read a story set in my own city, with landmarks and places that I recognized.

Blood Price introduces some rather complex characters, some in ways that aren’t usual for fantasy novels. For starters, Vicki – one of the main characters – has a physical disability, a degenerative eye disease that has changed her life drastically before the events in the book take place. There’s also clearly a complicated history between her and Celluci that becomes more obvious as the story progresses.

I also really liked the character of Henry, though he’s a bit less interesting to me than the others. I’ve seen much more fascinating vampire characters, to be honest, but at least he’s likeable enough and has an intriguing backstory.

To be honest, one of the things that struck me the most – and was part of why I like the series so much overall – was the attitude towards relationships and sex that is portrayed in Blood Price. There’s a nonchalance towards same-gender relationships, casual dating, and the ability to have multiple caring partners that I wouldn’t have expected from a book that’s over 20 years old. And yet, it manages to happen without there ever being an explicit sex scene, one of the things that many people criticize about Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series.

Overall, this was a fun, fast-paced read with an interesting plot and complex characters that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Rating:

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid (Review)

Title: Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

Author/Narrator: Jimmy Carter

Publication Year: 2006

Pages: 288 (audio length: 5 hours 2 minutes)

Genre: Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

President Carter, who was able to negotiate peace between Israel and Egypt, has remained deeply involved in Middle East affairs since leaving the White House. He has stayed in touch with the major players from all sides in the conflict and has made numerous trips to the Holy Land, most recently as an observer of the Palestinian elections in 2005 and 2006.

In this book, President Carter shares his intimate knowledge of the history of the Middle East and his personal experiences with the principal actors, and he addresses sensitive political issues many American officials avoid. Pulling no punches, Carter prescribes steps that must be taken for the two states to share the Holy Land without a system of apartheid or the constant fear of terrorism.

The general parameters of a long-term, two-state agreement are well known, the president writes. There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is violating key U.N. resolutions, official American policy, and the international “road map” for peace by occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians.

The one major positive thing that I can say for this book is that it’s well-written. It’s well-researched, well-planned out, and makes a very large effort to be well-balanced.

Palestine contains a great deal of information, both for historical context and to explain the current (as of 2006, anyways) situation on the ground. There’s lots of facts, biographical information of key players, and explanations of the negotiations that have happened between Israel and Palestine over the years. There’s also lots of statistics presented.

The problem with all of this fact-giving is that it ends up making the book a rather dry read. I had a hard time staying focused throughout Palestine, and I have a lot of prior knowledge of the situation and interest in learning more. I can’t imagine how hard it might be to wade through this book if you weren’t already at least a bit familiar with what was going to be presented.

Overall, while I thought that Carter did a good job presenting his case for a two-state solution rather than what’s currently happening, I don’t think that his writing style is approachable for the average person to read. Palestine is a good analytical text, but only for scholars and those already invested in the issues. It would not be a good place to start if you were just beginning to learn about Middle East affairs.

Rating:

Four (Review)

Title: Four

Author: Veronica Roth

Publication Year: 2014

Pages: 285

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian, Fantasy, Short Stories

Source: E-book version purchased from Kobo Books

From the cover:

Readers first encountered Tobias as “Four” in Divergent. His voice is an integral part of Allegiant. Readers will find more of this charismatic character’s backstory told from his own perspective in Four: A Divergent Collection. When read together, these long narrative pieces illuminate the defining moments in Tobias’s life. The first three pieces in this volume — “The Transfer,” “The Initiate,” and “The Son” — follow Tobias’s transfer from Abnegation to Dauntless, his Dauntless initiation, and the first clues that a foul plan is brewing in the leadership of two factions. The fourth story, “The Traitor,” runs parallel with the events of Divergent, giving readers a glimpse into the decisions of loyalty — and love — that Tobias makes in the weeks after he meets Tris Prior.

(This is a collection of short stories that tie into the Divergent series.)

At the point in Allegiant where Tris dies, I was upset. I think this was probably the first book I’d ever read where the main character dies and the story isn’t over yet. I know a lot of people were really upset by this – and so was I – but, on further reflection, I actually kind of liked it. It was more realistic than the alternatives, and more fitting with Tris’ character. I was still really pissed that she didn’t make it, and wished that she would have … but I understood why Roth had done it. The rest of the book was written from Four’s point of view, and I found that I rather enjoyed it.

