Podcast: Divergent by Veronica Roth

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Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: 5/5

Intro: Divergent is the first book in the popular YA series written by Veronica Roth. It was made into a feature film in 2014, and the second book’s film, Insurgent, was released in theaters in March 2015. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Chicago where thdivergent lake michigane city and people  are divided into 5 factions based on their values and personality traits. There is Erudite, the intelligent, Candor, the honest, Dauntless, the brave, Amity, the peaceful, and Abnegation, the selfless. Divergent is what a person is when they show aptitude for more than one faction, and they are rare and viewed as dangerous and a threat. The story is narrated in the first person perspective of 16-year-old Beatrice Prior. When a child turns 16, they must take an aptitude test that will tell them which faction they are meant to be in, and then they can choose to stay in their birth faction or switch to the faction they tested into during the Choosing Day Ceremony.

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Characters:

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Beatrice “Tris” Prior– the protagonist and narrator of the story. She was born in the Abnegation faction to Andrew and Natalie Prior, and she is described as having pale blonde hair, gray-blue eyes, and a short and skinny stature

Tobias “Four” Eaton– a member of Dauntless, the instructor to the initiates born outside of Dauntless, and the eventual love interest of Tris. He was born in the Abnegation sector to Marcus and Evelyn Johnson-Eaton. His mother abandoned him at young age and he grew up with his father, who was abusive to him.

Caleb Prior– a member of Erudite faction. He was born in Abnegation to Andrew and Natalie Prior. He is the older brother of Beatrice “Tris” Prior.

Jeanine Matthews– She is the appointed leader of Erudite solely based on her IQ score. She developed the Aptitude Test, which has to be taken before the Choosing Ceremony. She views Divergents as a threat, and is the creator of the mind control serum used to seek them out.

Marcus Eaton– a member of the council in Abnegation, and the abusive father of Tobias Eaton.

Natalie Prior– The mother of Beatrice and Caleb Prior, and wife of Andrew Prior. She reveals herself to be Divergent and chose to change from Dauntless to Abnegation to be with her husband and protect her family.

Andrew Prior– The father of Beatrice and Caleb Prior and husband of Natalie Prior. He was born Erudite but he chooses Abnegation as his faction. He is one of the council members of Abnegation along with Marcus Eaton.

Christina– Best friend of Tris and new Dauntless initiate. She was born Candor but switched to Dauntless.

Peter– Enemy of Tris and her friends, and new Dauntless initiate. He was born Candor but switched to Dauntless.

Will– He is a member of Dauntless faction. He was born in Erudite but later transfers to Dauntless. He is one of Tris’s close friends during initiation, and later becomes Christina’s boyfriend.

Al– He was born Candor but transfers to Dauntless because his parents admire bravery. He is a close friend of Tris, but turns malicious after he falls behind in the training.

Eric He was born in Erudite and transfers to Dauntless. He is one of the leaders of Dauntless. He is Four’s nemesis as they were in the same year of initiation and Four was ranked first while he was second

Quotes: 

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”

“I have a theory that selflessness and bravery aren’t all that different.”

“Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up”

“I feel like someone breathed new air into my lungs. I am not Abnegation. I am not Dauntless. I am Divergent.”

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If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Genre: Drama, Young Adult

Rating: 4/5

Summary: This book is centered around 17-year-old Mia Hall. Mia is an extremely gifted cellist and classical music22IFISTAY-articleLarge lover who dreams of attending Juilliard for college. Mia’s boyfriend, Adam Wilde, is in a rock band and the two could not be more different, but they are young and very much in love.

It begins in her hometown in Oregon where Mia, her mom, her dad, and her little brother Teddy are sitting at home due to the snow day and the cancellation of work and school. They decide to take a spontaneous day trip. While Mia is listening to classical music in the backseat, they are hit by a truck. Mia wakesif-i-stay up after a serious head injury and as she looks over her body on the concrete, she realizes she is having an out-of-body experience. Unfortunately, she also discovers that her mother and father were killed in the crash, and her brother Teddy is seriously injured and eventually passes.orchestra-cello

The story jumps between the past and present as Mia watches her friends and family wait in the hospital and show Mia support. She reflects on memories from her childhood with her family, her affinity for the cello at such a young age, experiences with her best friend, and her growing relationship with Adam. Mia realizes she has to decide whether she wishes to die and be with her family, or live and move on with her life.

Thoughts: This book was very emotionally touching and difficult to read at times. The car crash scene in particular was very painful to read and visualize. I really enjoyed the book overall and felt that the out-of-body experience was a very unique and interesting way to experience the story. It was very Lovely Bones-esque in that sense. I got a little bored after the adrenaline and memory of the car accident scene started to fade from my mind, but that is simply because I am a big fan of unexpected plot twists while this story was centered around romance, tragedy, family, and tough decisions.

