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Battle Royale

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale, a high-octane thriller about senseless youth violence, is one of Japan’s best-selling and most controversial novels. As part of a ruthless program by the totalitarian government, ninth-grade students are taken to a small isolated island with a map, food, and various weapons. Forced to wear special collars that explode when they break a rule, they must fight each other for three days until only one “winner” remains. The elimination contest becomes the ultimate in must-see reality television. A Japanese pulp classic available in English for the first time, Battle Royale is a potent allegory of what it means to be young and survive in today’s dog-eat-dog world. The first novel by small-town journalist Koushun Takami, it went on to become an even more notorious film by 70-year-old gangster director Kinji Fukusaku.

4 Stars

Ok, HennHenn, four stars. How does a graphically violent novel about kids killing each other get four stars? Let me tell you how. (Caution: spoilers ahead)

The Characters:
Takami did a great job at pulling the reader into the lives of so many characters. Many of the deaths felt like a punch in the gut (especially Shinji and Hiroki). So not only were all of these characters dying, but you felt somewhat attached to most of them. The three main characters were interesting, realistically portrayed, and sympathetic. (Although having so many people in love with Shuya was a little annoying after a while…)

Realism:
Shuya is constantly trying to save everyone, but his efforts usually backfire in some way. Shogo, the pragmatist, saves him from himself several times. Saving more than themselves wasn’t realistic, and it didn’t happen. The ending was also realistic, with Shuya and Noriko on the run.

Shuya’s epic grenade catch: enough said

Ok, so how did it stack up to the cult movie? I thought the movie was a bit of a disappointment, though I should probably expect this of movies based on books. The characters were fairly flat in the movie, so the deaths weren’t as emotional. Also, they cut out Shuya’s grenade catch and Noriko’s one and only kill. For me, the book was worse violence wise than the movie was. Some of the more violent deaths in the book weren’t shown, and I guess I can have a pretty vivid and gruesome imagination…

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2012 in 4 Stars, Reviews

 

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The Immortal Rules

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity. Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of “them.” The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked–and given the ultimate choice. Die…or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

4 Stars

Thank you, Julie Kagawa, for allowing Vampires to retain their horror in this novel.

We have some honest to goodness ferocious vamps who must feed on human blood (no copping out and drinking animal blood in Kagawa’s world). Good, old fashioned fear of the sun (no sparkling, thank goodness). We have vampire masters and minions. Some of it feels like a mix of elements from Dracula, Interview with a Vampire, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (but not in a bad way).

Which brings me to the main character. A resourceful female with believable character development! And she’s Asian and wields a Katana!! Now that Allie is the thing she’s always hated the most, the topic of her diet is a constant concern for her (obviously). If she goes too long without drinking, her feral instincts take over and she’ll attack (and most likely kill) whoever she can get at first. So she struggles a lot with how to feed without being the monster she’s always loathed. Her character development is pretty believable and I will definitely be reading the next book in this series when it’s released.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in 4 Stars, Reviews

 

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

Your best friend hates you. The guy you liked hates you. Your entire group of friends hates you.

All because you did the right thing.

Welcome to life for Mena, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She’s been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her—not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who’s pretty funny for the most brilliant guy on earth.

And when Ms. Shepherd begins the unit on evolution, school becomes more dramatic than Mena could ever imagine . . . and her own life is about to evolve in some amazing and unexpected ways.

1 Star

Before I start my rant, let me give credit where credit is due.

The main characters are fairly interesting. There are churches like the one portrayed in the book (though I’ve only heard of them). There are Christians (or at least professing Christians) who believe in Evolution.

That being said, here are my problems with this book. (Now, I waited some time before writing this so it didn’t turn into a flame review, so some details may now have escaped me.)

1. The false dichotomy. Brande sets the story up and basically gives the reader two options. The crazy cult church who believes in Creationism (as taught in the Bible) but who are inept at defending their beliefs and who in many ways does not act like a Christian should. OR The rational, good, kind Christian evolutionists. In this book, there’s no in between. Creationism in this book is equated with unbalanced, unbiblical believers.

2. It would be nice if Brande did her homework on such things as the fossil record. Now, I’m not a scientist by any means, but I know enough from a couple college classes to know that Brande casts broad generalizations and completely ignores the evidence pointing to Creation as shown in the Bible. She doesn’t address the problem of having Evolution begin before the Fall and she doesn’t address the lack of fossils to support Evolution. A lot is just presupposed. Now, I understand this is a work of fiction, but that’s not a good excuse for shoddy research. And since the main plot is her struggle with this topic, these things should be addressed.

3. Now, this one made me really mad… taking the Bible out of context. Several times the main character takes Scripture out of context to erroneously support Evolution.

Note: I am a believer, and I fully believe in Creation as it is given in the Bible. Microevolution, which we see among species, can be seen and proven and is supported by Scripture (“kinds” in Genesis). Macroevolution is a theory and a worldview and in many ways a belief system (or religion). Many evidences in creation can be read through this lens or through Creationist lens (for instance, Evolutionists and Creationists have different views on such things as the Grand Canyon). Either way, you’re reading your own view onto the evidence.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in 1 Star, Reviews

 

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Stray

Stray by Andrea K. Höst

On her last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walked out of exams and into a forest. Surrounded by the wrong sort of trees, and animals never featured in any nature documentary, Cass is only sure of one thing: alone, she will be lucky to survive.

The sprawl of abandoned blockish buildings Cass discovers offers her only more puzzles. Where are the people? What is the intoxicating mist which drifts off the buildings in the moonlight? And why does she feel like she’s being watched?

