I had pretty high hopes for the 2nd installment in the Divergent Trilogy. I was a bit let down, but alas, I still finished the book. I will give Veronica Roth credit with the fact she knows how to end a book and make the reader yearn for more. This book picks up exactly where book one ended, which means that our main hero, Tris, is in really bad shape after being shot, killing one of her best friends, and witnessing the murder of both her parents. I really don’t know how to describe this book other than saying “Well, it’s about a bunch of teenagers in a Dystopian society with guns that just act insane by jumping off trains and buildings while breaking into computer systems in a high-tech compound to find the secret of their existence.” Does that make sense? Didn’t think so. It’s a pretty wacky concept that has a strange execution. I shouldn’t compare this to The Hunger Games, but I can’t help it. I have no idea how this is made for teenagers because it is all about murder and killing. Seriously. Half the characters die. The guy who had his eye poked out with a fork comes back. No, I’m not making this up. The Hunger Games instilled this new genre of “murder is ok to market to teenagers,” which I just don’t understand. The main focus of this book is lost among a lot of teenage melodrama. Basically, it is revealed that there is a secret that only the Abnegation faction knew about. The members had planned to show this secret to all factions, but in the earlier book, the attack against the Abnegation resulted in that entire faction destroyed and murdered other than a handful of people. Anyway, on top of the already weird concept of five factions and a gigantic new faction introduced (simply known as The Factionless, so witty), we have teenage love between Tris and her Abnegation cum Dauntless Romeo, Tobias. I am so over this high school love drama. I’d imagine that if you were in a life-and-death situation, you really wouldn’t be thinking about a guy and if he truly loves you or not. AmIRight? I think my problem with this book is that my favorite character is one of the bad guys. I really enjoy Tobias’ father, Marcus, who is a complete asshole who used to abuse his son. I shouldn’t even like him, but he is the only character that seems to make any sense to me. Marcus is the only living Abnegation leader, and he wants to make sure that the secret is not destroyed. Tris has to make a decision on who she will side with and what she will do for her friends and Tobias. Tris is to busy being strange and biting her lip (which inadvertently reminded me of the shit-show 50 Shades of Grey… ugh)
Overall, I was pretty bored. I think this book is a typical 2nd book in a trilogy, but it is no The Empire Strikes Back. Last week, Veronica Roth introduced the 3rd book and finale of the series, which will come out in the Fall. It is called Allegiant. I will say, I was happy that the “secret” was, in fact, revealed, and I am looking forward to the third book. Hopefully, this doesn’t follow in The Hunger Games footsteps of a lackluster and terrible ending.
Jen’s Rating: **
For a few weeks now, I have had fun with the Gender Through Comic Books MOOC through Ball State University. It’s been a bit of a time warp for me since I haven’t been as invested in comics for a little over 6 months now. I’ve still got a stack left that needs to be touched (ugh… why?!) but I do miss the days of yore when I worked at Von’s Comics and Video during college and got to read comics for free and rent any movie I wanted. Back then, my friend, Jess, and I were the only girls in a motley crew of about 10 comic book clerks. It was always a treat waiting on customers who thought they were better than us just because they were boys and therefore, the true comic book fans. Seriously, Jess and I took a lot of abuse from some people because a) they wanted our job and b) they thought we were incompetent at comics JUST because we were girls. I won’t lie and say I didn’t use my gender to my advantage.