Quotes: 

“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”

“I don’t really care. I shouldn’t have to care. I shouldn’t have to work this hard. I realize now that dying is easy. Living is hard.”

“Love, it never dies. It never goes away, it never fades, so long as you hang on to it. Love can make you immortal”

“You can have your wishes, your plans, but at the end of the day, it’s out of your control.”

Recommendations: The Beginning of Everything, An Abundance of Katharines

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

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Genre: Young Adult/ Memoir

Rating: 3/5

Summary: Josh Sundquist is a 25-year-old a68d74760-eacb-49db-a3d3-ac2af3b332e8mputee and cancer survivor. He is a famous YouTube star, a Paralympic skiier, and   an inspirational speaker. However, Josh has only had one girlfriend, and it only lasted for 23 hours in the 8th grade. This novel is an autobiographical account of Josh’s reflections and experiences with women and relationships from childhood until today. He uses simple hand-drawn graphs to visually depict his shortcomings and analysis on why his dating life has been so unsuccessful.

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Thoughts: For me, this book was just okay. At first, I was very amused by Sundquist’s first person stories about his dating struggles, but eventually I became bored. The book is merely a compilation of Josh’s dating failures that follow the same pattern of insecurity, misinterpretation/miscommunication, and finally disappointment for Sundquist. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the graphs that were placed throughout the book. I thought they brought a dry humor to the story. In addition, Sundquist is an inspirational figure and the parts about overcoming cancer and living life as an amputee made the most lasting impression on me. Overall, the book was a light-hearted, easy read that I got through quickly, but it wasn’t anything special. 12443604

Quotes: 

“But here’s the problem with scripts. They work great in movies. In life? Not so much.”

“When I was twenty-five years old, it came to my attention that I had never had a girlfriend. At the time, I was actually under the impression that I was in a relationship, so this bit of news came as something of a shock.”

“Just because we don’t get the answers we’re looking for doesn’t mean they aren’t answers nonetheless.”

Recommendations: All The Bright Places, Why Men Love Bitches

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

books.cheryl-strayed-wild-book.widea_Genre: Memoir

Published: March 2012

Rating: 3.5/5

Summary: Wild is a first person memoir about a woman’s 1,100 mile journey along the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to the border with Washington State.pct-map2 Cheryl Strayed lost her mother to cancer when she was 22 years old, and completely fell apart in the aftermath. She distanced herself from her family and husband, engaged in infidelity, and experimented with heroine. She decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone and with no training or experience in an attempt to find herself and get her life back on track. cheryl-strayed-wildThroughout her journey on the trail, Cheryl gives flashbacks to her mother’s sudden and painful death, her infidelities and drug abuse, and the trials of her marriage. In addition, she provides us with spiritual realizations along with details of her physical challenges along the way.

Thoughts: It was so inspiring to read this very honest and detailed memoir about a woman finding herself after a life tragedy. Cheryl’s flashbacks, particularly the one about her mother’s diagnosis and death, were so detailed and unfiltered that I felt her emotional pain and it brought tears to my eyes. Although some parts of the actual hike were interesting, it sometimes was boring and difficult to get through recounts of the actual hike, and because it was a memoir, there were no climactic dramatic moments or twists that made it more exciting. However, it was a novel filled with trust and motivational stories about taking life in your own hands and getting back on track when you have lost yourself. It is a book that I feel many people can relate to, and it is a very helpful in guiding readers through self reflection and introspection.

Quotes: 

“The universe, I’d learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.”

“I’m a free spirit who never had the balls to be free.”

“There’s no way to know what makes one thing happen and not another. What leads to what. What destroys what. What causes what to flourish or die or take another course.”

“I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And, most surprising of all, that I could carry it.”

Recommendations: Claiming Ground, Once Upon a River, Swimming to Antarctica 

Multimedia Report: Journalism 2.0

Barcelona: “Una Capital Que Inspira”

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When you walk around the city of Barcelona, you probably have seen many posters with the phrase “Barcelona, una capital que inspira” lining the streets. Translated, this phrase means “Barcelona, the city that inspires” and is the slogan for the city’s brand image campaign. Barcelona is known for being a center of leisure, nightlife, tourism and culture. With a focus on the creative class and the power of the people, the “Barcelona Inspira” campaign emphasizes a proactive, creative approach and is an invitation to take action. According to Marc Puig, Director of Communications for the Barcelona City Council, “The city’s attributes should be welfare and economic progress, whilst never forgetting equality and the spirit of partnership. All of these values should support a social commitment based on a culture of happiness and a culture of innovation.”

Barcelona has not always been the well-renowned metropolis rich in beauty and culture that it is today. The global image and perception of the city is known for its drastic and successful transformation from a struggling post-industrial city to a flourishing center for tourism. In order to understand Barcelona in the present, it is important to understand the city’s past.

