The Divergent Series

I’m not one to jump on a bandwagon. Things that are trendy or in vogue are not particularly appealing to me, lessened by the fact that they are as popular as they are. Given this fact, I could not have cared in the least when the YA trend swept by several years back. The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Maze Runner were among the numerous series to be celebrated and slated for blockbuster films, but I was not one of the crowds to surge to a library so I could read the next installment before the film came out. I did read The Hunger Games before it was made into a popular film, but that was also when I was reading George Orwell so – social commentary? Either way, it’s taken years and years for me to actually read even another book targeted for youths of my age.

That is, until my friend asked me to read the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I finished it over the course of the weekend, but not because it was a particularly pleasurable read. In fact, I recommend you stay away from the series. With as much kindness as I can summon, I tell you that the writing is poor, the worldview questionable, and the content too mature that it should not be dwelt upon, least of all by adolescents with raging hormones.

While I am not prone to do negative book reviews, I think a good lesson can be learned from them as a writer. With that in mind, I’d like to point out the specific points that I thought were a significant detriment to what could have been an otherwise enjoyable series. I will not be focusing on questionable moral points, as each person has a different set of guidelines for what is safe for their household. I am merely attempting to point out the writing mistakes that I think really caused the story to be less enjoyable.

Tris’ Obsession With Four – I know that YA books seem to have a prerequisite about romance, but there is a clear difference between a romantic attraction and obsession. For the majority of the books, Tris’ thoughts bounce between being worried about her status as a secret Divergent and how much she thinks Four is hot. Or she wants to run her hands through his hair. Or something equally disgusting. (If you can’t tell, I tend to skip those sections). I’m good with an old-fashioned romance story, but romance shouldn’t quite share an equal status with something like, say, I don’t know…the story?!

Trilogy Planning – While not every author is as meticulous as J. K. Rowling, thought should be put into planning any type of series, be it trilogy, septology, or just a two-parter. Veronica Roth seems slightly guilty of having not completely thought out her book series. The two sequels are chock-full of moments that should have been set up from before we even suspected such moments would come. From shocking revelations about Tris’ mother to the truth about the Bureau’s connection with Jeanine Matthews, this vast backstory is taken for granted without any previous set up.

Characters – While many of the characters have a fair amount of personality, the one thing most of the characters tend to lack is motivation. Why does Caleb betray Tris? What causes Peter’s change of heart at the end of the series? What is up with Evelyn and Marcus? In short, the character’s motivation and change are not fully explained. While first-person points of view can often be in danger of this flaw, this series is especially guilty of it.

While I can think of some more minor flaws, they tend to fall under these major categories. As I stated before, the content of these books is rather mature and thus is not a particularly great read on that count alone. All in all, I find that most YA books tend to have these sort of flaws in abundance, a reason I don’t often find myself perusing the teen section of the library. However, I am told that there are quite a few reads in this category that are worth giving a try. Leave me a comment if you have any recommendations or just want to discuss the series!

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“I Love You,” Said the Villain

If you’ve been reading my blog for quite a while, you may remember how I used to publish posts under the heading “The Writing Files”. While I did abandon these quite a while ago, I am now resuming them as I delve even deeper into the world of writing. Though I am by no means extremely experienced in the field, I will attempt to give advice or to write on the topic to the best of my ability.

So, if I’ve never told you guys this before, I’m a bit of a musical fan. I LOVE the Disney stuff (well, duh), but I also Rodgers and Hammerstein’s masterpieces, as well as a few more recent Broadway musicals such as Tuck Everlasting, Finding Neverland, etc. Recently, I discovered the 1997 animated film, Anastasia, has made it to Broadway. Updated with new songs, and a significantly longer run time, this Anastasia was reviewed poorly in comparison to its cartoon predecessor. After ensuring that it was clean, I went ahead and watched a video filming of it on Youtube.

I was disappointed.