I can remember the day oh so well. This event took place during my first week at college my freshman year: I only had one real friend from home who even went to Purdue, and that was Baumann. One day, we decided to walk around campus and get to know our way around. We saw a comic book shop, and Baumann wanted to get one of those gigantic sodas. I went in and started perusing through the X-men comics. This isn’t a well-known fact, but I had collected comics since I was 11. When I was in high school, I had actually quit reading for most of it while focusing on my softball career. Once I decided not to pursue softball in college, I actually sold a lot of my well-known comics on eBay to have some spending money. (Now I regret this). When Baumann and I walked in, I was greeted by a troll looking dude who just kept staring at my boobs in my tank top. He asked me if I was interested in applying for a job, and I said “No” immediately because the guy skeeved me out. During my sophomore year, I changed my tune and went into the store and put in my application with a nice, normal college guy. Two days later, I got a phone call saying I had the job (no interview!) as long as I could work on Tuesday mornings since the usual Tuesday morning person just quit. So, that was that. I didn’t know (at the time) who was calling me or why I got the job other than I had dropped off my class schedule and I was the only one with free Tuesday mornings. I walked in for my orientation and met the Troll guy from freshman year. Apparently, he was the manager. He didn’t once look at my boobs at this point, so that was the only reason why I stayed (otherwise I probably would have just left). I’ll never forget my first shift: I met the Turkish Delight while selling him a lot of candy, and I got re-hooked on reading comics and buying all the issues I had sold. (Ironically, this picture was the day it happened. I love how Baumann is just lying on my dorm bed all seductive, ha! Check out those comics! I don’t know what we rented. I didn’t have any chairs in my dorm room at this point. Sidenote : it was his birthday last week, and I shared this picture with his Facebook feed, ha!)
Eventually, I put more time in at the store and then had the Friday night shift (popular for rentals) and Sunday all day (popular for hangover’d people to return their rentals and want to start fights). Jess and I worked together once a week, and man, that was when a lot of crazy things started happening. My expertise was on the X-men with a vast knowledge of the Marvel Universe. Jess enjoyed weird comics (Invader Zim and other weird ones) and attracted the gothic dudes. I mostly attracted Subway Eric and the Garg which is short for “Gargoyle.” Well, actually I think his last name was “Garg,” but he looked like a tiny Gargoyle. He would only come in and rent movies during my shift, and they would be TERRIBLE movies about real crime like the BTK Killer, Charles Manson, etc. Oh Garg. I love this picture of me and Jess. We look so innocent. (I also love the fact she is coming over in an hour for our weekly Game of Thrones Dinner.)
Don’t get me wrong : being a girl working in a comic store has many perks too! I met other fabulous girls (Kari and Elisha and Jess of course), the COOL guys I worked with like Mike, Carroll, and Tom, Nick, and Xander and some really hot foreign guys (The Frenchies and DUH, GREGORIO… still obsessed on that one). These 2 years working at the comic store improved my social life and social standing in some circles. It was great, and I miss having honest conversations about comic books with other friends on a day-to-day basis. That is one of the top things I miss most actually. I don’t miss the abuse I would take for my poor pop music choices, (but yeah, I have bad taste in music still, lol). I made many friends through my experience at the comic book store, and I will never forget the memories with those crazy people I grew to love and admire. (Even when Spike dressed up as Batman in a kid’s Batman costume for all to see his… well… man bits). (And this is the best picture ever. OMG I can’t believe I have this. Man, I looked good back then, ha!)
Anyway, I signed up for this comic book class not expecting much. Wow, I was really surprised with how passionate some people were when it came to gender stereotyping, norms, etc and about femininity and masculinity. There are some really passionate people out there. Personally, I like my comics with a bit of mythology, superhuman/God-like abilities, and good old fashioned humor. Why do I love Jean Grey? Not only is Jean Grey the first X-woman, but she has the highest potential of any X-man on the team. When she was first introduced, she was the weakest, but eventually, she becomes COSMIC and God-like and saves (yet destroys) part of the Universe over and over. It comes down to Jean Grey is a badass, and everyone else wans in her shadow. Plus, she is adorable. What more can I say?
As for my favorite male character, I have always enjoyed Wolverine the most. This is a typical answer, but I can relate to Wolverine’s masculinity. Most people think of their parents as their token gender role norm. Wolverine reminds me a lot of my father: hard-headed, ferocious, loner, with crazy side-burns and hair everywhere chomping on a cigar taking no prisoners. The only way you can kill him is by chopping his head off. My dad is a wrestling coach (now in the Indiana Wrestling Hall of Fame), and sometimes I feel like the only way anyone could kill him would be if you chopped his head off. So that is probably why I love Logan so much. It doesn’t hurt that when my kid brother was born, I was allowed to pick his middle name of “Logan” since I wanted to name him after Wolverine.
