**spoiler alert** This book was recommended to me by Amanda Liston of Appraising Pages, so I went to my local library and picked up a copy. Needless t**spoiler alert** This book was recommended to me by Amanda Liston of Appraising Pages, so I went to my local library and picked up a copy. Needless to say, I'm in her debt for convincing me to read The Sparrow. This novel is one of the best pieces of Christian science fiction I have ever read. I will say up front that a good portion of this review has spoilers, so if you haven't read the book yet, wait on reading this post.
The plot of The Sparrow revolves around an intergalactic radio broadcast received by an observatory here on Earth. This broadcast is a stream of beautiful songs being sung from the planet Rakhat. The Jesuit order decides they want to venture into space and find the origin of this music, and so a team is assembled and sent to the alien planet.
In the beginning of the novel, we're introduced to Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit who is the only survivor of the crew sent to Rakhat, currently on trial for supposed crimes he committed while on the alien planet. As the novel unfolds - switching between Emilio's debriefing (and somewhat inquisition) and the actual events that occurred - Emilio's story is unraveled for the reader to find out why Emilio's hands are maimed, why he is a wreck physically, mentally, and spiritually, and what really happened on Rakhat.
The preparations taken for the journey to Rakhat, and the actual travel there via a mining asteroid, aren't the main focus of the story, although these pieces of The Sparrow help to introduce readers to the wonderful array of unique characters. The book centers most of its plot around Emilio Sandoz, a priest who has sworn celibacy and is looked on by the Jesuit order as somewhat of a saint in regards to his relationship and closeness to God. What is fascinating though is that by the end of the book, Emilio is questioning if God even exists, and if He does, Emilio concludes that God is a merciless monster.
Emilio's struggle with priesthood, celibacy, and God's existence are scattered throughout the story, but in such a real way that I actually became teary-eyed as, toward the end of the book, Emilio confesses to what actually happened to him on Rakhat - his horrific discovery that such a mundane act as planting a garden could bring two alien species into violence against each other, destroy most of his friends, and catapult Emilio into a sexually submissive nightmare he had no hope of waking up from.
The author's voice does a great job of foreshadowing terrifying events throughout the novel which the reader can only speculate about until they actually occur. For example, when the author mentions that had Alan not died, he might have been able to warn everyone to be careful around Supaari, one of the alien characters. This foreshadowing is put in perfect spots throughout the book and sets up great intensity as you read and wonder what's going to happen between all of the characters. In the beginning of the book, you are made aware that Emilio's entire team perished and he is now the only survivor, but learning how each member dies - in nearly all unexpected ways - kept my interest throughout the whole novel.
I think the lynchpin that made the whole book interesting and terrifying and beautiful at the end was the fact that it was a simple garden that turned everyone's 'world' upside down. I love the theory that if you were to travel back in time, the simple flap of a butterfly's wings can alter the course of entire histories. In that respect, The Sparrow brings across, quite successfully, the fact that if one simple thing is altered or disturbed on an alien planet - a planet we humans know almost nothing about - it can cause a chain reaction leading to the very destruction of civilizations.
When first arriving on Rakhat, Emilio and his crew were incredibly careful about disturbing the ecosystem. But once they settled and realized much of the vegetation and atmosphere is akin to Earth's, they think nothing of starting a small garden to produce food for them to live off. Little did they know it would forever alter the destiny of the small Runa village they took residence in. I absolutely loved this inclusion in the book. It really tied everything together. As did the fact of how horrific the themes behind the music Earth's observatories picked up really were.
All in all, The Sparrow constantly surprised and delighted me. The story pulled at me, tugging me along to areas I wasn't sure I wanted to go, but once I was there, I was comforted by the fact that the characters questioned the same things I questioned, such as why God would bring so many people so far down a particular - very particular - path, only to allow them to be destroyed in the end.