Now, it wasn’t that the musical was bad – I could get into a whole review on it, but what I want YOU all to take away from this experience is my take on the villain, Gleb. Yes, Gleb. If you loved Rasputin and his albino bat, I hate to disappoint because their replacement is a military officer whose father pulled the trigger on Anastasia’s family. Now, while that certainly sounds like there could be plenty of conflict offered, I was disappointed to discover that this character made a scant number of appearances in the show’s overall run time – about four or five times to be exact. In each appearance his character seems a little different, but one thing is made clear: he has a thing for Anastasia. Now, that’s not to say he pursues it; the villainous part of him that wants to honor his father’s name and finish the job is unable to do so.

This is where I really want you to pay attention, because Gleb has all the potential to be an interesting villain, especially when you consider how similar he is to another famous literary/film villain. He too is in love with a young woman, but his duty not only to his job, but to what he believes his spiritual calling in life drives him to not only push her away, but destroy her so none others can have her. Can you tell who it is? If you guessed Frollo, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, you’d be correct. Frollo is exactly the same type of villain that Gleb is, just done a little better. Why? Well, lets examine a few important points side by side and lets just see if we can’t discover why.

Note: I’ll be using the animated film as a reference for those of you who haven’t read Victor Hugo’s hefty classic.

Frollo – When we are first introduced to him, he is attempting to run down a gypsy woman who clutches a child. She makes it to the church only to die in the arms of the vicar, whom Frollo looks upon in disdain. Her child, deformed beyond belief, he takes to murder, but the vicar impresses upon him that he must not, for it is his sacred duty now to take care of the child whose mother he has driven to an early death. The disgust is plain on Frollo’s face.

Gleb – When we first see him, Gleb is singing a portion of the song “A Rumor in St. Petersburg”. The comedic and entertainment elements are high as a crowd of Russian comrades run around, half having fun, half cowering to ensure that the “equal” government doesn’t take them in for being a spy. As the song ends, Gleb runs over a street sweeper named Anya. He thinks she’s cute, asks her if she wants to share a little breakfast, and waves her off with a bit of a daft smile.

Frollo – During the expository song, “Hellfire”, Frollo not only reveals his burning desire for Esmerelda, he also clearly outlines where his belief system lies on that point, something that has been built up to at this point. Thus far we’ve seen how he treats the misfortunate and the gypsies, and we’ve seen the surprise he feels whenever Esmerelda is close to him. For “Hellfire” to reveal that he cares for her is not only surprising, but makes him all the more terrifying when he admits to the belief that killing her will purge his immortal soul of all sin.

Gleb – While Gleb’s song, “The Neva Flows” does offer a little expository background on his father’s role in the Romanov’s death, at this point we already know he has a duty to ensure that the rumored “Anastasia” does not arise and his attraction to Anya was already made clear. Learning about his father’s role in the Romanov’s death doesn’t drive the story forward; it is instead a fact that could have been told without a lengthy song.

Frollo – Ultimately, Frollo decides to continue his reign of terror and dies a grim death, but not before he has threatened every single character in the cast, as well as made Quasimodo’s quest for freedom and happiness seem near impossible.

Gleb – During one of the final numbers of the show, Anastasia sings a sad song, longing for Dimitri. In bursts Gleb, gun in hand as he goes on about how he is going to kill her and finish the job his father started. Anastasia takes this all in stride given the fact that Gleb has been an unknown enemy to her this entire show. While she and her friends have been concerned about being caught, their fear is of the Russian government as a whole, which could have served as a villain just as well as Gleb. Ultimately, Gleb’s lack of menace makes his decision not to kill Anastasia utterly unimpressive and climactic.

The biggest difference between Frollo and Gleb is their lack of appearances. Due to the fact that Gleb only appears a few times, his standing is generally unknown. Is he a villainous adversary? A sympathetic man in uniform? Who is he? If Gleb is a threat, it is never shown, which is a shame because Ramin Karimloo (who plays said villain) can certainly sing.

If you enjoyed this post and/or would like to see more posts like this, comment down below to share your thoughts!

