2012 In Review: Adam’s Top Five Films of the Year

moonrise_kingdomWhen Kim asked me for my top five films of the year, I thought “wow that’s going to be really hard to decide”. I love films and I love reading critics’ top ten films of the year lists. Sports people get excited for draft days and signing of free agents. I, on the other hand, get excited for the end of the year and the start of Oscar season. To read what critics loved and loathed and being able to see how my own list compares to theirs greatly excites me. To finally be able to do my list is really awesome! Unfortunately seeing films in Manhattan is expensive, so I haven’t seen that many 2012 releases.

Author’s note: I have not seen Les Miserables yet.  Odds are once I do, that will be number one (unless it sucks). But as of December 9, 2012 this is my top five list.

Number 5: Moonrise Kingdom: An extremely unique love story told by the massively creative Wes Anderson. Just from viewing the trailer, I knew this would be a classic Wes Anderson film. Seeing Moonrise Kingdom offered me some of the most carefree time spent at the movies this year.  A great ensemble and great cinematography make this a film not to be missed.

2012_5_25_AbrahamLincolnVampireHunterNumber 4: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter: Ah, yes the lesser known of the two Lincoln “biopics” films of 2012.  Adapted from the equally entertaining novel of the same name by Seth Grahame- Smith, this film tells the unknown history of one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had (you can read my book review here and my page to screen review here.) With action sequences and solid performances that kept the audience at the edge of their seat, this film proved once and for all that there is such thing as a good book to screen adaptation.

Number 3: I couldn’t decide between The Hunger Games and 21 Jump Street, so I picked them both!

HG PosterThe Hunger Games: Another excellent page to screen adaptation and definitely this year’s first blockbuster hit (rightfully so). The young cast, in particular Jennifer Lawrence as heroine Katniss Everdeen, jumped off the screen and made the audience feel like they right there in the games with them. I think the shaky camera work used by director Gary Ross helped illustrate this feeling as well. Every emotion I felt while watching that film lined up perfectly with how I felt as I read the book.  If you’re one of the very few people who haven’t seen this film yet go check it out, but read the book first!

21 Jump Street: I’ll admit it. I was highly skeptical that this film would be funny. Channing Tatum in a funny role? No way. I saw his SNL performance and thought it was pretty bad.  After seeing this film, I take it all back. Channing Tatum, funny? HELL YES! This is probably the most quotable film of the year.  My side hurt from laughing after seeing this film. Jonah Hill as the sidekick was hysterical and his performance just made my night when I saw it. Definitely check this comedy out, it’s so worth it.  I’m hoping the film receives a Golden Globe nomination for best comedy.  I’m doubting that it will happen, but after The Hangover received one and won it a few years ago, so  you never know.

darkknightrisesNumber 2: The Dark Knight Rises– First things first, screw The Avengers. It was semi-entertaining, but nothing compared to the final installment of The Batman Trilogy. From the bad ass-ness of Bane, the twist ending, and the incredibly gorgeous Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, I could not have scripted a better ending to one of the greatest trilogies of all time (only behind The Godfather Trilogy in my opinion).  Like his other two Batman films, Nolan was able to leave the audience wanting more when the credits rolled. He was able to create a Gotham City that was real and very life-like. The film had a tough predecessor, especially with Heath Ledger’s genius portrayal of The Joker, but this film came really close and in some aspects topped the previous two films. Also how could you hate a film that spawns something as awesome as this picture?

179585_951406232363_942063416_n

And number 1……….

argoArgo: Ben Affleck, you are forgiven for Gigli and Jersey Girl (actually I was never mad at you for those because I never saw them). This film left me absolutely speechless. Ben Affleck is a master director and because of that was able to tell this unknown story of a classified CIA case with ease and honesty. If you are unfamiliar with the story, six people were able to escape the American Embassy the day the Iranian Hostages were taken. They hid at the Canadian ambassador’s house until the CIA concocted a plan to rescue them. CIA agents went undercover, stating that they were a Canadian film crew scouting a site for their new film, aptly titled Argo. The suspense you felt in this film was real and genuine because it was a real story. Even though the end was fabricated for the screen, I was still on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen to these people who had suffered so much already. It was a mesmerizing story with excellent ensemble acting, and perfect direction from Ben Affleck. He has definitely found his niche as a director and found a fan in me. Definitely check it out.

