Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I Moved!

Hey everyone, I just wanted to let you know that I moved my blog over to wordpress.  So far I'm really liking it.  Anyway just thought I would let you all know that I will no longer be updating this blog.  If you'd like to continue following me here is the link to my new site.  You can also follow my new site on bloglovin here.  Hope you're all having a fantastic day!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Most people celebrate this Irish holiday with excessive drinking, instead my family celebrates the birthday of our three dachshunds; Oskar, Max and Leo.  This has been a tradition for at least the past five years.  We know that Oskar's, the oldest dog, birthday is actually today.  The other two were adopted from an animal rescue shelter so their birthday is unknown.  Therefore, we celebrate all three of them on the 17th of March.  Every year we order this gorgeous, sugar-free, liver cake from the local pet store and let the three of them devour it!

Have a great St. Patricks Day everyone!

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Friday, March 14, 2014

14 Books for 2014

The other night I was sleep-deprived and stressed (HAHA that's every night!) and I decided to pick 14 books from my shelf that I am required to read this year.  My shelves are a mixture of young adult literature, classical literature, adult literature and non-fiction memoirs and histories. In order to keep this balance, I chose a couple books from each genera.  Here are my choices.

Adult Literature

I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle
Denis Cooverman wanted to say something really important in his high school graduation speech.  So, in front of his 512 classmates and their 3,000 relatives, he announced: "I love you, Beth Cooper." It would have been such a sweet, romantic moment.  Except that Beth, the head cheerleader, has only the vaguest idea who Denis is.  And Denis, the captain of the debate team, is so far out of her league he is barely even the same species.  And then there's Kevin, Beth's remarkably large boyfriend, who's in town on furlough from the United States Army. Complications ensue.
Written by a former writer for The Simpsons, this novel is sure to be hilarious.  It's also a fitting read as I will be graduating as well in a couple months.  Plus, after I read it, I can watch the movie starring Jason Segal.

Revolting Youth: The Further Journals of Nick Twisp by Cd Payne
In the wry and subversive further journals of Nick Twisp, we reunite with America's most literate teen diarist as he accidentally ignites criminal mayhem, seeks union with his love, Sheeni Saunders, and still has to live as a girl to avoid the police - an absolute must-read for all fans of the oddball humor of Youth In Revolt.
Youth In Revolt was one of the first books I read upon becoming a teenager and I love it.  It was amazing and taught me so much about the male psyche!  I never knew there was a sequel until about a year ago and can't believe I haven't read it yet.  I'm incredibly excited to reunite with Nick.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Rob is a pop music junkie who runs his own semi-failing record store.  His girlfriend, Laura, has just life him for the guy upstairs, and Rob is both miserable and relieved.  After all, could he have spent his life with someone who has a bad record collection? Rob seeks refuge in the company of the offbeat clerks at this store, who endlessly review their top five films, top five Elvis Costello songs, top five episodes of Cheers.  Rob tries dating a singer whose rendition of "Baby, I Love Your Way" makes him cry.  But maybe it's just that he's always wanted to sleep with someone who has a record contract. Then he sees Laura again.  And Rob begins to thing (awful as it sounds) that life as in episode of thirtysomething, with all the kids and marriages and barbecues and k.d. lang CDs that this implies, might not be so bad.
High Fidelity starring John Cusack is one of my all-time favorite films and when I learned it was adapted from a book, I had to check it out.  It will be interesting to see the differences between the two and which I will enjoy more.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk.  His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed.  There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them.  And me must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew.
I have read two of Gaiman's books before, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and American Gods, and found his mixture of fantasy and reality deeply engaging and entertaining.  On top of that, Gaiman is an amazing writer who takes the reader on a journey though a fantastical realm through the eyes of the most average characters.

Classic Literature 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
At the heart of Catch-22 resides the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war.  His efforts are perfectly understandable because as he furiously scrambles, thousands of people he hasn't even met are trying to kill him.  His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service.  Yet if Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions that he is committed to flying, he is trapped by the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, the hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule from which the book takes its title: a man is considered insane if he is willing to continue to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he is sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.  Catch-22 is a microcosm of the twentieth-century world as it might look to someone dangerously sane.
Catch-22 is one of those books everyone has read in high school which I will miss out on due to my choice to attend a charter school. Therefore, I feel the need to read this book to become a part of the collective consciousness in the United States.   Prior to writing the previous paragraph, I had no idea what this novel was about and now I'm intrigued and excited about starting it!

