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Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Thursday, August 25, 2011
Koushun Takami's notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left standing. Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan - where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller - Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive in a dog-eat-dog world.

Battle Royale had this dark atmosphere right from the start. You are pulled into book and thrown on the deserted island where the 'program' is carried out. The characters in the book don't know where they are and as a reader you don't know either, which makes it spine chilling. Only one student can survive in the program and if no one participates in the 'game' then they will all die. Violent battles ensue. The students don't know who to trust even though they've been classmates for years, because someone might just betray them in the end to guarantee their own survival.

At the beginning I was overwhelmed at the 40+ names I had to remember but as you read on, you get to know and remember most of them. We dive into back stories of some of the characters which make them seem more human, rather than simple empty beings fighting for their survival and it makes it hard to read the outcomes of some of the characters you've grown to like. This book was unputdownable as I desperately wanted to find out how everything could possibly end.

★★★★★ for the unputdownability

Bargain Buys

Wednesday, August 24, 2011
This week, I discovered an Australian store: Basement Books where they sell books for up to 90% off the retail price! (awesome.)
The website sells excess stock that other bookstores can't sell or remaindered books which means they have a black texta mark across the edge of the book so it can't be returned to the publisher by the retailer.

The YA range is quite small but I grabbed two novels for a measly $2.40 each (shipped free!), only one of them was marked with texta and the other one was perfectly new! The books I grabbed both happen to be about previous lives/reincarnations (and have pretty covers):

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller
Ever since Haven Moore can remember, she’s experienced visions of a previous life as a girl named Constance, whose love for her soulmate Ethan ended in tragedy. And then the sight of the world’s hottest movie star, Iain Morrow, brings Haven to her knees. She knows she has met him before. Is Iain her beloved Ethan?
Unable to deny her past any longer, seventeen-year old Haven flees to New York to find him- and an epic love affair begins. But it is both deeply fated and terribly dangerous. Can Haven unlock the deadly secrets hidden in her past lives- and loves- before all is lost and Ethan disappears again… forever?

Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw

Eva and Gabe explore the golden forest of their seaside Maine town, unknowingly tracing the footsteps of two teens, Evangeline and Gabriel, who once lived in the idyllic wooded village of Acadia more than one hundred years ago. On the day that Evangeline and Gabriel were be wed, their village was attacked and the two were separated. And now in the present, Gabe has mysteriously disappeared from Eva.

A dreamlike, loose retelling of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous love poem “Evangeline,” Anxious Hearts tells an epic tale of unrequited love and the hope that true love can be reunited

Chasers by James Phelan

Thursday, April 14, 2011
Jesse is on a UN Youth Ambassadors camp in New York when his subway carriage is rocked by an explosion. Jesse and his three friends, Dave, Mini and Anna, crawl out from the wreckage to discover a city in chaos.

Streets are deserted. Buildings are in ruins. Worse, the only other survivors seem to be infected with a virus that turns them into horrifying predators...

Outnumbered. No sign of life. Just them. And you... ALONE.

Yesterday at the library I came across this series called 'Alone'. The blurb intrigued me. It sounded generic but I just wanted a good book to fight the boredom and this book did the job. From the start this book was fast paced and attention grabbing. We are introduced to the characters David, Min and Anna, who the main character Jesse becomes friends with on a UN camp trip. I liked how these characters were of different cultures/backgrounds to give some sense that these characters aren't just cardboard cutouts used for the purpose of encountering terrible situations. There wasn't much action in the book but this only made it seem more eerie and suspenseful.

The setting is in Manhattan (kinda typical for dystopian movies, right?). Unlike movies, I got to learn a bit about the city, googling the places mentioned the book which was a bonus (You can learn from fiction!).

My absolute favourite section was the ending. It was totally bloodcurdling and left me gasping out loud. I never saw the twist coming. People who like the Tomorrow series by John Marsden and dystopian movies like Cloverfield and I am Legend will gobble this book up!


The Cellar by AJ Whitten

Sunday, January 9, 2011
Source of ebook: NetGalley
Thanks to HMH Books for giving me the chance to read The Cellar! The copy I read was an uncorrected proof.

Meredith Willis is suspicious of Adrien, the new guy next door. When she dares to sneak a look into the windows of his house, she sees something in the cellar that makes her believe that Adrien might be more than just a creep—he may be an actual monster.

But her sister, Heather, doesn’t share Meredith’s repulsion. Heather believes Adrien is the only guy who really understands her. In fact, she may be falling in love with him. When Adrien and Heather are cast as the leads in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, to Heather, it feels like fate. To Meredith, it feels like a bad omen. But if she tries to tear the couple apart, she could end up in the last place she’d ever want to be: the cellar. Can Meredith convince her sister that she’s dating the living dead before it’s too late for both of them?