Well readers, there you have it. My top five (really six) films of the year.  Do you agree with my selections? What are your top films of the year?

Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is a science fiction action drama film directed by Gary Ross and based on the WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON novel of the same name by Suzanne Collins. It stars Jennifer Lawrence (LOVE HER) Josh Hutcherson (Finally is a household name), Elizabeth Banks, Liam Hemsworth (Thor’s lil bro and future father of Miley Cyrus’s kids), and Woody Harrelson. So yea, the cast is pretty awesome. Some fans at first were a little skeptical of some of the producer’s picks, especially Jennifer Lawrence as the beloved Katniss, but no one is complaining anymore.

Some people say the plot is unoriginal, and it’s been done, but I still think it’s awesome and original in its own right. The basics of the plot are that it’s set in a post-apocalyptic/future where people are distinguished by district and every year the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve different districts to fight to the death on live television for everyone to see.  The games are to set an example to remind the people who’s in charge. The story’s main protagonist, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her younger sister’s place when she is selected to participate in the Hunger Games on her first year of availability.

There was no doubt in my mind that this movie was going to break records, and give the likes of Twilight and Harry Potter a run for their money. This is the first HUGE book series to come to the big screen after them, and it has major appeal. You all know I am a huge Potter fan, but the Hunger Games is a force to be reckoned with, and I feel has the broadest appeal out of them all.. When the film was released, it set records for opening day ($67.3 million) and opening weekend for a non-sequel. At the time of its release, the film’s opening weekend gross ($152.5 million) was the third largest of any movie in North America but now is fourth behind The Avengers, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, and The Dark Knight. I have a feeling the Dark Knight Rises is going to bump it down to fifth. It is also the first film since Avatar to remain in first place at the North American box office for four consecutive weekends.

For all you die-hard readers who aren’t always too keen on these types of adaptations, this is as faithful as they come. I may be going out on a limb saying this, but I think this is even better than the book. This series appeals to everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, which is why it has been so successful. The demand for the second film in the series, Catching Fire, is ENORMOUS, and is only growing bigger by the day. This is a MUST SEE in my eyes, not only because it is just great, but it also is one of the more gorgeous films cinematography wise that I have seen recently.  It’s a little upsetting that Gary Ross will not be returning for the next installment, but Francis Lawrence, director of I Am Legend and Water For Elephants is on-board this time, so I think we are in good hands.

So one last time: make sure you check out The Hunger Games film, and jump on the AWESOME bandwagon. Stay tuned for the Blu-ray release on August 18 and for Catching Fire’s release on November 22, 2013.  You can bet I’ll be at the midnight showing.

MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR…

5 out of 5 Stars

The Hunger Games (2012)
Lionsgate
PG-13,142 Minutes

SUCCESS!

It is with GREAT pleasure that I announce I’ve succeeded in completing my goal of reading 100 books this year!  I’m a bit behind on posting my reviews, but I promise you within the next week I’ll complete them and get on track for the new year! Since I’ve completed my goal of 100 for the year I’ve thought about increasing my goal for 2012 and am thinking of upping the goal to 110.  I’ll post my definite plans tomorrow in my kick-off post, similar to what I did last year.

2011 has been a pretty amazing year of reading for me.  Looking back I’ve read some fascinating memoirs, heartbreaking fiction, and  suspenseful mysteries among other things.  My top ten for the year with links to their reviews are as follows:

  1. Jane Eyre
  2. One Day
  3. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  4. The Hunger Games
  5. Stardust
  6. The House At Riverton
  7. Lunch in Paris
  8. A Wife For Mr. Darcy
  9. Eat, Pray, Love
  10. Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian/The Silent Governess

It was SO difficult to come up with a top ten for the year; I have to pat myself on the back for choosing such a wide array of excellent reads.  I do hope that you’ll tell me what you’ve enjoyed reading this year! There is no better recommendation to read a book than a recommendation from a fellow reader!