I'll end this review with a great quote from the novel, spoken by Emilio during his inquiry by the Jesuit order - “Do you think so, John? Was it your God?” he asked with terrifying gentleness. “You see, that is my dilemma. Because if I was led by God to love God, step by step, as it seemed, if I accept the beauty and the rapture were real and true, then the rest of it was God’s will too, and that, gentlemen, is cause for bitterness. But if I am simply a deluded ape who took a lot of old folktales far too seriously, then I brought all of this on myself and my companions and the whole business becomes farcical, doesn’t it. The problem with atheism, I find, under these circumstances,” he continued with academic exactitude, each word etched on the air with acid, “is that I have no one to despise but myself. If, however, I choose to believe God is vicious, then at least I have the solace of hating God.”...more
**spoiler alert** I was given The Hunger Games for my birthday a couple of months ago and made it a priority read, even though I have over a dozen boo**spoiler alert** I was given The Hunger Games for my birthday a couple of months ago and made it a priority read, even though I have over a dozen books on my shelf that have been calling out my name to be read for over a year now. Now that the Hunger Game series is complete, a movie has been made, and the store shelves are complete with merchandise, I figured I’d finally get on the bandwagon and check what all the hype is about.
In case you’re wondering, I was avoiding The Hunger Games for a couple of different reasons. One being the issue of my reading backlist. The other being that the plot sounded too much like Battle Royale. As clunky as some of the writing was, Battle Royale was a great novel. You can check out my review for it here. But when The Hunger Games came around, I figured it was just a copycat of Battle Royale and decided to avoid it like I do so much other uninspired fiction and entertainment.
When I finally finished The Hunger Games (I’m referring to Book 1 in this review), I realized that there were enough differences in character, plot, and writing style to call The Hunger Games somewhat original when compared to Battle Royale. However, I won’t say I was enamored with the book overall.
The Hunger Games opens with a great character voice, that of Katniss Everdeen. One major thing that keeps The Hunger Games apart from Battle Royale is that Battle Royale was written from many different points of view and The Hunger Games focuses on one specific character, her story told in 1st-person. It works well for the book and does a great job getting me to invest in the character.
The plot of The Hunger Games is believable and tragic. You understand from the very beginning what the conflict in the story is and the seemingly impossible odds the characters in the book have to face in order to live day to day. I especially loved the parts about the hunting that goes on past the fence surrounding District 12 and the loyalties that the residents of the district have to each other as opposed to the Capitol. It gave a sense of hope in mankind and shed light on the aspect of community.
The book progresses along pretty smoothly. I enjoy Collins’s writing style. Never once did I have to stop and reread a passage to figure out what the author was trying to say. That’s important to me as a reader, because I have so many books I want to read, I really don’t want to be wasting my time having to reread stuff I’ve already read just to understand what the characters are doing or where they are in the story. I have trouble with this sometimes in some of Stephen King’s work. As much as I love his Dark Tower series, there are many times I have to reread passages to figure out what the heck is going on or what King is trying to say. Most of that is probably due to the fact that he has so much exposition in his novels. Collins does a good job balancing exposition with action to keep the reader moving along.
The world of The Hunger Games didn’t feel filled out. In Battle Royale, the characters question the government, their world, others around them. In The Hunger Games, it seems to be well-accepted that children will be thrown into an arena to kill each other at some point in their adolescence. The parents of these children don’t seem as broken up over this as I would expect them to be. Maybe if the world was ALWAYS like this from the time of its creation, I could believe it, but the book clearly explains that things were not always like this. I’ve heard that a rebellion begins in the second book in the series, but it felt strange that it didn’t start in this one.
When I read Battle Royale, it took hundreds of pages to get through the 42 contestants. It seems by the time I got about halfway through The Hunger Games, there are only a handful of participants left alive. And herein lies one of my gripes. The killings felt a little evasive – in regards to the author’s willingness to tell/show us what happened. I’m not asking for gratuitous violence – especially since this is a ‘young adult’ book – but I yearned for a little more description as to what happened to the other characters. Some seemed to just vanish into thin air, with no real details of how they died.