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
At once naturalistic epic, captivity narrative, road novel, and transcendental gospel, Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps the most American of American classics.  Although it follows the movement of thousands of men and women and the transformation of an entire nation during the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s, The Grapes of Wrath is also the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. From their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of this new America, Steinbeck creates a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, tragic but ultimately stirring in its insistence on human dignity.
I recently read Steinbeck's East of Eden in class and, while I enjoyed the writing and characters, found it lacking in symbolism and deeper meaning.  When talking to my English teacher about this problem, he suggested I try The Grapes of Wrath as people usually like one of the two and dislike the other.  I am currently about 60 pages into The Grapes of Wrath and liking its subtly and characters much more than East of Eden.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky)
After his great portrayal of a guilty man in Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky set out in The Idiot to portray a man of pure innocence.  The twenty-six-year-old Prince Myshkin, following a stay of several years in a Swiss sanatorium, returns to Russia to collect an inheritance and "be among people." Even before he reaches home he meets the dark Rogozhin, a rich merchant's son whose obsession with the beautiful Nastasya Filippovna eventually draws all three of them into a tragic denouement.  In Petersburg, the prince finds himself a stranger in a society obsessed with money, power and manipulation.  Scandal escalates to murder as Dostoevsky traces the surprising effects of this "positively beautiful man" on the people around him, leading to a final scene that is one of the most powerful in all of world history.
I love Russian literature.  I could read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Chekov for days and have frequently. However, the main reason I picked up The Idiot is that for the past two years I have had a giant Russian novel assigned as summer reading at my school and loved reading these works.  The Idiot will serve as my choice to continue this reading assignment alone this summer.  I chose The Idiot as I read The Brothers Karamazov last year and am interested in learning more about Dostoevsky's image of a perfect man which I am told he portrays in The Idiot.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
During three weeks in 1951, Jack Kerouac wrote the first draft of On the Road - typed as a long, single-spaced paragraph on eight sheets of tracing paper, which he taped together to from a scroll. Representing the identifiable point at which his vision and narrative voice first came together in  sustained burst of creative energy, this scroll is the "uncut" version of Kerouac's masterpiece - rougher, wilder, and more sexually explicit than the edited work that appeared in 1957.  On the Road: The Original Scroll is Kerouac's signature achievement - and one of the most significant, celebrated, and provocative documents in American literary history.
I am really interested in reading On the Road.  I really want to understand what the Beat Generation was trying to accomplish and their style of free writing so I figure On the Road is a great starting point.  I'm slightly intimidated by reading Kerouac's huge first draft but hey, go big or go home!

Young Adult Literature 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
It is 1939. Nazi Germany.  The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.  By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow.  It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.  So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read.  Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.  But these are dangerous times.  When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down.
I know, I know, it's basically sacrilege to have not read this book. I have read Zusak's work before and loved it but had yet to begin The Book Thief simply because I know that it's sad.  I already cry at any WWII movie and knowing that this book has reduced some of the least susceptible people I know to tears makes me unwilling to read this book.  However, I feel the need to get through this book.  I'll just keep a box of tissues handy.

Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth?  That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch.  Lithuania, June 1941: Fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school and looking forward to summer.  In the dark of night there is a knock at the door and life is forever changed.  Soviet secret police arrest Lina, her mother, and her younger brother, tearing their family apart.  The three are hauled from their home and thrown into cattle cars, where they soon discover their destination: Siberia.  Separated from her father, Lina embeds clues in her drawings and secretly passes them along, hoping they will reach her father's prison camp.  In this dramatic and moving story, Lina desperately fights for her life and the lives of those around her.  But will love be enough to keep her alive.
Like The Book Thief, I have been meaning to read this book for years but I've been unwilling due to the harsh subject matter that could reduce me to tears.  However, I am extremely excited to read Between Shades of Grey as it is supposed to be amazing and takes place in the USSR which is a nation whose history and choices I find incredibly interesting.

Non-Fiction Novels

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
In 1925, the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle, in search of a fabled civilization located deep in the deadly wilderness.  He never returned.  In this masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, journalist David Grann tells the epic story of Fawcett's quest for this"Lost City of Z," as he unravels the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century.
I love exploration.  I love the idea of venturing into the wild uncertain of what one will find.  I also love mythology and learning about non-Western civilizations.  Due to this, The Lost City of Z ticks all the right boxes for me!

Hiroshima by John Hersey
On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed but the first atom bomb ever dropped on a city.  This book, John Hersey's journalistic masterpiece, tells what happened on that day.  Told through memories of survivors, this timeless, powerful and compassionate document has become a classic "that stirs the conscience of humanity."
I find atomic/nuclear weapons an incredibly intriguing subject.  I hate the fact that since the end of the Cold War the horrible power of this bomb and the necessity to rid the earth of this power has faded from public consciousness.  I think it is really important for people to learn everything about this destructive power we now have in order to go about its own destruction in a correct manner.  Reading this historical account of the bombing of Hiroshima is a way for me to expand my knowledge on this subject.