In terms of the challenges I signed up for this past year I completed the Historical Fiction Challenge and the Page to Screen Challenge with flying colors.  The Chunkster Challenge continues through January 31, 2012 so I still have a month to finish my last two “mega-chunkster” books.  My Austen challenges I did not do so well on.  I only completed 2 of the Jane Austen mystery novels, and completed 50% of the Sense and Sensibility Challenge.  I’m disappointed that I did so terribly on them, but I guess the light at the end of the tunnel is that I still completed my 100!  I’ve already begun to sign up for 2012 challenges, so make sure you head over to my challenge page to track my progress.

I hope that you will all enjoy the holiday today, checking back in tomorrow to join me on my journey of reading in 2012.

Happy New Year, and happy reading!

Todd’s Review of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Cover Image

The more I learn about the Hunger Games trilogy and the more I experience the fandom that surrounds the series (thanks Hunger Games Fireside Chat!), I keep hearing that many people think that Mockingjay is their least favorite book.  I agree that the novel has a ton of plot lines and feelings to wrap up, and that it has to bring to an end a story that is near and dear to the hearts of many readers.  I can see how this ending would be received with mixed feelings, and I respect the views of my fellow readers.  As for myself, I feel completely different.  I think it is the greatest book in the series, and with my reasoning explained below, I hope many people will begin to see it in a different light.

 
Mockingjay begins with Katniss in the custody of the rebels, having been rescued from her second forced stint in the Hunger Games.  A last-ditch attempt by Katniss, Peeta, and a few remaining tributes to save their lives from traps that the gamemakers placed in the arena blows up the protective force field that surrounds the arena. This allows the rebels to enter and pluck her out, while the Capitol appears and takes Peeta away right before their eyes.  Now safely in the hands of the rebels, Katniss eventually relents to be the figurehead of the rebellion, known to all as the “mockingjay”.  Unfortunately, the Capitol wages their own propaganda war against the rebels, physically and mentally torturing Peeta with tracker jacker venom to think that Katniss is his mortal enemy.  Already precarious in her mental state, this new revelation makes Katniss even more confused and angry.
 
In a daring raid, the rebels rescue Peeta from the Capitol, but upon his return his mental state is so deteriorated that he attempts to kill Katniss when they are reunited.  Meanwhile, the last of the outlying districts are taken by the rebels, and they begin planning to take the Capitol itself.  In a previous agreement, Katniss and President Coin (the president of District 13) agree to let Katniss kill President Snow personally.  Although she has made this promise, Snow declines to let Katniss anywhere near the center of the Capitol.  However, after a freak accident, Katniss and a small contingent of rebels find themselves close to the center of the city and therefore President Snow himself.  Will Katniss be able to kill the man who has brought so much pain to her life?  Will she ever be able to gain back Peeta’s trust and memory?  Will the rebels be able to take back control of Panem?
 
As I said previously, this is definitely my favorite book of the series.  I feel that Collins builds so many layers of conflict and emotion throughout the course of the previous two novels that are finally released in this work.  Along with the incredible action of the first two novels, there is also a great deal of inner conflict that Collins introduces through Katniss.  In this novel, I feel that all of this conflict comes to a head, and thus Katniss must deal with it instead of continuing to mentally battle with her emotions.  This made the novel move quickly for me, and along with the breakneck action that permeates the rest of the novel I found myself racing from page to page.  The last few chapters flew by as I felt like I was right next to Katniss and her rebel group as they infiltrated deep into the Capitol itself.  Additionally, along with all the attention that is paid to Katniss (and rightfully so as she is the main character), I was pleasantly surprised by how much page time was given to additional characters.  I really became invested in the well-being of Katniss’ fellow rebels, and Collins did an excellent job in making the revolution a living, breathing, entity that all of Panem could get behind.  Because at the end of the day, this series is about the overthrow of oppression, the power of individual freedom, and the notion that the rights of a privileged few should never matter over the rights of the masses.  Collins definitely drives these points home, and for that I heartily recommend not only this book but this entire series.
 