Battle Royale was also a bit more gruesome than The Hunger Games, as well as more psychologically rife. That’s one thing I didn’t find realistic about The Hunger Games. It seems some of the characters do in fact question the morals associated with killing one another, but they seem way more concerned with their own well-being than allowing a corrupt government establishment to turn them into murderers. Katniss barely questions killing anyone during her time in the arena. When she does finally make her first kill – intentional or not – she stops for a few seconds to ponder it and then she is off again on her adventure. I completely understand that one doesn’t have much time to get philosophical when in a bloodbath arena dueling others who want to kill you, but still. She seems to carry little to no remorse, and I find that to be somewhat disturbing in a novel aimed at such a young audience.
One thing that I did not like about the book was the ending.
Throughout the whole book, I was anticipating Katniss to rebel against the Capitol. In fact, I told myself that if it didn’t happen, and if she just went along with the rules of the game and came out the winner simply due to the fact that she killed the rest of the participants, that I would hate the book. I mean, what purpose would the book even have if it just stood to chronicle a mass of kids killing each other for the amusement of a sick and twisted government?
First, I felt surprised, shocked, and somewhat confused when the wolves came into the arena. You know, the ones who are actually mutated versions of the other contestants of the Hunger Games. That was weird, felt a little out of place, and was never explained. Granted though, there are more books in the series, so I guess it’s kind of okay that this was left somewhat open ended. But it felt random.
Hope was instilled in me when Katniss and Peeta decide to rebel against the rules of the Game stating there could only be one winner after the rule was changed earlier to include two winners. It came as no surprise to me that the Capitol went back on the rules – they want entertainment, and I knew pitting two victors from the same district against each other would satisfy that need for an entertaining fight. When Katniss and Peeta decided to feign taking the poison berries so that the Capitol would have no victors, I was glad for the welcome story twist.
From that point on, it felt as if there was another climax that was building up. There were still a few chapters left in the book, and I had hope that Katniss would rebel against the Games and start a riot or something and that would open up the door for the second book in the series. Maybe the wolf creatures would be explained. At least, that’s what I thought might happen. Instead, for a couple of chapters, the author builds up this crazy tension and anticipation. Katniss is filled with paranoia about what the Capitol is going to do to her and Peeta since they rebelled with the berries. So while the Capitol is putting on a show of crowning Katniss and Peeta as victors, you’re left waiting with bated breath as to what the Capitol really has up its sleeve. I mean, these two kids just pulled the government’s punk card. Surely there will be retribution.
I literally find myself on the edge of my seat as I rip through these last chapters, waiting for something great to happen, something to fulfill my desire for an uprising against this travesty of a government. I mean, we’re talking about twelve districts against a corrupt government. And yet, there isn’t much mention – if any (I don’t remember) – of anyone even attempting to create a rebellion of any sort, at least not since the Hunger Games have started. (The whole reason for the Hunger Games is because there was a failed rebellion attempt years earlier.)
Instead, I’m left with a lackluster ending that seemed to be built not around the Games themselves really, but around the theme of romance and betrayal. Peeta realizes that some of Katniss’s affection towards him was contrived. I’m not sure why he would be so surprised, seeing how he was playing up that angle in the very beginning. But at the end of the book, he seems truly hurt and offended that Katniss would do such a thing to him. And for some reason, Katniss suddenly has mixed feelings about Peeta. I can believe that part to a certain extent because it would be natural for her to feel close to Peeta in the arena when he was the only one she could really trust. But her feelings seem to take a violent swing toward the other end of the spectrum as she rides that last train home, and it doesn’t sit in my mind as all that believable.
I am debating on picking up the second book in this series. Some have told me it’s better than the first book, but I don’t know. Overall, The Hunger Games was a decent read, but it’s another one of those books that makes me scratch my head and ponder why in the world it gained so much buzz – enough to be made into a movie and eventually grow into a worldwide phenomenon.