So when I heard that Roth would be releasing a collection of stories written from Tobias/Four’s point of view, I really wanted to read them. I saw the book in an airport over the summer when I was travelling, but then forgot about it until earlier this month. I then snatched it up pretty much immediately.

My favourite parts of Four were the first three stories, the ones that covered Tobias’ life before Tris showed up. I really enjoyed reading about his life before leaving Abnegation, and about how he tried to fit into Dauntless, about how he became an instructor in time to meet Tris. It was a nice experience to get inside his head, to understand him a bit better. It made certain aspects of his relationship with Tris make much more sense.

I also, honestly, found it interesting to see some of the other characters and later events through his eyes. For one, I felt like seeing the incident of the eye-stabbing from a new perspective led to me really understanding how everything worked out afterwards. I didn’t really understand why things had gone that way just from seeing Tris’ point of view, but after seeing the incident from the side of the leaders of Dauntless – especially including Tobias’ knowledge of and interactions with Eric – it was a lot more clear.

If you enjoyed Divergent, even if you didn’t go on to read the rest of the series, definitely pick up Four. Roth does a great job of portraying one of the most important characters in the series in his own light, giving depth to what we already know through Tris. It’s not as heart-stopping a story as the namesake of the series, but still a good read.

Rating:

Allegiant (Review)

Title: Allegiant

Author: Veronica Roth

Publication Year: 2013

Pages: 544

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian

Source: E-book purchased from Kobo Books

From the cover:

What if your whole world was a lie?

What if a single revelation — like a single choice — changed everything?

What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

(This is the third and final book in the Divergent series, after Divergent and Insurgent.)

Coming after the crazy events of Insurgent, it would be hard for this book to compare in terms of straight-out action. It simply cannot. Instead, Allegiant goes a step further in exploring the backstory behind the factions, and even more. Roth explores the mythology behind her dystopia in this book, and Tris and the others struggle to make sense of everything while trying to save the city – and the people – that they love.

I have to say, I had a bit of a hard time with some of the things in this book. For starters, I didn’t love the dual-narrator format. While I understand why the choice was made to share the narration between Tris and Four, I found it a bit disconcerting after having “heard” the story completely from Tris’ point of view up until now.

There’s also a major event that happens partway through the book that completely threw me for the loop. I’m going to assume at this point that if you’re reading this review, you’ve already read the books, so I’m going to go ahead and spoil it: Tris dies. The heroine and main narrator dies! And the book isn’t even over yet! This is unheard of in books like this, and especially in YA stories. I was so shocked when it happened that I kept expecting something to be said, to say it wasn’t so. But it never did. It was a brave choice, and once I got over the shock, I really respected Roth for including it in her book.

Allegiant isn’t quite what I expected, but it’s still a great ending to a fantastic series.

Rating:

Insurgent (Review)

Title: Insurgent

Author: Veronica Roth

Publication Year: 2012

Pages: 544

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Dystopian

Source: E-book purchased from Kobo Books

From the cover:

One choice can transform you — or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves — and herself — while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable — and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

(This is the second book in the Divergent series, after Divergent.)

I liked this book just as much as the first, but for different reasons. Now that the characters and the world-building have been established, Insurgent is able to have more going on than before. There’s more action, and definitely more intrigue. The factions and the factionless are at each other’s throats now, trying to take hold of the power structure. The leader of the Erudite has new simulation serums to use on people – especially the remaining Dauntless – and nobody seems to be able to stop the craziness but Tris. There’s just so much happening in this book.

What I liked the most was the revelation of some of the backstory for the dystopian location of Chicago. I felt like it answered a lot of questions, particularly about the creation of the factions. It also allowed for some serious “damage control” to happen – it was interesting to see the fallout of the revelation, and how different people dealt with it or tried to spin it.

I had a hard time with Tris’ selflessness in some cases. She was actually being selfless to the point of being reckless, as Four eventually points out to her, and I found it really frustrating. In the end, though, it’s a part of her character, and I shouldn’t have expected any less.

Rating:

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