The story deviates from the summary and the phrase on the cover 'Romeo and Juliet meet the living dead in...The Cellar'. The situation between the lovers in the book bared a only very slight resemblance to Romeo and Juliet's forbidden love and sad fate.

Heather and Meredith are sisters and their family are undergoing complications in coping with losing a loved one. One day, Heather, who is in a state of depression encounters Adrien, a mysterious new guy at school who she connects instantly with. He has the whole school's female population at school under his spell. When things seem to become bright for Heather, Meredith feels something is not right and warns Heather but Heather takes it the wrong way; she thinks her sister doesn't want her to be happy.

Meredith takes it into her hands to confirm her suspicions of Adrien who lives next door that there is something very strange about him, by spying through his windows of his house's cellar at any chance. What she finds terrifies her and convinces herself that she must tell Heather and get her away from Adrien. However the worst thing has happened: Heather and Adrien become closer and closer, lands in the main leads of the school play 'Romeo and Juliet' and Heather won't believe a thing her sister says.

The book is told in various perspectives. Third person for everyone except for Meredith where first person narrative is used. Because of the changing narratives, the book felt a bit choppy and didn't flow very well when events of an earlier time were explained once again, but I could see it would have be restrictive for the story had only Meredith's point of view been presented.

The writing is so vivid you get to live through the dread and nausea Meredith experiences. While the atmosphere of the book was mostly glum, I liked how in Meredith's narration, she threw in some funny comments. Furthermore, there is blossoming feelings between Meredith and a childhood friend/sister's ex-boyfriend Sam which was nice break from the never-ending gloominess.

I couldn't ship the relationship that brewed up between Adrien and Heather. Not only because of Adrien being the repulsive 'monster' but also because of all his actions. Their relationship was manufactured and didn't run it's natural course- I felt that Heather was a pawn in Adrien's game and Adrien controlled every move. I just wanted her to snap out of it! By the end of the novel, I still couldn't make myself like this character and believe his love for Heather.

The major thing I disliked in the book was how the cousins (Tad and Ted) in the story are twins and they were poorly characterised and stereotypical (being a twin I felt strongly about this). I mean seriously, Tweedledee and Tweedledum are their nicknames? Finishing off each other's speeches? I couldn't take another bite of it (pun intended)!

The ending was a welcome twist I didn't see coming! Overall, The Cellar is a spine-chilling read but it hangs onto you, never letting go until you finish. (In my case, I had to because some time at around 3am while I was reading, my table light flickered off and wouldn't turn back on so I finished it the nextsame day!)


Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph

Sunday, January 2, 2011
High school senior Teresa Adams is so painfully shy that she dreads speaking to anyone in the hallways or getting called on in class. But in the privacy of her bedroom with her iPod in hand, she rocks out -- doing mock broadcasts for Miami's hottest FM radio station, which happens to be owned by her stepfather. When a slot opens up at The SLAM, Tere surprises herself by blossoming behind the mike into confident, sexy Sweet T -- and to everyone's shock, she's a hit! Even Gavin, the only guy in school who she dares to talk to, raves about the mysterious DJ's awesome taste in music. But when The SLAM announces a songwriting contest -- and a prom date with Sweet T is the grand prize -- Sweet T's dream could turn into Tere's worst nightmare....

I liked reading about the main character Teresa coming out of her shell. I was a bit peeved at how she came out of her shell; she gets an open slot at her stepdad's music station by her relations. The stepdad basically goes 'Just turn up on this day and see what it's like.' after an argument erupts with Tere and her mum. I should mention that her love and knowledge of music (which she declared to her stepdad and mom and is clear to us) made her a perfect candidate but still, no interview and she got the job?!

Other than this annoyance, the development of Teresa was enjoyable to read. She has to deal with an English class oral presentation, bullying, a discouraging mother (who tries to make her something she's not) and hiding her radio identity from her secret crush Gavin, while also becoming closer to him.

The radio station setting was unique and insight into the radio business made the books' cliches not too bad. A bunch of characters made the book the opposite of dull for example DJ Derek from the station who manages to make any situation strangely uncomfortable and front desk receptionist Pop Tart/Kelly who is much more than her outward appearance.

The last half of the book was pretty much predictable when a contest is held for a local aspiring songwriter/singer to take Sweet T to her prom - I was just waiting for my predications to happen. Nevertheless, it was still exciting to read when the event unfolded. Shrinking Violet was a cute and fast happy-ending read.