5 out of 5 stars
 
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, Inc (2010)
Hardcover 390 pages

Todd’s Review of Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I consider myself an avid science fiction fan, so I already had an inkling that I would enjoy the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.  Add to this the fact that Kim loved the series and continuously bugged me to read it and you could say that I had my work cut out for me.  So, with the first book in the series already read and reviewed, I turned my attention to the sophomore novel, Catching Fire.  In this work, we meet up with Katniss and company soon after she and Peeta triumphantly conquer the 74th Hunger Games.

At the start of Catching Fire, we follow Katniss as she prepares for the “victory tour”.  This is held every year for the victor of the previous Hunger Games, as he or she tours all of the 12 districts as well as the Capitol to commemorate his or her victory in the games.  Of course, this year the tour will feature two tributes: Katniss and Peeta, who triumphantly conquered the previous Games and defied the Capitol with a double suicide attempt that was blocked at the last second.  Although Katniss attempted the suicide to rid herself of the oppression and hate that embodies the Capitol, she was conversely hailed as a hero along with Peeta; their act was viewed as the spark that ignited rebellion in several of the districts following the Games.  Therefore, facing this potential threat, President Snow visits Katniss in her home, telling her in no uncertain terms that he will kill her family and those that she loves (most especially Gale) if she makes an attempt to incite further uprising amongst the districts.  Determined to save her family and friends and please Snow, Katniss tries to act as if her actions are those of a girl disillusioned by love, and acts out her infatuation to Peeta in the fullest.  However, the turning point comes when Katniss again meets with Snow on stage in the Capitol, discreetly asking him whether or not all the work she put in was enough to save herself and Panem from full-scale rebellion.  Sadly, he answers no.  Not only does Katniss feel a sense of dread that Snow will carry out his threat, but she is further faced with the revelation that for this year’s Hunger Games (a quarter quell, as it is known), will consist of tributes being pulled from the pool of existing victors of the previous Games.  In short, she will have to face the Games again for the second year in a row.  Will Katniss be able to survive the games?  Will she be able to save her family, Gale, and Peeta from the threat of President Snow?  Will they be able to survive a full-scale rebellion against the Capitol by the districts?

As I stated in the opening of this post, I really enjoy a good sci-fi story.  Of course, often these go hand-in-hand with a dystopian society, such as Farenheit 451 or 1984.  Collins’ Catching Fire had both of these elements: a cool science fiction component that integrated futuristic technology and ideas, as well as the totalitarian regime of the Capitol presiding over all of the outlying districts.  Perhaps what I like most about these two elements is that they dovetail so well into a story of revolt and rebellion against overwhelming odds.  The mixture of years of oppression coupled with the inequality between those have control versus those who don’t makes for an amazing and inspiring story.  This is perhaps why I liked Catching Fire so much.  You can easily feel the aggression and anger that all of the citizens of the districts carry around as they watch the Capitol parade around in their wealth, using the Hunger Games as a means of cruel and sadistic entertainment.  They are so removed from day-to-day life that the only thing that brings them the greatest joy and entertainment is the killing of others.  Therefore, when this illusion is broken and the citizens of the districts begin to rightfully revolt and take back what is theirs, I can’t help but feel excited and root for them as I read.  The only complaint I had with the novel was that it took a while for the plot to build.  I realize that in any good story it takes time to lay the groundwork, but at times I felt that Katniss’ inner turmoil over her love life was a bit too drawn out and over-analyzed.  However, despite this I truly enjoyed the novel.  Watching Katniss grow from her position in the initial Hunger Games to what she becomes in this novel is inspiring.  Katniss unwillingly becomes the greatest symbol and unifier of these people, and makes her journey that much more important and inspirational.  Collins definitely does not disappoint in this follow-up to The Hunger Games, and it’s definitely a powerful addition to the series.