To sum it up, the book was okay. Surely not the phenomenon everyone has been raving about. It entertained me, had a lackluster and anti-climactic ending, and probably could have used a bit more filling to make the pie sweeter....more
**spoiler alert** I have always been a fan of the James Bond films, and I really think the franchise hit the nail on the head when they came out with**spoiler alert** I have always been a fan of the James Bond films, and I really think the franchise hit the nail on the head when they came out with the last couple films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, both starring Daniel Craig as the womanizing spy. My interest in these movies led me to pick up Casino Royale in paperback, the first Bond novel that Ian Fleming wrote. I'll warn you now, this review has spoilers.
Going into Casino Royale, I knew that I didn't care for a lot of Ian Fleming's writing to begin with. I've read some of the other Bond books - Diamonds are Forever, Moonraker, and Live and Let Die, and I was not impressed with some of the clunky prose or the outlandish ways Bond gets out of trouble - although that does seem to be his trademark not only in the books, but also in the films (mostly the older films.) I also couldn't seem to connect to Bond as a character in any of the aforementioned books.
That being said, I went into Casino Royale with mid-level expectations, and came out pleasantly surprised.
I can't write a decent review of this book without comparing it to the movie of the same name, only because I have very rarely (if at all if I remember right) come across a movie that did a book justice. This book in particular, Casino Royale, starts off in the Royale-Les-Eaux casino in France, with Bond playing Baccarat against Le Chiffre. It's interesting because this is where the book starts off, but the movie only reaches this point about half way through. Most of what's found in the beginning of the movie - Bond's free running chase through a construction site, his encounter with a bomber intent on destroying the prototype Skyfleet airliner, and his love affair with Solange are never mentioned in the book, but they did add to the movie and actually helped to round Bond's character out a bit.
The book follows the same premise as the movie on the whole: Le Chiffre is thwarted by Bond's card playing, Vesper is 'kidnapped', and Bond gets his manhood smashed into little tiny bloody pieces. Bond falls for Vesper, begins to gain suspicion with her strange moods, and eventually finds out she is a double agent working for the Russians. In the end, she kills herself and Bond is left the cold-hearted spy we all know and love.
The book differs slightly in many areas compared to the movie - Bond isn't run off the road by Vesper's body laying in the road, instead road tacks are used to incapacitate Bond and his vehicle. Le Chiffre doesn't torture him in the bowels of a ship, but in a quiet summer home. And the conspiracy surrounding Vesper isn't necessarily tied to the Bond's winnings at the Royale, but still follows the familiar path the movie did. It was interesting, after seeing the movie, to pick up on the small variations.
Reviewing this as a story disconnected from the movie, I give it four and a half stars out of five. I think I enjoyed this Bond adventure much more than the others that I've read because it brought Bond's humanity to light, I was able to see how he met Felix Leiter from the CIA, and I felt for him when Vesper killed herself at the end and revealed her betrayal to him and the Service. I especially enjoyed the build up towards the end where Bond begins to pick up on hints of Vespers suspicious activity but allows his feelings for her to override his instinct - in turn becoming a regret in the end.
The only real complaints I have with this book are the sometimes clunky prose that pops up every now and then, and the french that is poured on thick at times both in dialogue and description - most of which isn't translated. So there were times I had no idea what Fleming or Bond were trying to tell me. But those weren't enough to make me not like this book. I may still read more of Fleming's novels in the future, and I have The Union Trilogy by Raymond Benson on my 2012 Reading List....more
Awakening Evarun is a great start to what Tom plans on being a six-part short story series. The pace of the story is easy and intriguing, making it aAwakening Evarun is a great start to what Tom plans on being a six-part short story series. The pace of the story is easy and intriguing, making it a quick read that feels satisfying, yet leaves you wanting more when you're finished. Tom's writing style is definitely a gift and I look forward to more from the author.
On top of that I have to praise the illustrations. It's not that often you come across an author who can also illustrate his stories with such great detail. It's also not that often you come across an illustrated story as this. What a treat. For the price, you get great artwork and an intriguing storyline. Tom Barczak is definitely an author to check out. ...more