Increasingly unnerved, Cass is overjoyed at the arrival of the formidable Setari. Whisked to a world as technologically advanced as the first was primitive, where nanotech computers are grown inside people’s skulls, and few have any interest in venturing outside the enormous whitestone cities, Cass finds herself processed as a ‘stray’, a refugee displaced by the gates torn between worlds. Struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, she must adapt to virtual classrooms, friends who can teleport, and the ingrained attitude that strays are backward and slow.

Can Cass ever find her way home? And after the people of her new world discover her unexpected value, will they be willing to let her leave?

5 Stars

I love it when I find a new favorite! Where to begin… (also, I tried really hard to keep the spoilers out, so sorry if some of this is a little vague)

The world-building is phenomenal. Confusing at times, but incredibly interesting.

The book begins with “survivor Cass” as she struggles to make it on a deserted planet. As far as I could tell, it was all pretty realistic and gives a nice set-up for later developments. Later, after the Setari pick her up, we get more glimpses into alien society and community. All very interesting. The info-dumps were handled well and didn’t detract from the plot at all. The book is written in journal form, which doesn’t always work, but which Höst pulls off well.

Cass herself is brilliantly portrayed. As you know, I have a strong dislike of wimpy female characters and insta-love. None of that here! Sure, Cass struggles, cries, throws tantrums at times, but who wouldn’t after being whisked away from her planet and thrown onto an alien planet and picked up by “space ninjas” who don’t speak her language. The language aspect was handled nicely, I thought. Cass’s decisions are ultimately rational, and I love that she keeps referencing all the sci-fi she’s watched and read as why she’s handling it so well. (One of my favorite references gives a nod to Stargate “Hm—must watch Tarens carefully in case their eyes flash mysteriously.”) I also love Cass’s wry sense of humor.

I have to admit that I sometimes got lost in all of the names of the Setari, but eventually straightened it all out. (Although sometimes I had to refresh my memory as to which Setari team each belonged.)

Definitely deserving of all 5 stars.

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2012 in 5 Stars, Reviews

 

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Cinder

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I keep going back and forth between 3 and 4 stars, so let’s say 3.5

So I saw this book and went “Cinderella as a cyborg? Yes, please!”

The Good:

The romance wasn’t annoying! “Prince Charming” Kai has a personality, there was no insta-love, just insta-like and insta-intrigued. Kai puts his people above himself and Cinder. The world building was good, if a bit odd. I’d be interested to learn more about Lunar history. There’s realistic growth in Cinder as she struggles with her identity. She has to cope with prejudice against cyborgs and her own struggle not to think of herself in the same way that others do.

The Not So Good:

I’m not sure if the big reveal near the end was supposed to be a surprise, but I had figured it out near the beginning of the book. However, knowing didn’t wreck the story at all.Sometimes the Cinderella tropes took away a little from the story. I’m not sure I was supposed to be amused at the “loss of the glass slipper” scene.

Her next book will feature Little Red Riding Hood. Needless to say, I’m interested in reading more.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in 4 Stars, Reviews

 

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Outside In

Outside In by Maria V. Snyder

Me? A leader? Okay, I did prove that there’s more to Inside than we knew. That a whole world exists beyond this cube we live in. And finding that led to a major rebellion—between worker scrubs like me and the snobby uppers who rule our world. Make that ruled. Because of me, we’re free. I thought that meant I was off the hook, and could go off on my own again—while still touching base with Riley, of course. He’s the one upper I think I can trust. But then we learned that there’s outside and then there is Outside. And something from Outside wants In.

3 Stars

After loving Inside Out, I was a little disappointed with this one.

The Good:

The characterization continued to be realistic. Trella continued to struggle with her selfishness and how her decisions affected others. Other characters got realistically frustrated with her and tried to set her straight (she eventually came around). Also, Snyder did a good job keeping me just as confused as Trella was in some places (which is a good thing). The plot is very fast-paced and there’s a lot to keep straight, which I enjoyed but might not be for everyone.

The Bad:

The romance took a dive. I was looking forward to seeing how Trella and Riley’s relationship would progress as they actually got to know each other. However, instead, their relationship just got more physical. (Although the scenes weren’t incredibly explicit, I didn’t feel they were necessary. To me, physical attraction, while alright and even necessary to a point, isn’t what makes a lasting or believable relationship.) I was disappointed in how little time they spent getting to know each other. Their relationship became rather flat, superficial to me. (And I had such high hopes for this one…) Also, I’m not sure how Trella managed to do everything when she was constantly being injured and put in the infirmary o_O

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2012 in 3 Stars, Reviews

 

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The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

2 Stars

Besides Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which I’m not sure counts), this is my maiden voyage into zombie literature. Can I just start off by saying: YUCK, yuck, yuck, eeewwwwwwwww, GROSS!

The Ok:

The backstory of the sisterhood sounded intriguing, but I wished there had been more time spent on it. The heroine isn’t completely dependent on her love interest, she actually has a backbone.

The Bad:

As far as annoying love triangles (or quadrangle in this case) goes, this is one of the most annoying. She’s obsessed with someone else’s betrothed while she herself is betrothed. The two guys are both tripping over each other to be with her. Then, once she basically gets the guy she wants, she decides he isn’t good enough. Now, I’m all for heroines who aren’t dependent on their love interest *coughBellacough* but she’s basically willing to sacrifice all of her friends so she can see the ocean. *shakes head* Also, the zombie stuff kind of grossed me out sometimes, but in zombie literature that’s probably more of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in 2 Stars, Reviews

 

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