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The Boy From Tomorrow

“Hello?” Alec said, starting when the lamp in the corner flickered. Harold laughed. “Look!” Danny said. “It’s moving!” The glass piece made a whispering sound as it glided across the board. Unseen hands directed the pointer to HELLO in the upper left corner…

2015. What began as a silly game with his friends has turned into the most fascinating mystery Alec has ever discovered. When his parents divorce, Alec is relocated to an old home with plenty of history. On his first week in the new house, he and his new friends have fun with an odd “game” board in the attic – that is, until the board seems to work.

1915. Josie hates her life. Her mother, a supposed “psychic”, is a tyrant who rules their home with an iron hand. The only light in her life is her little sister, Cass, and tutor, Emily. When the three girls decide to try out her mother’s spirit board, they are met with a shocking surprise – a boy is talking to them and he claims he’s from the future.

Two times meet as, despite the time barrier between them, they become fast friends. The only problem: Alec knows some of their future and it appears Cass’ doll, Mrs. Gubbins “knows” it too. Questions begin to arise as Alec and Josie attempt to discover what happened to the Clifford girls. Will their abusive mother ever love them? What happens to Josie? And most importantly…whose unmarked tombstone lies in the graveyard?

Chilling and moving, The Boy From Tomorrow is a thrilling tale delving into the mysterious. With its themes of time-traveling, what a family means, and friendship, this is definitely worth a read. The author, Camille DeAngelis, does a wonderful job of weaving a page-turning narrative. For concerned parents, I would wait to hand this book to your children until they are old enough to understand some of the more adult elements, such as a spirit board. The authoress herself puts a note at the end of the book recommending that readers do not use a talking board, a recommendation that I much appreciate. Otherwise, this is a clean read that is entertaining, engaging, and ultimately, thought-provoking.

Chime Time! Comment what your favorite time-bending/traveling is and tell me why!

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Return of the Writing Files

If you’ve been reading my blog for quite a while, you may remember how I used to publish posts under the heading “The Writing Files”. While I did abandon these quite a while ago, I am now resuming them as I delve even deeper into the world of writing. Though I am by no means extremely experienced in the field, I will attempt to give advice or to write on the topic to the best of my ability.

Today, I wanted to talk to you about story vs plot. We often tend to confuse the two as being one and the same thing, but this is actually incorrect. While they are two very important parts of one whole that makes up a book, film, or graphic novel, story and plot are two sides of one very vital coin. First, lets look at the definitions:

Story revolves around the characters and their through line. The story has to do with emotional development and characters, while the plot deals with the action. Think big explosions, fights, and huge battles.

To better illustrate the difference between story and plot, I’m going to use Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 as an example. In the film, the plot revolves around Doctor Otto Octavius as he tries to produce a successful experiment, even at the expense of other’s lives. Spiderman must stop him and the plot ends when Doc Ock decides to make the noble decision to sacrifice himself and destroy his own life-ending experiment. The story however doesn’t end until MJ comes to Peter and admits to him how much she loves him. For this film, the story was always about Peter accomplishing his goals and mending his relationships with those he cared about, Mary Jane in particular.

Another great example is Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The plot and story both revolve around a very similar thing: destroying Sauron’s ring. The only difference is that the plot ends when Sauron’s tower at Mordor is destroyed and the story ends when Frodo leaves for the Gray Havens. For Frodo, the story was always about overcoming the influence of the ring, which doesn’t lose its control on  him until he leaves for the Gray Havens and essentially leaves for peace.

Think of it this way. The plot deals with action. The story deals with characters and their emotions.

After all, we don’t come back to Harry Potter just because of the exciting battles between Voldemort and Harry, though that is part of the attraction. What keeps us going back to popular series like Harry Potter and Star Wars are the lovable characters who draw us into their world and makes us root for them in the battles.

That’s all for today, but comment if you’d like to see more or just have any questions!

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Another Quest for Celeste

Celeste from A Nest for Celeste in this warmhearted new sequel following her adventures as she once again must find a new home. Taken away from her cozy dollhouse home in the attic of a plantation house, Celeste is left with no possible means to get back, especially when carted to the river and taken across by steamboat. Through her adventures, Celeste meets a dog named Rosebud who has seemingly traveled most of the Mississippi river route, a pair of squirrels named Chester and Hazel, and perhaps most remarkably of all, a frontier boy named Abe Lincoln. His kind heart and love for learning warms Celeste’s tender little rodent heart, especially as both help each other to feel more at home in the wild woods. Though Celeste still wishes desperately to return to her home back in Oakley – but, perhaps, just maybe, she’s found a new home?

