Saturday, January 31, 2015

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

                Louis Silvie Zamperini was known as a thief and all around misfit when he was a child. He would steal anything he could get his hands on and fight anyone that got in his way. As a teenager filled with the fear of being institutionalized and possibly sterilized, Louis cleaned up his act and became a track star. His most impressive race was the mile, where his time was steadily decreasing and his popularity growing. Louis’ legs would eventually take him to the 1936 Olympics in Germany, where at the age of nineteen he would run the 5,000 meter race. He didn’t win but had one of the best finishing laps in history at the time and was even complimented by Adolf Hitler. Louis would leave Germany with dreams of the 1940 Olympic that would be held in Japan. Those dreams would end as war began. The years passed and Louis became a bombardier in the Army Air Corps. It was during a rescue mission that Louis’ plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean leaving three survivors. This is where Louis’ descent into hell began as he would eventually spends weeks on the water and years as a prisoner of war.
                Louis Zamperini lived an extraordinary life. After reading this book, I feel pretty confident in that statement. From being the misfit to the track star to the Olympian to the bombardier. It’s all so complex and yet so endearing. Zamperini experienced life in ways that I know I will never experience life. His bravery and determination to live is extremely inspiring and unbelievable. The atrocities of war can never be overlooked and reading Zamperini’s story brings it to life. You can’t hide from the images that words create in your mind. Reading his story put into focus some of the monstrous circumstances people had to endure in wars. It’s amazing what a human body and soul can tolerate. Faith became a huge part of Louis’ life because of the experiences he went through as prisoner of war. After coming home, that faith would be what saved him from the horrible nightmares and visions that were overtaking him.

                Zamperini would speak often about the trials he suffered and I’m glad his story is told in Unbroken by Hillenbrand. I was consumed by this story. I was fully dedicated from the beginning and I did not want to put this book down. Hillenbrand told this story in such a captivating, steadily moving, suspenseful, heart wrenching, and personable way that I unknowingly became extremely invested in Zamperini. What I loved most was that she kept his story in historical context. Readers were very aware of what was going in the world as Zamperini made his way through life. I also really enjoyed the fact that readers were able to meet and learn about so many other soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines that Louis encountered throughout his career and life. Many of these men became his friends, and others suffered with him and experienced many of the same atrocities that he did. Knowing their story and their struggles brought in to perspective the many lives that were forever altered. This biography was obviously well researched and well put together. I enjoyed it immensely and give it 5 out of 5 stars. This is how I wanted to start this year’s them of biographies, autobiographies and memoirs. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, Translated by Yuki Oniki

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, Translated by Yuki Oniki



                There are twenty one male students and twenty one female students in Third Year Class B, Shiroiwa Junior High School. Their bus was supposed to take them on a study trip to the island of Kyushu. But once all the students had succumbed to the gas that forced them to sleep their bus driver, who was conveniently wearing a gas mask once the gas was released, steered them off course. When the students awoke they were all in a classroom, seated in the positions they would be if in their own classroom at Shiroiwa Junior High School. This was not their school as they were informed by “Instructor” Kinpatsu Sakamochi. This class had been chosen for the ‘Program.’ This ‘Program’ was a military exercise conducted for security reasons. The Republic of Greater East Asia chooses fifty third year junior high school classes and all students in a class must fight each other till there is only one survivor.
I was so excited to finally get to read this book. In no shape way or form was I disappointed. The tone for this novel was set in the first few chapters and it only increased in intensity. There were no boring moments. It was a relentless onslaught of emotion and the body count continued to decrease. Takami filled this novel with detail from the deaths of each student, to the relationships formed and extinguished. It became obvious that the government of the Republic of Greater East Asia was obviously as much as the student’s enemy as were the other students. What kind of government forces kids to kill each other and is willing to kill anyone who opposes their action? Is there any way to defeat such a system? The answer seems to be an overwhelming “no” as more students continue to kill each other with the hopes of surviving to receive an autograph from the dictator and the pension to hold them for the rest of their lives.
                This is not The Hunger Games and I mean that in the best way possible. These two get compared a lot because of the premise of children having to fight each other to the death but that is honestly where the comparison ends. This is a different animal completely. Battle Royale is a psychological thriller filled with action, tension, fear, and an ongoing sense of peril like I’ve never experienced. What kind of person can kill their classmates? Who can you trust when eventually everyone has to die in order for you to survive? Can you be the person who pulls the trigger or plants the knife? This is what ultimately in my opinion separates Battle Royale from The Hunger Games. Takami delved into the psychological states of many of the students participating in the program and exposed their mental anxiety (or lack thereof). The reader becomes entrenched in the minds of these students as they plunge into the madness that their lives have become. It is extremely interesting, entertaining, horrifying and inventive. (Honestly how many different ways can you come up with to knock off forty two students?) I didn’t want to put this novel down. There were moments when the novel got a little repetitive but I’m not sure if that was the fault of Takami or of the translation. Regardless, Battle Royale comes highly recommended from me. I give this novel 5 out 5 stars. I’m not sure if there is anything more I could have expected from such a high octane novel.