During the Franco regime from 1939-1975, Spain had nearly 40 years of political and cultural isolation. Urban development was unregulated and the strategies emphasized expansion and growth rather than revitalization and regeneration. After the decline of Fordism and industry in the mid-1970s, Barcelona became a post-industrial city and could no longer rely on manufacturing to employ its citizens as a result of the global economic downturn. After Barcelona entered its post-industrial Barcelona1970_2000state, public space was controlled, limited and under surveillance by a dictatorship. Neighborhood Associations formed with the goal of bringing the government to attention to the underdeveloped and ignored neighborhoods in the city. They used protests to demand improvements to the infrastructure as well as access to public space. The protests were a success, and during the mid 1970s and 80s, urban development was characterized small-scale projects designed to improve the quality of life for the people. However, Barcelona was still struggling to financially sustain their economy until the arrival of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games.

The 1992 Olympics jumpstarted Barcelona’s urban renewal along its main waterfront areas. With the need for large venues and a strong infrastructure, Barcelona capitalized on this opportunity to reevaluate neglected ports, gentrify the ignored IMG_1206neighborhoods and put Barcelona on the map as a well-known metropolis. Montjuic was home to the bulk of the venues used for athletic competition including the sports palace, swimming facilities, and the Olympic stadium. The Olympic Village and port were constructed on the opposite side of central Barcelona along the coast. Billions of dollars of public and private money went to the building of housing, restaurants, nightclubs, and leisure space in preparation for the games.5 In addition, the Olympic Games transformed the urban planning of the city to focus less on small community projects, and take on larger ones that would have a greater range of impact on the city as a whole.

The idea for the infrastructure was to open up the city to the sea and to rehabilitate the beaches. One kilometer of beaches was added in front of the Olympic Village, and the Olympic harbor was built with the capacity of 700 boats in theIMG_1224 water and 300 on shore. The seaport promenade was 30 meters wide and designed for pedestrians with the addition of cafes, restaurants and other facilities along the seafront. The highway was developed and an expressway was built underground to reduce traffic.

The hosting of the Olympics had an immediate impact on tourism and greatly boosted Barcelona’s public image. Through broadcasting, marketing and advertising promotions, the city was put on display for the world to see. Barcelona had always been rich in culture and history with a pleasing climate, but the newly revitalized and modernized appearance of the city is what caught people’s attention and sparked interest.

Barcelona is now identified as a major tourist destination and receives more than 7 million tourists per year today. It has one of the best reputations on a global scale, ranked 6th in global brand image by the 2009 Anholt-Gfk Roper City Brands Index, and named to have the third strongest European city brand by the Saffron European City Brand Barometer.In an attempt to further investigate the effectiveness of the “Barcelona Inspira” campaign and the urban renewal of Barcelona, I interviewed a handful of study abroad students about their perception of the city.

Based on the answers from the students and the characteristics that they associate with Barcelona, we can see that the city exudes positive thoughts and images associated with happiness. The interviews also reveal some weaknesses in the brand image campaign, and could prove helpful to marketing executives in perfecting the city’s brand. Overall, the “Barcelona Inspira” campaign is a reflection of the success that urban development has had on the city’s brand image and reputation, and is evidence of the lasting effect that the 1992 Olympics had on the redevelopment and image transformation of the city.

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The Vacationers by Emma Straub

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Since I am studying abroad in Barcelona, I thought it would be nice to review a book with a story set in Spain! The Vacationers is a newer book, published in 2014, that explores the typical woes of family life, and explores below the surface to reveal various tensions and conflicts found when you take a closer look.

Genre: Adult Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

Published: 2014

Summary: The Post family has decided to take a two week vacation to the Balearic Island of Mallorca, Spain to celebrate Fanny and Jim’s 25th wedding anniversary, as well as their daughter Sylvia’s high school graduation. image003They rent a house that is able to fit Franny, Jim, their children Sylvia and Bobby, Bobby’s girlfriend Carmen, and Franny’s best friend Charles along with his husband Lawrence. We quickly learn that all of their lives in Manhattan are filled with tension and deceit. Jim and Fanny are working through Jim’s infidelity with a younger office assistant, Sylvia is escaping from a social media scandal where photos of her making out with multiple boys at a party were posted, Charles and Lawrence have disagreements over their recently approved adoption, and Bobby struggles to ask his parents for financial help since he is now in debt after a protein shake company pyramid scheme. By the time it’s time to leave Mallorca, Franny and Jim’s marriage is stable and intact, Charles and Lawrence are preparing to welcome a Cala Fornells, Mallorcababy into their home, Bobby is considering moving back to New York to get his life together and Sylvia is ready to go out on her own at college.