The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist's Astonishing Journey into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo, Zombis, and Magic by Wade Davis
In April 1982, ethnobotanist Wade Davis arrived in Haiti to investigate two documented cases of zombis - people who had reappeared in Haitian society years after they had been officially declared dead and had been buried.  Drawn into a netherworld of rituals and celebrations, Davis penetrated the vodoun mystique deeply enough to place zombification in its proper context within vodoun culture.  In the course of his investigation, Davis came to realize that the story of vodoun is the history of Haiti - from the African origins of its people to the successful Haitian independence movement, down to the present day, where vodoun culture is, in effect, the government of Haiti's countryside.  The Serpent and the Rainbow combines anthropological investigation with a remarkable personal adventure to illuminate and finally explain a phenomenon that has long fascinated Americans.
Again, I find exploration and mythology incredibly interesting.  A personal adventure mixed with the unraveling of the zombie story is like a dream come true to me.  Also after buying this book, I was informed that it is a renowned book in the world of anthropology which is a field I am interested in studying in college.  I cannot wait to learn what Davis uncovered in Haiti.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya von Bremzen
With startling beauty and sardonic wit, Anya von Bremzen tells an intimate yet epic story of life in that vanished empire known as the USSR - a place where every edible morsel was packed with emotional and political meaning. Born in 1963, Anya grew up in a communal Moscow apartment where eighteen families shared one kitchen.  She sang odes to Lenin, black-marketeered Juicy Fruit gum at school, watched her father brew moonshine, and, like most Soviet citizens, longed for a taste of the mythical West.  It was a life by turns absurd, drab, naively joyous, melancholy - and ultimately intolerable to her anti-Soviet mother, Larisa.  When Anya was ten, she and Larisa fled the political repression of Brezhnev-era Russia, arriving in Philadelphia with no winter coast and no right of return.
Now Anya occupies two parallel food universes: one where she writes about four-star restaurants, the other where a taste of humble kolbasa transports her back to her scarlet-blazeed socialist past.  To bring that past to life in its full flavor, both bitter and sweet, Anya and Larisa embark on a journey unlike any other: they decide to eat and cook their way though every decade of the Soviet experience - turning Larisa's kitchen into a "time machine and an incubator of memories." Together, mother and daughter re-create meals both modest and sumptuous, featuring a decadent fish pie from the pages of Chekhov, chanakhi (Stalin's favorite Georgian stew), blini, and more.
This book combines my love for personal memoirs and learning about the USSR.  Plus it's absolutely gorgeous.  Nothing could make me not love this novel.

I'm incredibly excited to read all of these great books this year.  Reading always leaves me feeling fulfilled and satisfied in a way movies, television, and the internet never do.  What's on your reading list this year?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Life Lately

Life has been extremely hectic lately.  In order to provide a comprehensive synthesis of what I've been up to, I am going to divide this post into four different sections, each one occupying a majority of my brain this past month.  (Wow, I've been writing way too much for school. I mean, who says 'comprehensive synthesis'?!)

International Baccalaureate Program (IB)

My Extended Essay
I am currently working toward my IB diploma.  If you don't know what that is, it's basically AP classes but with international standards and many other assessments outside of the tests in May that decide whether or not the student will receive a diploma for their time and energy.  Last year, I took my tests in math and french, this year I have tests in english, philosophy, history, and biology plus my extended essay, Theory of Knowledge (ToK) paper, and various other internal/external assessments.  These tasks have been weighing heavily in my mind for the last month.

Spread over a year, this to-do list would not be so bad, unfortunately my school did everything in the month of February.  I am currently in the home stretch, with only my Philosophy IA and the actual tests ahead of me.  However, I am incredibly burnt out from the last month.  Last month, I wrote my EE while finishing up my Works in Translation paper and my ToK essay.  This equals producing about 30 pages of written work on top of my normal classwork.  Yeah, it felt like hell.  The strangest part was that there was no way to escape this stress.  Everyone I talk to on a normal basis was dealing with the same deadlines so our conversations were also centered on the amount of work we had to do.  This has actually hurt my friendships because I don't want to think about my work with my friends but I'm forced to.