                

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren


                A nine year old, freckled faced, red haired girl just moved into the Villa Villekulla, the house at the end of town, with her monkey named Mr. Nilsson and a horse. That young girl is Pippi Longstocking. She has spent her life on a boat with her father and has now moved into the home he purchased for them after he was lost at sea. Her mother is in heaven and she believes her father is now a cannibal King who will one day return for his darling daughter. She has gold pieces in a suitcase and doesn’t see the point of school. The brother and sister that live next door, Tommy and Annika, are her only friends. It is with them that Pippi recounts her adventures, creates new outlandish games to play and above all, has fun.             
Pippi Longstocking is such a great book. The characters are well developed and lovable. Pippi is outrageous and hilarious. Tommy and Annika are her willing sidekicks by her side at every turn lost in her little world. There is such a sad element to the story with the death of her mother and the loss of her father. Yet Pippi brings joy and a little mayhem to everyone in the story. She is caring but hazardous at times. Above all she is genuine and though a little misguided she means well and loves the people around her.
                This story just makes me smile. I grew up loving this movie and had to Youtube “Scrubbing Day” halfway through reading this story. It just brought back so many memories of being a little girl and being so enchanted by this young girl full of strength and hope with a wide smile plastered on her face. Joy radiates from the pages of Pippi Longstocking. I don’t know what made Lindgren creates this story but I am glad she did. Children need to be above all entertained while reading, especially if introduced to it a young age. I can’t imagine any child not being swept away by the young girl in these pages. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to the young ones or the young at heart.

                

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Revival by Stephen King

Revival by Stephen King

                Jamie Morton was preoccupied with a hill of dirt and his toy soldiers when a shadow fell across him. That shadow belonged to the young minister, Charles Jacobs, the new reverend at First Methodist Church of Harlow. That was in October of 1962 and Jamie was only six years old. The Mortons would come to know Reverend Jacobs, his wife Patsy and their son Morrie very well. Reverend Jacobs healed Con Morton after he went mute in a ski accident, harnessing the power of electricity in the name of God. Jacobs was very fascinated with electricity. Often during the youth group sessions he would present some of his gadgets and inventions to the younger parishioners. Things changed after Patsy and Morrie died in a car accident. Jacobs’ faith shattered and one fateful day, the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 1965, he delivered the Terrible Sermon and ended up leaving Harlow. It would be decades later, while Jamie was strung out on heroin and at his lowest point, that he would see Jacobs again. Jacobs would perform another healing with the aid of electricity, this time on Jamie. The aftereffects of that healing would haunt Jamie for the rest of his life, as would the presence of his old reverend Charles Jacobs and his constant search for the secret electricity.
                Classic King. That is the best way to describe this novel and I won’t be the only person to say that. From the very beginning it felt reminiscent of his earlier work: strong character development, a simple sense of security, a hint of mystery and then emotional destruction to the reader. Jamie is an intense, honest narrator who made it very clear from the beginning the affect Jacobs had on his life. The novel spanned five decades and revealed the life Jamie led and how his path intersected often with Jacobs. Each change in the ex-reverend reflected his obsession with what he referred to as secret electricity. Using this secret electricity he would perform experiments on people healing their ailments. The after effects for some would result in their death and many by suicide, but why? It was this mystery that drove the story and kept driving Jamie back into the path of Jacobs.

                I was lucky enough to go to one of Stephen King’s speaking events the day after Revival was released. It was amazing to hear him talk about the writing process and speak about the things that inspired him. When speaking about Revival he referenced Frankenstein and Igor’s reaction when the monster became alive. The vivid imagery he described and the mystifying power of lightning is laced within the pages. As a huge fan of King I was not at all disappointed in this novel. I really enjoyed it. It isn’t full of the blood and gore that some may think of when they hear King’s name because of his reputation but it is full of great writing and engaging story. I give this novel 5 out of 5 stars. If you missed the old King or wanted to ever try a Stephen King novel, then this would be a great option for you. If you love King like I do then dive right in to the mind of man whose imagination and ideas have no boundary. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Books Read in 2014

Hey Readers,

While this year focused on reading Banned Books it was also a year of reviewing for me. Almost all of the books I read this year were reviewed for either my blog, BTS eMag or the OnlineBookClub. It was all a learning experience and one that I really enjoyed. The magic number for this year was 131! That is how many books I completed this year! That is my best year in reading so far. Below you will see a list of all books read in 2014. This spreadsheet will be updated for 2015 to include much more information. The theme for 2015 will be Biographies, Autobiographies and Memoirs. I am super excited about 2015 and will be posting a new blog soon about reading themes so keep your eyes open for it!