Thoughts: This book was a quick and easy read. It gives a very realistic view into the lives of a typical family with typical family problems and tension. It was honest and did not include embellishments, drama or plot twists that made it both refreshing yet slightly boring. I was kind of waiting for some big dramatic climax to happen but it never did. They merely resolve most of their tensions and return to their lives in Manhattan refreshed and renewed. It was a good book to read to ensure people that everyone goes through family problems, and no family is as perfect as it appears on the surface.

Quotes:

“Families were nothing more than hope cast out in a wide net, everyone wanting only the best.”

“So much of being a good friend was knowing when to keep your mouth shut.”

“Maybe that was the key to all good relationships, having oceans of time apart.”

“The major accomplishment of her life was producing two children who seemed to like each other even when no one else was looking.”

Recommendations: Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Paper Towns by John Green

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Genre: Young Adult, Mystery

Published: 2008

Rating: 4/5

Summary: Paper Towns is narrated in first person by Quentin “Q” Jacobsen and begins in a subdivision of Orlando known as Jefferson Park. We begin with Quentin as a child, hanging out with his neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman. The two children are going to the park when they come across the corpse of a man who had committed suicide. 6260338_f520 We suddenly jump forward to high school, where Margo and Quentin are still neighbors, but have grown apart. That night, Margo shows up at Quentin’s window dressed in all black with black face paint and convinces  him to sneak out to help her with a mission. Turns out, Margo needs Quentin to drive the getaway car while Margo makes stops on her mission to get revenge on anyone she feels has wronged her.  The first stop is Margo’s ex-boyfriend Jase, and the girl he was cheating on Margo with, Becca. Quentin calls Becca’s house and tells her parents that Jase is up in Becca’s room having sex with her right now, and Jase jumps out of the window and runs down the street naked while Quentin snaps a photo. Margo sneaks into Becca’s room and graffiti’s a blue “M” on her wall, and leaves a dead catfish in the room. The next stop is a girl named Karin who was the one who told Margo about her cheating boyfriend, and therefore is given a bouquet of flowers. Then, Margo leaves a blue “M” and a dead catfish at both Jase’s house and her friend Lacey’s, whom she believed was never a very good friend to her. Margo and Quentin sneak into the SunTrust bank at 3:15 a.m. and they sit on one of the higher floors discussing life.Margo calls Orlando a “paper town” because it is fake and filled with fake people. Then Margo asks Quentin who heblog7 wants to get revenge on, and he choose the high school bully, Chuck. Margo and Q sneak into his house and remove one of his eyebrows and put Vaseline on all the door handles in his house. Then they end their night by sneaking into SeaWorld. The next day at school, Margo doesn’t show up, and after she is missing for three days, Quentin begins to worry. Quentin, along with his friends Ben, Radar and Lacey, begins to search for her and believes that Margo left him clues that only he can understand to find her. Using highlighted portions of“A Song of Myself” in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass found in Margo’s room, they find a piece of paper with an address on it. The address leads the team to an abandoned mini mall in Christmas, Florida where there is evidence that Margo was there. imagesIn addition there is a spray painted message on the wall that says “You will go to the paper towns and you will never come back” causing Quentin to believe that they will find Margo’s body and she is dead. However, he then believes that Margo is hiding in one of the subdivisions of Orlando and continues his search. Using a map they found in her room earlier, they make a connection that Margo is in Roscoe, New York. They find her in a run down barn, but Margo is not happy to see them and yells at them saying that she left no clues for them to find her. Quentin then believes that he made up an image of Margo in his mind that was fake, and the two begin to argue. Quentin then realizes it was unfair for him to expect her to be more than just a human being, and they share a brief kiss before they head their separate ways.

Thoughts: Although I enjoyed the book, there were moments that made me frustrated. In the beginning, I absolutely loved Margo and thought she was spunky and unique and full of life. When they began their mission to find her, I genuinely believed that she had left clues for them, however ridiculous the “clues” may be. I guess you could tell something was up when the boys an Lacey made such drastic connections between things they found and where Margo might be. What made me the most mad was how angry Margo got at innocent little Quentin after they found her. I would’ve preferred her to be in shock or a bit frazzled, but she was downright mean. I also wish Margo went back to Orlando with Quentin so that they could start up a friendship or romance of some sort, but I guess that was the point of the ending. Quentin was in love with a girl he imagined and not Margo Roth Spiegelman the actual human being. It was a fun and quick read which I always appreciate, and the content was lighter and definitely in the young adult category.

Quotes: 

“That’s always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they’re pretty. It’s like picking your breakfeast cereals based on color instead of taste.”

“The town was paper, but the memories were not.”

“I’m starting to realize that people lack good mirrors. It’s so hard for anyone to show us how we look, & so hard for us to show anyone how we feel.”

“I spy with my little eye a great story.”

Recommendations: The Fault In Our Stars, Looking For Alaska