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review 2016-03-25 19:56
The search for meaning and control
Zero K - Don DeLillo

Thanks to Scribner and to Net Galley for providing me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve read novels by Don DeLillo before and enjoyed them although I haven’t read all of them. I was curious to read this novel, and I’ve also noticed that Zero keeps appearing in the title of novels I’m reading these days (not sure what it says about me but…).

I’m not sure exactly what to say about this novel. On the surface it’s a story written on the first person by a character, Jeff, who goes through a very strange experience. His wealthy father, Ross, and his stepmother, Artis, have asked him to go with them to a strange facility, the Convergence, where his stepmother, who is terminally ill, thanks to new scientific processes including cryogenics, is going to be frozen in the hope that in the future they’ll find the cure for her condition and she will live again, seemingly forever. The trip and the experience are confusing and disorienting, as not only is Jeff not sure where he is, but the compound seems designed to make people lose their bearings. Doors that aren’t really doors, rooms stripped bare, strange speeches mixing up seemingly spiritual, philosophical, religious, ecological and economic subjects with a somewhat apocalyptic and sect-like underlying message. Jeff’s father is very wealthy and has invested heavily in the programme, but Jeff isn’t quite convinced. His attempts at finding meaning in the process and get some control over it range from mentally giving names to people, inventing the background for the individuals he meets, trying to imagine their stories… In many ways that’s the same we, as readers are asked to do. We are not expected to be simply passive receivers of a story or of a meaning, but must collaborate with the author and create a joint one.

As a reader, I find it easier to connect to books and novels where I empathise or I’m very interested in its characters. In the case of the main character and guiding conscience of this novel, it’s not a straightforward process. Do we really get to know Jeff? We know how he thinks and what it feels like to be inside of his head, what his relationship with his father and his stepmother is like (at least what he thinks it’s like) and in part two we get to glimpse into a relationship he gets into, although mostly through his references to the adopted son of his girlfriend, a very special boy. Jeff is articulate, erudite, curious, a keen observer and seems to live inside of his head, but he seems to mostly react to others and to the situation analysing everything to death, rather than doing anything or deciding anything. In a way he’s perhaps as frozen and paralysed as Artis and Ross, but they’ve made a decision, however egotistical and self-aggrandizing it might be, while he remains the passive observer. For me Jeff is intriguing, but not someone I feel an easy connection with or I care for. Like him, the novel is engaging at an intellectual level but not so much at an emotional one, at least for me.

This is a novel where action is not the prime component. It is beautifully written and you’ll read some passages many times, as they seem to demand analysis and ongoing exploration. I’m not sure I can say what it is about? Life and death? The future? The meaninglessness of existence? Family relationships? I don’t feel it’s DeLillo’s most accessible story, and definitely I would not recommend it to somebody who is looking for an easy read and a good story. But if you’re interested in a challenging read and in exploring big themes and personal meanings, this might be the book for you.  

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-01-11 03:53
Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Allegiant - Veronica Roth

When starting to read this book I was very warry (not sure on the spelling of that one but I think you get the picture). I had heard some things about the ending. Not specific details but that people didn't like it and that it was a bit shocking. Because of this I did my best not to read anything or watching anything about the book. I'm glad I didn't. Although I knew what was going to happen before it happened I think if I had known right from the beginning the book wouldn't have been as enjoyable as it was. Allegiant was fairly slow starting off. But because of the short chapters it wasn't hard to get into it once the "action" got started. I put action in quotations because there wasn't a whole lot of action in this book. Some people didn't like that about it. They wanted a good ending fight. I'm glad that Veronica didn't include a major fighting sequence in the book. We had already had two, one in Divergent and one in Insurgent. So the ongoing of fighting was beginning to get tiresome in my eyes. 

I give this book 5 stars because not only was it a great book but it was a book that will leave an impact. The Divergent Trilogy has taught many things about our personalities and what it is to be brave, selfless, smart, honest, and peaceful. But Allegiant doesn't just teach of those things but it also teaches us about acceptance and forgiveness. Which are probably the best gifts a book can give it's reader.

A few chapters into the book I thought I had the ending figured out. I thought that it would just end up with Tobias and Tris ending their relationship. Because all throughout the books they weren't clicking and through most of the second book and the beginning of the third I was beginning to get very annoyed by their relationship. They just didn't seem comparable. It wasn't until they officially broke up that I realized that they weren't only comparable but they needed each other to survive. I believe that was always Tris' downfall. Tobias always brought out the rational side of her in my opinion. So whenever left to her own bearings her dauntless side would clash with her abnegation side. She would jump at the chance to sacrifice herself even when their were other options. She was acting like a coward trying to find the easiest way out. Especially when she was grieving over Will and the loss of her Parents and technically her brother. But in Tris' last scene when she decided to go into the Weapons Lab instead of her brother she shows true bravery. Not only does she forgive him which shows strength but she goes in knowing very well she could die showing courage. I'm actually glad that the serum wasn't what killed her but that her enemy was her downfall. Maybe that makes me a terrible person but having David be the one to kill her proves that she didn't want to die and that she fought to stay alive. 
**End of Spoilers*

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review 2011-12-31 00:00
Smart Words: Vocabulary for the Erudite - Mim Harrison Good fun. Not a lot of unfamiliar words, but lots of fun to look through. Even my son likes it (and he's not a reader).
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