4 out of 5 Stars

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, Inc (2009)
Hardcover 400 pages

Todd’s Review of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Cover Image

After hearing countless times that I should try a certain series by Suzanne Collins, I finally gave in and read the first novel in the series: The Hunger Games.  The increasing discussion and buzz surrounding this book as it is soon to become a movie made me interested in giving it a try.  I’ll admit, I am already a big fan of dystopian sci-fi, so I already knew I’d be interested in this book; I was still seriously impressed by not only the scope of Collins’ writing but her ability to make a story that has so many layers and interesting character development.

Our story begins with a continent called Panem, located in what was formerly North America.  Panem is comprised of 12 districts surrounding a central governing state, called the Capitol.  74 years before the start of the novel, a 13th district attempted a coup, which was subsequently put down and the district was destroyed.  In light of this, every year an event called the Hunger Games is held by the Capitol to remind the remaining districts of this insurrection and punish them.  In the games, a male and female teenager from each district, known as tributes, are chosen to battle each other to the death in an arena created by the Capitol.  The sole remaining tribute is showered with praise and gifts, bringing temporary wealth and gifts such as food and luxury items to his or her district.  The winner is also given a large home and is exempt from further participation in the games; the only caveat is that the winner must subsequently act as a mentor to all the other tributes chosen from his or her district in future games.

The novel is told from the point of view of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old from district 12 who enjoys hunting in the woods surrounding her district and lives with her mother and younger sister, Prim.  Although she lives in relative poverty and must hunt every day in order to support her family, Katniss enjoys the relative safety and quiet that the woods provides her.  As the reaping (the yearly selection of Hunger Games tributes) occurs, Katniss does everything in her power to protect her younger sister from being chosen.  Unfortunately Prim is selected despite her attempts, and Katniss is forced to throw herself into the games as a substitute for her sister.  Terrified, Katniss must rise to the occasion and sharpen her survival skills enough to survive in the deadly arena.  To top it off, her co-tribute is a classmate who she never really liked named Peeta, and their mentor is a drunk named Haymitch.  Will Katniss be able to survive in the arena?  Will she be able to get along with her team enough to prepare in time?

When I first heard about this novel, I had serious flashbacks to a movie named Battle Royale, a Japanese movie about a bunch of students sent to an island in a battle to the death.  That movie was both the strangest and one of the most interesting movie’s I’ve ever seen, so I was interested to see how this book turned out.  In short, it takes the brutality and frankness of that movie and turns it to a touching and amazing book that is definitely worth all the hype.  The way in which Collins handles this bloody subject matter is quite good, telling us more about human nature and showing us what happens to relationships under stress rather than focusing on the killings themselves.  Katniss learns more about herself and how much she means to others during the games than she would ever have known if she was never chosen for the games.  Colllins’ character development is superb, making us learn more about ourselves and our own relationships with others through Katniss and her experiences in the arena.  Katniss’ story is one of love, loss, bravery, survival, and defiance.  Her struggle is representative of struggles we all go through ourselves, and we can learn a lot from her story.  All in all, this novel was an amazing read.  It made me think a lot more about myself and what is important to me.  I definitely recommend it as a story of survival and defiance that will make you excited to dive into the rest of the series.

5 out of 5 Stars

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, Inc (2008)
Hardcover 384 pages

Living With A Book Addict – Traveling With A Book Addict

(Note: as you read this we are currently cruising towards Italy.  That is as long as we didn’t miss getting on the boat…)

What do you get when you have an 8 hour plane trip to Europe?  8 hours of uninterrupted reading, of course.  At least that’s how Kim sees it.  Yes, your beloved blogger Kimberly and myself, along with my sister-in-law Christine and her fiance Jason are going on a 7 day cruise in Europe!  We begin in Barcelona, traveling to Florence/Pisa, Rome, Naples, Palma Majorca, and finally returning to Barcelona.  It’s both Kim and my first trip to Europe, and we couldn’t be more excited to go.

