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Category Archives: 4 Stars

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

 

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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King Lear

King Lear by William Shakespeare

This is now one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. This story masterfully shows the downfall of Lear through his pride. It also shows the effects his pride has on those around him (mostly his children). We all know Shakespeare’s a genius, so I’ll just give a few things about this particular play that I really liked.

The appearance vs. reality.
The Cinderella qualities to it (although in this case, she’s got some pretty messed up ‘step-sisters’)
The character of Edmund was really interesting. He’s mad that since he’s the illegitimate son, he’s not his father’s favorite or able to inherit, so he lashes out. Not excusing the horrible things he did, he then shows some repentance at the end. No sinner is too far gone for grace.
Reconciliation
The hard truth that the innocent sometimes suffer for the wrongdoings of others.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in 4 Stars, Reviews

 

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Mockingjay

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plains – except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay – no matter what the personal cost.

4 Stars

I’m going to try really hard to keep the spoilers out, but I’m going to assume you’ve read the first two books.

The Good:

I liked getting to know Prim a little better, afterall, Katniss was ready to sacrifice herself for her. I also liked that the love triangle ended with nothing left hanging and minimal angst. By the end, Katniss couldn’t have ended up with anyone else. Collins continues to show her firm grasp on fallen humanity. The ending was good, if not completely satisfying: a reminder that you can’t just walk away from everything they all went through and live happily-ever-after.

The Not So Good:

This book definitely has a different pace than the last two, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, I felt the beginning dragged a little. I also didn’t think the death of a certain character at the end brought very much pathos and some of the other deaths happened so fast, there wasn’t time to grieve over them. Of course that may have been intentional since the characters didn’t have the time either.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in 4 Stars, Reviews

 

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Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

In Catching Fire, the second novel of the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before… and surprising readers at every turn.

4 Stars

A superb sequel! For the review, I’m going to assume you’ve at least heard some things about this book (otherwise there may be slight spoilers, but nothing too terrible).

The Good:

Collins’s world building continues to be exceptional. I was worried the second hunger games would be boring and too similar to the first book, but the relationships between the tributes this time made it more dynamic, added more pathos. It was nice to get to know Gale a bit more, he was a little flat in the first book. I thought Collins’s portrayal of the effects of the trauma from the previous hunger games and then having to re-live all of that was written very well.

The Not So Good:

To be honest, the love triangle started to bug me in this book. I really just wanted to shake Katniss sometimes. And why do characters keep leaving others out of the loop? Talk to each other, people! *shakes head*

What did you think? Was it as good as the first book?

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in 4 Stars, Reviews

 

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North and South

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell skillfully fuses individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale creates one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.

4 Stars

The plot comes across as a kind of Pride and Prejudice, except the plot is more intricate, characters are more fully drawn, and matters of society are addressed. As you can see from the 4 stars I gave it, I really enjoyed this novel. Margaret is a feisty protagonist who goes through a lot with and for her family. Some of the passages addressing unions and the worker-manager relationship can be difficult to get through, though they are interesting if you are interested in that kind of history. If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I’m not always a fan of romances, but I really enjoyed this one, perhaps even better than I liked Pride and Prejudice.

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in 4 Stars, Reviews

 

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