Barnes & Noble: an unexpected visit

It's no longer in the bag.

It’s no longer in the bag.

I was visiting friends for Easter when I made a wrong turn which led me onto a completely different highway–but no worries, because this different highway still took me to where I needed to go. However, I also noticed something else this highway had: a Barnes & Noble store.

Let me back track a bit and say that when I moved to the wilds of my rural paradise back in 2003, I had never stepped foot in a Barnes & Noble since then. I have none near my home–or at least the drive to the store nearest to me would take the better part of a day (or more).

I have a bookstore nearby, but it’s a second-hand store that sells paperbacks for three bucks ($2.00 if you bring a book in to give them). And for the last five years, I’ve been buying (as well as selling my own) books on the Kindle ebook reader.

So I haven’t been in a Barnes & Noble store in nearly eleven years, not since the days of the 1990s and early 2000s, when I would make a run up to the store to check out the magazines. I bought all of my books at B&N then, and my weekly visits there was one of the things I missed when I moved. There’s nothing like browsing through a good book store.

As you can imagine, I was eager to relive the glory days by walking around a B&N store once more, even though it wasn’t the exact same B&N store where I used to shop.

The first thing I noticed was the massive display for the Nook, the Barnes & Noble ebook reader. The second thing I noticed was that a third of the store was taken up by the DVD/Blu-Ray section. Another large portion of the store was taken up with toys and comic book collectibles. And still another part had coffee mugs and other snack time items that was associated with the cafe.

I’ve read online that B&N was having financial trouble, and this place reflected that depressing news. Instead of being a book store first and foremost, the merchandise layout looked like a desperate attempt to try and appeal to many different interests, while losing what made the store great in the first place.

I felt the urge to buy a book, but ran into a problem. Between the great second-hand bookstore in my area, and the Kindle, I’m pretty much backed up with a number of books to read. And checking the prices of the books that I already have in B&N, I saw that I managed to score them much cheaply than what B&N sells them for.

So I bought two movie magazines (Fangoria and Total Film) and a comic book, the first issue of yet another Aquaman book. I notice that DC keeps trying to update their lame Aquaman character for a new generation…to the sound of crickets. No matter how hard they try, he’s still pretty lame.

It’s sort of the same situation that B&N finds itself in. But unlike Aquaman, B&N isn’t lame, it’s just the victim of changing times. I feel sorry for them. If this store was closer to me, I’d go back every now and then. But, alas….

If nothing else, I finally scratched an old itch.

Divergent: the book review

The weather reports clear skies...except for that big firey eye! Ah! Run!

The weather reports clear skies…except for that big firey eye! Ah! Run!

I saw this on sale at the store (just $6.00! W00T!), so I bought it. I enjoyed the first Hunger Games novel very much and was hoping that this book, another young-adult dystopian novel in the same vein, might be just as good.

In short, nope…not really.

Set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, on the banks of the great marshlands, which used to be the Great Lakes, Divergent deals with a teenager named Beatrice Prior, who has to chose between five different social factions. These factions were created as a means to more efficently run a new society that arose from the ashes of the old.

What exactly happened to the old world? The author, Ms. Roth, never really explains. Like the Hunger Games, Divergent is told in the first person–but unlike the Hunger Games, we’re not given much details of the overall Divergent world, which is frustrating. The main character, who shortens her name to Tris, comes off being very flat and uninteresting, as she spends the better part of the book pining for a boy.

Yes, I know it’s just a young-adult novel. But so was The Hunger Games, and that book managed to rise above the limitations of the genre. You cared deeply about Katniss Everdeen, because she came across as being a fully realized human being.

But Roth not only makes Tris one-dimensional, she also makes her something of a major league twit. But in order to discuss this, I will have to warn you of Spoilers Ahead.

Spoilers: About halfway into the book, Tris and her boyfriend uncover a plot by one of the social factions to take over control of the city. Once they find this out, they promptly…do nothing.

Yep, that’s right. They just sit on this vital information until the bad guys pull the trigger on their plan. And the result is that hundreds, if not thousands, of people get slaughtered in the streets. This makes the lead characters look very shallow and stupid. End spoilers.

I realize the film has just been released, and despite my misgivings for the book, I’m still actually looking forward to seeing it. The main reason is because it’s directed by Neil Burger, who gave us the superb The Illusionist. We shall see.

But while the first Hunger Games novel made me want to read the two sequels, Divergent’s thin plot and cardboard characters makes me want to skip the remaining two installments. Maybe the movie will be better.