Now the most stressful thought is the tests in May.  I am literally terrified.  I have no idea how I'm going to remember all of the dates in history, all of the tragic plots for english, and all the philosophers for philosophy.  I get overwhelmed just thinking about it and the consist review and cramming that will be crammed into the next two months.  I'm fairly confident that I will earn enough points to merit a diploma come July, but the effort and stress in between now and the tests has me running for the hills. I don't think preparation is my thing, it's a put-up or shut-up mind in here.

Computer Upgrade

I recently received a MacBook Pro from my parents as an early graduation present and I'm thrilled.  I absolutely love it and it is pulling all my hipster qualities up to the surface of my personality.  Literally all I want to do is sit on my nice quilted blanket, in front of a window, and scroll through tumblr.   I've actually noticed an influx in smoothie-drinking, beanie-wearing, classics-reading and netflix-watching in the week I've had it!  Also, since my mac has become a part of my life, I have done absolutely no homework.  This has become my new normal:

Joking aside, I really do love my new computer.  My last computer was bought in 2009 and for the last couple months it has been crashing almost daily.  I would joke that my computer decided when it was time for me to go to bed because it would unfailingly crash if kept working past midnight.  Compared to that, this MacBook is heavenly.  I think the most amazing part is the quality of the image.  Maybe it's because I've been making more of an effort to wear my glasses, but every image looks 10x better on this computer.  While I feel a bit lost due to the changes between a PC and a Mac, so far I'm glad I've made the switch.

Compulsive Summer Disorder

Oh Michigan, take me back
Recently, it has been 60 degrees and storming here in California and while I'm happy for this weather due to the recent drought in CA, I'm craving summertime. Perhaps I'm simply searching for a fantasy away from all my stress but all I want to do is sit on the beach.  I'm craving the warmth, sunlight, and adventures that come with summer.  I have decided to call this problem Compulsive Summer Disorder or CSD.  It is actually becoming a problem as I will literally stop what I'm doing to fantasize about summer activities.  I have attempted to quell this craving by swimming at my local gym and blasting the heater but I think my CSD will remain a constant problem for the next few months.


Last, but not least, I have accepted my offer of acceptance to the University of Michigan.  I realized that, regardless of the decisions I have yet to receive, I would choose U of M.  When I visited the campus, I fell in love.  I felt that I would be presented with many challenges but also that I would be able to have a great college experience at U of M.  Plus, it's GORGEOUS!!!!!  I'm still blown away that I managed to get into such an amazing school and I cannot wait to pursue higher education there. However, that is all six months away.  All I have to do now is wait for further information about housing and orientation.  Unfortunately my patience is thin and I've started a large obsession with everything college related.  I've begun to spend hours and hours on youtube watching dorm room tours, Q&A videos, and the Michigan Transportation Musical on repeat.  I need to stop before I become too crazy to hide it.  Hey, at least I can now wear my Michigan sweatpants with pride!

So that's what I've been up to lately.  It's been rough but also extremely rewarding.  I'm proud of what I've accomplished as of today but looking ahead there is still a mess of papers for me to dig my way through.  For now, however, I'm going to go curl up with a big cup of tea and The Grapes of Wrath.

Monday, March 10, 2014

March's Mini Book Reviews Part 1

I really enjoyed writing the smaller reviews a couple weeks ago.  Therefore, I have decided to continue this series, which I stole from Vivatramp (check her out, she's awesome!).  So, here are mini reviews of the books I have read so far in March!

On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche
163 pages
     This was the first book I read for school this month.  This is actually my second time reading this book for philosophy class and I have to say, it gets better with repetition.  I find Nietzsche's writing style very difficult to understand as he buries his opinions below layers of sarcasm and contrary opinions.  However, with this reading, I think I managed to unpack the words enough to have a decent understanding of Nietzsche's philosophy.  In On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche attempts to discover the origin of human morality.  It grows into a discussion of the differences between master and slave morality which you can think of as predator and prey morality.  Nietzsche, after claiming that humans have grown out of the master morality and accepted the morality of the slaves, advocates for a new system of morals outlining all of the faults and advantages of the other two moralities.  I found the essay to provide and interesting perspective on the world, however, I would only recommend it if you are willing to analyze some difficult writing.

Rotters by Daniel Kraus
448 pages
     Rotters is a coming of age story mixed with horror and suspense.  It follows the life of Joey Crouch who moves in with his father, whom he has never met, after the accidental death of his mom. Joey quickly becomes the subject of torment at his new high school, it doesn't help that his father, Harnett, lives in a three room shack devoid of furniture, a shower, or food. Oh, and he's a grave-robber!  This is the setting for the crazy adventure which is Rotters.
     I cannot put into words how much I loved this novel.  Everything was foreshadowed brilliantly.  I knew certain aspects of the story had to happen thanks to the foreshadowing, but the way the events actually unfolded was unique and surprising.  On top of that, the character development was superb.  I'm not fantastic at picturing characters in my head but Rotters was so vivid and intriguing that I literally had a movie running through my mind.  The best part was that while reading, my image of Joey grew and changed along with the character.  I never thought a book about grave-robbers could be so moving and memorable.  If you have a strong stomach, as there are graphic descriptions of corpses, rotting bodies, and way to many rats, I would highly suggest picking up this novel!