I usually don’t consider myself a nervous traveler, but planes do make me slightly uncomfortable.  Facing an 8 hour trip across the Atlantic is something I’d rather not do, but I’ll most likely be able to distract myself with books and movies.  I hope to make a good dent in the first book of The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.  As most of you know, Kim is quite a fan of said series, and has even appeared on the well-received podcast “The Hunger Games Fireside Chat”, discussing the upcoming film and other Hunger Games related materials.  As for Kim, I believe she will be bringing a total of 4 books in her carry-on, as well as another 8 or so in her luggage.  Normally this would be cause for some astonishment, but as you know I am quite used to this now.  I can only hope that our carry-on will fit in the overhead compartment.

Aside from reading, I’m quite looking forward to the ability to experience Italian culture and cuisine.  Christine has made quite the itinerary for us to follow at our ports of call, and we will be renting a car in Rome to see the sights.  Jason and I get to drive the rental car, and I’m quite interested to see how driving will be in Italy.  Fortunately, we’ll still be on the right side of the road, although the kilometer/mph change will be disconcerting at first (how do you say “I meant to go 100 kilometers an hour instead of miles” in Italian?)

Additionally, we’ll have an extra day or so ahead and after our cruise in Barcelona.  My sister recently returned from a semester in Spain, and although she never went to Barcelona, the stories she’s told me about the people and culture seem to be really inviting and exciting.  Unfortunately, although she spoke almost fluent conversational Spanish, I can speak no more than a 1 year-old Spanish baby would.  Hopefully we can get by on some good ol’ fashioned English.

So, next time you hear from me I will be a world traveler (ok, not exactly world, but more than I’ve seen before).  Until then, happy reading and bon voyage!

Reflections of a Book Addict: ArmchairBEA Day 2 & 3

Unfortunately my day got a bit hectic yesterday, putting me a day behind on my ArmchairBEA posts.  The theme of yesterday’s post was supposed to be “The Best of 2011.”  Below are four of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year!

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Classic book that I just had the pleasure of reading for the first time.  (Epic failure on my part)  This tops my best of 2011 list because of how much I loved the book.  Jane Eyre embodied everything that is wonderful about books. The writing was superb; the story was dramatic, emotional, passionate, etc.  There is a reason why people still fall in love with this book 100+ years later.
  2. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins – Amazing series of books!  Collins describes a post-apocalyptic world in which “tributes” are chosen to fight to the death for the honor of their home state.  Peeta and Katniss, two main tributes that hail from the same district, must fight for their own survival and deal with their feelings for each other.  It’s never a dull moment with this series: I was always on the edge of my seat! 
  3. Stardust by Neil Gaiman – Neil Gaiman writes the story of Tristran Thorn, an average young man living an average life until he goes on a quest to find a fallen star.  The writing of the narrative was very descriptive, allowing the reader to experience the world that Gaiman created.  It makes for an interesting way to read a fantasy novel.
  4. Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris – What can I say about Sookie Stackhouse.  Full of humor, violence, sex, plot twists, and other extremes, Harris creates an amazing novel where we follow Sookie along on her quest to live a normal life among the supernatural world.  Her hilarious asides blend seamlessly with the action and make this series one of my favorites.  I am already eagerly counting down the days until book 12 is released next May!

2011 has so far been an awesome year for books!  I’m really looking forward to continuing along my journey to 100.  If you’re interested in seeing what other books I’ve read so far this year check out my 2011 book list.

Today (5/25)’s theme was a way to create a network amongst the ArmchairBEA participants.  Bloggers interviewed other bloggers and posted the interviews up on their own blogs.  I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Bethany of Subtle Melodrama!  Bethany posted the interview today, and you can find a link to it here.