2014 Reading list
#
Book
Author
1
The Crystal Heart: Beginnings
Anthony M. Swimsinski
2
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
JK Rowling
3
The Questionable Blood
Daniel Ekine
4
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
JK Rowling
5
The God Particle
Daniel Danser
6
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
JK Rowling
7
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
JK Rowling
8
Dark and Day
Israel Grey
9
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
JK Rowling
10
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
JK Rowling
11
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
JK Rowling
12
Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck
13
The Man of Nightstone
Devon Drake
14
Kiya: Hope of the Pharoah
Katie Hamstead
15
Animal Farm
George Orwell
16
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
Matthew Dicks
17
Catch 22
Joseph Heller
18
The King Maker
Susan Frances
19
1984
George Orwell
20
Narrative Madness
Ronald B. Richardson
21
The Good Lord Bird
James McBride
22
Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger
23
Wave
Sonali Deraniyagala
24
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ernest Hemingway
25
The Misanthrope's Mansion
Emma L. Sawville
26
A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess
27
First Phone call from Heaven
Mitch Album
28
Symphony of Light and Water
Renea Mason
29
As I lay Dying
William Faulkner
30
Zack's Choice
Harry E Gilleland Jr.
31
Invisible Man
Ralph Ellison
32
The Valley of Amazement
Amy Tan
33
At Her Beck and Call
Mistress Benay
34
The Color Purple
Alice Walker
35
The Fault Tree
Michaela Thompson
36
Falling off the Career Ladder
Haylie B. Fox
37
Slaughterhouse Five
Kurt Vonnegut
38
Fearless Heart
Gail Cauble Gurley
39
Legend
Marie Lu
40
Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neale Hurston
41
The Unsacred Gift
C.S. Dorsey
42
Life After Life
Kate Atkinson
43
The Princess of Sparta
Aria Cunningham
44
The Art of Letting Go
Anna Bloom
45
Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell
46
Goddess of the Hunt
Becky Flade
47
Kevin's Last Walk
Barry Adkins
48
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee
49
Prodigy
Marie Lu
50
Women in Love
DH Lawrence
51
Champion
Marie Lu
52
The Pits
Greg Smith
53
The Awakening
Kate Chopin
54
The Serpent of Venice
Chistopher Moore
55
Passion in the blood
Margaret L. Carter
56
In Cold Blood
Truman Capote
57
Eleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell
58
The Genie Smolders
Kellyan Zuzulo
59
Lolita
Vladimir Nabokov
60
My Book of Samples
Demetrius Cudjoe
61
Lord of the Flies
William Golding
62
Songs of Willow Frost
Jamie Ford
63
More than a Temptation
Taige Crenshaw
64
The Giver
Lois Lowry
65
Mr. Mercedes
Stephen King
66
Gathering Blue
Lois Lowry
67
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
Fannie Flagg
68
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Ken Kessey
69
Lane Changes
S.L.Ellis
70
Rescued by the Bucaneer
Normandie Alleman
71
The Silkworm
Robert Galbraith
72
Trinity Angel
Stephanie Treleaven
73
The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck
74
Messenger
Lois Lowry
75
A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L'Engle
76
Son
Lois Lowry
77
If Only
Ashlyn Mathews
78
flowers for algernon
Daniel Keyes
79
fangirl
Rainbow Rowell
80
Angels of the heart
Regina Andrews
81
all the kings men
Robert Penn Warren
82
The Dinner
Herman Koch
83
Light of the Heart
Regina Andrews
84
Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
85
Moloka'i
Alan Brennert
86
Glory of the Heart
Regina Andrews
87
Adventures of Huck Finn
Mark Twain
88
Highway to the Stars
B.E. Wilson
89
Peter Pan
J. M. Barrie
90
Papertowns
John Green
91
The Child Thief
Brom
92
Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne
93
Look Again
Lisa Scottoline
94
Prophase
M. Street
95
Alice's Adventure in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
96
Through the Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll
97
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky
Heidi W. Durrow
98
Unfinished Business
Wendy Hewlett
99
The Orphan Master's Son
Adam Johnson
100
Almost Magic
J.M. Kelley
101
Lady Chatterley's lover
D.H. Lawrence
102
The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho
103
Fallen Hopes, Taken Dreams
J.M. Barlog
104
The Jungle
Upton Sinclair
105
Audrey's Promise
Susan Sheehey
106
Little Women
Louisa May Alcott
107
The Celtic Fan
Deanndra Hall
108
The Ferryman
Amy Neftzger
109
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe
110
Interview with the vampire
Anne Rice
111
The Satanic Verses
Salaman Rushdie
112
Inoperative: Cyborg One
Charity Parkerson
113
Intact: Cyborg Two
Charity Parkerson
114
The Outsiders
S.E. Hilton
115
Whispered Secrets, Whispered Prayers
Donna Mack
116
Leaving Time
Jodi Picoult
117
The Golden Gateway to Thailand
David Yow
118
The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath
119
Monster
Walter Dean Myers
120
The Girl in the Photo
Wally Wood
121
Maleficent
adapted by Eliazabeth Rudnick
122
The Book of the Forsaken
Yannis Karatsioris
123
The Pearl
John Steinbeck
124
Revival
Stephen King
125
Mockingjay
Suzanne Collins
126
Pippi Longstocking
Astrid Lindgren
127
Secrets of the Truth
Jessica Dragon Cheramie
128
Battle Royale
Koushun Takami
129
A Game of Thrones
George R.R. Martin
130
A Clash of Kings
George R.R. Martin
131
A Storm of Swords
George R.R. Martin