Anyway, this class has been a bit inspirational. For class credit, we have to make a comic book about gender, which relates to our life. I had a lot of thoughts about this, but the obvious choice had to be one of the many times a customer would ask me a comic book related question, gasp at me knowing it, then would follow-up with the “are you sure?” incompetence clause, then become seriously attracted to me since I was an attractive girl who knew comics, and then would ask me out or be weird around me forever. Sure, back then I liked attention from CUTE guys who wouldn’t insult me, but sometimes, I really wanted to punch a few customers in the face. This comic is the only assignment I have, so I hope I did well enough to pass. I tried finding the dorkiest looking guy in the database. At the end, I had a bit more snark and sass planned, but I thought that might be a little too much. If you want to read the comic, all you need to do is click on it, and it should open in a larger window. I am bummed out it doesn’t look bigger, but this is the best I can do. Hopefully, people like the comic book! I was reminded of many fun times (more than the annoying ones)
I absolutely loved this book. My friend, Emily, loaned it to me a few weeks ago and only said, “This book is so you that it’s scary.” I really didn’t know how to take that, but I started reading right away and was engrossed with Judd Foxman and his crazy family. The plot does not sound funny, but man, there were so many laugh out loud moments for me as I read this gem. We follow Judd Foxman, who is in the midst of a mid-life crisis. After the death of their unborn child, Judd and his wife, Jen, have gone through a rough patch only to be exacerbated by the fact Judd catches her cheating on him with his radio shock-jock boss. Judd’s life goes into ruin and to cap it off, his father dies after a prolonged battle with cancer. Judd goes home for a week-long sit-shiva to spend the time with his dysfunctional family. It doesn’t sound like a funny book because there is a lot of anger and resentment in these passages, but the book is real and deals with typical family problems (on a completely heightened scale). We see Judd’s mother, a famed author with gigantic breast implants and a new secret try to set up Judd with single ladies from his past; Judd’s eldest brother, Paul, who is running the family business and still has anger issues from a past event involving Judd; Judd’s only sister, Wendy, who is raising three children and married to a real jerk; and then Phillip, the baby of the family who has never gotten his life together but comes home with an older woman on his arm and a Porsche in the driveway. We meet other characters from the past who come to pay respect to Judd’s father and visit with the family as well that really round out the story. Overall, it is a great book. I can’t say it enough. Love, marriage, sex, death, surprise …. all the good stuff.
Jen’s Rating: *****
I’ll admit, I saw the trailer for “The Great Gatsby” last week, and it made me think about the book. Considering I read the book for my sophomore year Honors English class, (which was SERIOUSLY half my life ago… omg) I decided to pick it up again and revisit the Roaring 20′s of the fictional West Egg (aka Long Island) New York. I remember really disliking this book, and now that I have revisited the classic, I think it was because I was too young to really understand what was going on. Think about it: when you are 15 and reading a book like this, what life experiences do you have to play with? At the time, I had never had alcohol or been in love, and I was reading this book for a grade. Throw away all that, and revisit this book if you hated it when you were young because this is a lyrical masterpiece. Also, I had the book contents completely wrong in my head. Therefore, I am really excited to see the new movie coming out in May. I am a little worried because Baz Luhrmann always has really bright colors and weird images (don’t need a seizure by watching a movie thankyouverymuch) but think the cast will be fantastic. Carey Mulligan looks the part of Daisy Buchanan to a T, and Leo, well damn, Leo, I am glad you are making movies that women want to see because let’s face it – you are beautiful. The only concern I have is a mental block in my brain: Tobey Maguire is playing Nick Carraway who is the narrator of the story. I know I am going to think “Geeze, Spider-Man is narrating this movie too!” So yes, I have changed my vote on this book. I’m now giving it 5 stars. I really can’t wait to see the movie now after watching the trailer a few times. The big yellow car, the green light, Daisy’s amazing lavender costume with fur stole… just gorgeous. Also, I am a wee bit obsessed with the new Lana Del Rey song “Young and Beautiful,” which you can hear on the trailer. Check it out!
Jen’s Rating: *****