Due to my finding out about ArmchairBEA super last-minute I myself wasn’t able to interview anyone for today’s posting.  Fear not readers, as I will be signing myself up nice and early next year so that I can take part in all the festivities!

For more information on ArmchairBEA click here.

Until tomorrow, happy reading!!

My Top Ten…Villains (Part II)

As promised yesterday, here are my top five villains!!!

5.) Aunt Reed from Jane Eyre

Aunt Reed makes the list for being cruel and cold-hearted to young Jane Eyre.  For those unfamiliar with Jane Eyre, Jane is orphaned at a young age and is adopted by her Aunt and Uncle Reed.  Uncle Reed dies shortly after and makes Aunt Reed promise him that she will take care of Jane and raise her as one of their own children.   Once he’s dead she does the exact opposite, allowing her son to physically beat Jane, locking her in “haunted” rooms in their home, and eventually sending her off to a school that has horrible conditions.  Aunt Reed also makes sure Jane will live a meager life by telling a rich uncle of hers that she’s dead.  She’s a horrible woman made worse by the fact that kind-hearted Jane forgives her before her death for all her misgivings.  (I don’t think she deserved to be forgiven after everything that happened, but it just goes to show you how kind a person Jane truly was).

(You can find my review here)

Cover Image

4.) President Snow from The Hunger Games Series

President Snow is the leader of the Capitol and ruler of Panem in The Hunger Games series.  We get to see what a truly horrible man he is in Catching Fire and Mockingjay as his interaction with Katniss grows.  You come to learn that Snow is a truly evil person, poisoning those that got in his way during his rise to political glory.  He tricks Katniss and the rest of the districts into believing that District 13 was destroyed and that they need to continue the hunger games as punishment.  He is a master at deception and is always playing a game with the people around him, using them as pawns.  He gets what he deserves in the end, but it still doesn’t make up for all that he’s done during his ruling years.   

(You can find my reviews for here for Book One, Two, and Three)

3.) Silas – The DaVinci Code

Ah, religious fanaticism.  A member of the Catholic organization known as Opus Dei, Silas is an albino who practices corporal mortification (flogging one’s self) while repenting for one’s sins.  Depicted in Dan Brown’s The Davinci Code, Silas is driven by a desire to atone for his past and discover the secrets protected by the Priory of Scion.  Driven to live on the streets after murdering his father (who had murdered his mother out of shame for having an albino child), Silas is given a second chance at life after an earthquake frees him from prison.  Driven to devout religious belief, Silas is especially villanous because of the rhetoric he believes in.  He justifies his murders and attacks by believing that it is the will of Opus Dei for him to commit these atrocities.  His blind faith in this organization makes him especially dangerous in the novel, and he is a constant threat to Robert Langdon, the protagonist.  All in all, Silas has nothing to lose as he is fully indoctrinated to commit evil acts and will stop at nothing to please those who are superior to him in Opus Dei.

Cover Image

2.) Mr. Burroughs – A Wolf at the Table

Augusten Burroughs is famous for writing heartbreakingly honest memoirs.  A Wolf at the Table mainly focused on his childhood and the relationship he had with his father.  Mr. Burroughs is the only actual “person” on my list, and for good reason.  The man was an alcoholic, beat his animals, and definitely partook in abusing his sons.  Augusten had a dog that would physically sleep on top of him to protect him from Mr. Burroughs while he slept at night.  His older brother John taught him how to shoot a gun just in case he needed it one day.  After reading this book it made me see how truly malicious some people can be in the world.  Mr. Burroughs shot straight to nearly the top of my list of villains because he preyed on his young sons and helpless wife.  To be that type of man you have to be truly evil.