Henry Cole weaves another magical, animal-centered adventure filled with excitement and stuffed chock-full of historical imagery. This fun adventure is fused with lessons on sacrifice, bravery, and how people’s lives touch each other’s, for however brief a time. It is a wonderful story woven well by the author of the original novel, A Nest for Celeste, which I highly recommend you pick up before reading this one. However, if you’re not in the mood to read the first, Another Quest for Celeste serves excellently as a stand-alone read. Either way, this is definitely a book I would recommend for readers of all ages.

Chime Time! Celeste travels over several states on her journey, but I’m curious how many states most of y’all have been to or lived in! (I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve only been to one other)

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Happy Birthday Wishes

Do you remember when I wrote my blog post, Fifteen…Yay?, two years ago? I wrote it to commemorate the passing of my fifteenth birthday and now here I am two years later writing to tell you all about the fifteenth birthday of my younger sister.

I think my mind might be officially blown.

It makes me sound old to say it, but I can’t believe it’s been fifteen years since my sister was born. So, sure, I couldn’t remember when she was born, but I was gifted with a long enough memory that I remember a fair amount of the early years. I remember helping my sister into dress up as we draped on “pearls” and diamonds before hurrying excitedly out to where our parents were waiting. I distinctly remember my father playing quite a goofy king to our pretty, pretty princesses. Of course, that was in the good years, before we got old enough to fight. Or as we like to say now, “discuss”. Or my preferred term ,”debate”. Either way, I remember growing up with my sister, for all of its good and bad times.

God blessed me with a sister who is loving, compassionate, and funny – He also blessed her with an A-type personality that just so happens to clash with my A-type personality. Both of us have natures that want to take charge (yay….). Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for her. In fact, that is the reason for this post. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask all of you to celebrate with me this day.

God, thank you for the sister you’ve blessed me with. She drives me crazy beyond all belief, but I love her so much. I pray that you strengthen not only our relationship, but also that you would stay with her and guide her for the rest of her life, showing her your love. Thank you so, so much. Amen.

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Intergalactic P. S. 3.

I’ve already reviewed Hope Larson’s version of Madeleine L’Engle’s original book, A Wrinkle in Time, but today I will be reviewing a short story of Madam L’Engle’s. Hope Larson vividly illustrates this story to bring it to a new generation of readers.

In this story, published originally in 1970 for the Children’s Book Council Book Week, Meg is worried. No, more accurately she’s terrified. Her brother, genius little Charles Wallace, is set to start school very soon and she’s concerned that he’ll be out of place in a school filled with normal children. When Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which appear to take not only Charles Wallace, but also Meg and Calvin away, they are whisked off to Intergalactic P. S. 3. Here each of them must face a separate challenge to prove that they are worthy of entry to the school – and Meg must face hers with a fiery cherubim as her companion. Can she prove she is worthy of entry to Intergalactic P. S. 3. or will Meg fail and be sent back to earth alone. And even worse, will her cherubim companion be forced to choose between eternal darkness or to fight for the side of evil?

I never knew that Madeleine L’Engle had published a short story in addition to the original Wrinkle in Time books, so it was rather interesting to sit down with this book, newly illustrated by Hope Larson, and read through. I found it to be not only an excellent read, but it also features some scenes that longtime fans of the books will find familiar.

Chime Time! Have you read any of Madeleine L’Engle’s books besides A Wrinkle in Time?

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Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match

John Watson is used to being the new kid and this year is no exception. After solving a case with the intrepid Shelby Holmes, however, this time he’s certain that he can take the Academy with confidence. The only problem? Shelby. Or rather, his friendship with Shelby. It seems everyone at his school is jealous of or in fear of her – with good reason. Shelby’s already on the hunt again and this time the victim of her scrutiny is the new science teacher, Mr. Crosby. When their case becomes much more than a simple matter of theft, Watson and Shelby find themselves facing an opponent who is might even achieve the impossible and be even more brilliant than the young detective herself! Can Shelby and Watson beat out their clever enemy before it’s too late?