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
81 pages
     During my reading of Rotters, I needed a second novel to calm my over-active imagination before bed, so I picked up this childhood favorite.  If you don't know the story of this children's novel, three chicken farmers, annoyed at the consistent stealing of Mr Fox plot to kill Mr Fox and his family.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Dahl's storytelling.  Mathilda and The Witches have always been some of my favorite novels and after being reintroduced to Dahl's world, I cannot wait to pick them up again!

Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
56 pages
     While incredibly short, this play is so accessible and ageless that you would never guess that it was written at the same time as Shakespeare!  Dr Faustus follows the tragic figure of Faust, a German doctor so invested in the pursuit of knowledge and power that he willingly sells his soul to the Devil. This is a story I have seen retold multiple times in modern novels and it was interesting to read a more classic retelling.  There were quite a few of these now commonplace ideas, like the good angel vs the evil angel and the seven deadly sins, in Marlowe's novel and I enjoyed looking at these ideas from a different perspective.
     I had to read Dr Faustus for class this month, but I would suggest it to anyone who enjoys mythical retellings.  The language is easily acceptable to the modern reader despite being written in the late 1500s and I think this is the type of story everyone should read as it has become ingrained in our culture.

What have you read so far this month?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Musical Fridays

I was recently introduced to a new music station in my area and I've been listening to it constantly!  It plays the type of music I love and has introduced me to a new band everyday.  Therefore, I figured it was time for another installment of Musical Fridays, so here are some of my recent favorites!

Come With Me Now - KONGOS
This four brother band originally from South America is amazing!!  It blows my mind that one family can be so talented. This song, in particular, gets stuck in my head for hours and hours.  I'm also super impressed by their use of an accordion.  I can't wait for this band to blow up.

Love Don't Die - The Fray
Okay, this song isn't from a new band but this song is literally played every time I listen to the radio and I LOVE it.  This is a horrible music video, I hate it.  The song, however, can be on repeat for days and I will still love it.

Coming of Age - Foster the People
I absolutely love the 80s vibe of this song and video.  The only other song I know by Foster the People is Pumped Up Kicks.  Coming of Age sounds like it comes from an entirely different band.  I love both songs and cannot wait to hear more on their new album!

What music have you been loving recently?

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mini Book Reviews

It is only rarely that I have enough to say about a book to write an entire post about my experience reading it.  When I don't have a lot to say, I will clump a couple recent reads together with a short paragraph of my thoughts.  So, without further ado, here are mini reviews of the two books I've read this week.

Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman
This book is the most adorable thing I've read in the past few years.  It is the story of a father who goes off in search of milk for his children's cereal.  However, this tale is much more than just a trip to the store.  The dad is whisked away on a floating time machine meeting vampires, dinosaurs, aliens and more along the way.  Gaiman's writing is captivating, like usual.  None of his talent in storytelling is lost in this picture book.  The illustrations, which are similar to Tim Burton's art in style, are absolutely gorgeous.  I love how the slightly creepy illustrations mesh with a very loving children's story.  If you have a young child, I would definitely suggest reading this book to them.  If you don't, I would still suggest reading this picture book, however I wouldn't buy it.  Just sit at your local bookstore and read it.  It won't take more than an hour but you'll finish with a smile on your face, I promise.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
This book was such a disappointment.  If you don't know, it is the third and final book of the Divergent series.  I read the first two books almost two years ago and loved them.  I loved learning about the different factions and their different approaches to a good life.  Tris and Four, the main characters, were always engaging and interesting but my heart lied with the minor characters like Uriah and Christina.  I was looking forward to learning more about this world in Allegiant.  However (spoilers ahead), in Allegiant, the characters leave the city of Chicago and find a world that was just not interesting.  Much like Maze Runner, it's all just an experiment conducted by the government.   I did not find the genetic plot line interesting, I didn't feel connected to either Tris or Four at all.  I was bored throughout the novel.  I don't think it was a good idea for Roth to completely change the setting and reveal so much that was not even hinted at in the last book in a series.  So much had to be explained leading to a slower book.  All in all, not a fan.  I'm actually going to give this book to my local re-seller and pretend the series was never completed!

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