Elizabeth Eulberg has done it again with the second in her brilliant gender-bend version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective. The author weaves a well-told tale, punctuated by humor, middle-school spirit, and a healthy dose of mystery. I highly recommend this book for younger readers, as they will love the relatable character of John Watson and his friendship with the brilliant young Shelby Holmes.

Before you read this book though, pick up the first one and check out my review on it at

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Mother’s Day

He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.” ~ Proverbs 18:22

The above verse may be true, but I think that verse is a little incomplete without something: “He who finds a wife [who will make a good mother] finds what is good…”


Mothers are vital. Though we know many for the infamous roles of being “step”mothers or for being neglectful or even scheming mothers, I think people forget some of the best mothers ever made famous through prose, lyrics, and film. Think of Lily Potter, who gave her life for her son or Marmee from Little Women. These characters are loving, selfless, and are examples of motherhood at its best. Even if we’ve never personally experienced the love of such a person, we know of them.

There is a reason we have a national holiday to celebrate mothers. They are one the pillars upon which society stands, one of the two fundamental parts that make up the basis for a Godly household. Their role is important despite the fact that it is so easily overlooked. The mother that raises her children with true love, a love that includes discipline, compassion, and patience is the best mother indeed.

This Mother’s Day, I encourage all of you to let the mother figure in your life know how much you love her. God made the first mother with a vision in mind of a wonderful woman, whose love for her children would be second only to his.

Happy Mother’s Day, ya’ll.

Oh and just so you guys know, I’m just gonna state here and now: I have The. Best. Mom. In the world.

Just in case you got any ideas.

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Sarah Plain and Tall

I’ve always been blessed to have a mother. There wasn’t a time when I can’t remember her being ever-present, ready (but not always willing) to cater to my every wish for cocoa and just one more story….please? Nevertheless, as will be, mothers and daughters quarrel. Despite the fact that we’re often complimented with the praise of looking alike, my mother and I don’t exactly have the same temperaments – though miraculously God gave us strong wills and A type personalities to clash regardless.

What a joy.

It is at times like these that I often have to be reminded, most often through the literary medium, of the numerous children who have never been lucky enough to enjoy a mother’s grace, love, and compassion. Sarah Plain and Tall is one of those books that reminds me of how much a mother can mean to children and how beautiful that slim hope is of having a complete family, fulfilled by the pivotal role of a mother.

Anna’s papa is wonderful and even if her home is rather dry and isolated, it’s hers. She and Caleb love their home, but even still it has something…missing. When their father decides to write away for a mail-order bride, Anna and Caleb get excited. Their best friends have a stepmother and she’s one of the sweetest people they know. So when a Sarah writes back to their father, Anna becomes hopeful that soon her father may start singing again and that the house will feel complete again. When Sarah arrives, she’s just as described, “plain and tall.” She’s exactly how Anna imagined, even with her talk of the rolling sea and the New England world she’s used to. The only problem? Papa may not be able to make Sarah fall in love with him and if Sarah goes back, Anna may lose the only chance she has of having the one thing she wants most in the world: a mother.

Anna’s desire to have a mother always reminds me what life should be like, not just for me with my type A personality and stubborn chin that points straight up when I’m angry, but for all of us. The mother we were born with isn’t perfect, but neither are we. And if I’ve got to choose to live a life with or without a mother, I’d rather take it with.

And hey, at the end of the day, watching my mom dance around the kitchen to Stevie Wonder may be embarrassing, but I’m pretty sure she cringes when she tells people that I’m a Ravenclaw nerd who adores Han Solo and wants to be BFFs with all the Avengers.

This Mother’s Day, celebrate the mothers you know. Even if it’s just the ones in books, they are important figures who make the world what it is. As some man with a long beard in a dress – sorry, tunic – said once upon a time, “It is the hand that rocks the cradle, that rules the world.”

Or something like that.

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