(You can find my review here)

1.) Voldemort – The Harry Potter Series

While the rest of the characters on this list have aspirations to conquer those around them and bring evil into their lives, none have grander plans than Voldemort.  Not content to just conquer the magical world around him, Voldemort set his sights higher, aiming to control the human (aka Muggle) world as well.  In hiding for years after a failed attack on Harry Potter that left him on the cusp of death, he slowly rebuilds his strength until he makes a triumphant return and power grab to control the ruling body of the magical world.  As if this wasn’t enough, consider his name.  Anyone who is referred to as “He Who Must Not Be Named” because he/she is so evil that their name can’t be spoken must be #1 in my book.  All in all, Voldemort deserves the top spot in this top ten countdown because of the encompassing nature of his power and ambition.  He won’t let anything, including death, get in his way to kill Harry Potter and rule all.  Now that’s villanous!

Well my fellow readers, who makes your list?  Leave your comments below.

Until next time, happy reading!!

#27 A Review of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Cover Image

Katniss Everdeen has unknowingly become the face of the revolution to bring down the Capitol.  It has grown stronger than ever in the shell of what used to be known as district 13.  Katniss agrees to take on the public role of the mockingjay, and help film promo spots and videos to be aired in all of the districts in order to drum up more fighters for the cause.  The Capitol sees an opportunity to break her, and beings airing their own videos of Peeta looking worse and worse as time goes on.  Falling deeper into a pit into depression and worriment over his health, Katniss becomes a shadow of her former self, riddled with guilt over the war that she views as her fault due to the berry stunt.  The rebels realize the only person that can make Katniss function again is Peeta, and so a mission is put together to go to the Capitol and rescue him.  After a successful mission, Peeta is brought back to district 12, where at their first meeting he tries to strangle Katniss.  It is through this event that we find out that Peeta’s memories have been hijacked, and that he’s been trained to think of Katniss as his enemy.  Will anything be able to be done to restore Peeta to his former self, and will Katniss ever get over her guilt and help lead a successful rebellion?  Who will win, and what kind of world will be left when the dust settles?

Knowing how much I enjoyed the first two novels in the series, I went into Mockingjay with high expectations.  I wound up seriously disappointed.  While there are things to praise about the novel, such as its deeper meanings and themes and its truthfulness about the effects of war on people, I found more disappointment than enjoyment in the novel.  For those of you that read my review yesterday on Catching Fire, you know that I greatly praised Collins for her multi-layered characters.  In Mockingjay, those layers become incredibly confusing.  When Katniss is rescued out of the arena, she is greatly outraged at first to find that she has not been told the truth about the wide scope of the rebellion’s influence.  She quickly learns that they were unable to get Peeta out of the arena and that he is with the Capital armies.  When she finds this out she is completely distraught about Peeta’s fate: whether he is alive, how he is being treated, or even if he is being tortured.  She becomes a bit of a mental patient to be honest, which is not surprising knowing everything that she’s been through.  However, when Peeta is brought back into her life, a tortured, shriveled shell of himself, she begins to despise him and consume herself with hatred for him.  It’s this layer of conflict that is so confusing because Katniss knows that he has been tortured and can’t be responsible for his current state of mind.  So in essence, in my point of view, I felt that this conflict was unnecessary and not at all characteristic of Katniss, especially in reflecting on her previous feelings towards the “captured Peeta”.

My biggest overall complaint with the whole novel was the ending.  Not only is this the ending of a book, but it is the ending of a trilogy that is filled with characters that you have invested your time and energy into getting to know and care about.  All of the characters seem to have accepted their fate and settled with what they have been dealt.  The conclusion of the relationship between Peeta and Katniss is strange, to be honest.  The epilogue seemed hastily thrown together and was truly disappointing.  My biggest grievance is for Haymitch.  He has struggled with sobriety for three books now, and you learn how he won his Hunger Games and also why he started drinking.  After learning more of his back story, you want to see something happy happen to him.  What we’re given is just a big amount of the same old same old.  It is disappointing that characters who have struggled and done a lot for others don’t get positive karma.

One of the things I have to commend the novel on is its unwillingness to glamorize the effects of war.  War is filled with unfortunate death and destruction, both of which are evident in Mockingjay: a major character’s death, destruction of district twelve, Peeta’s torture (mental and physical), and Katniss’ inner turmoil.  None of the main characters are safe from injury or violent skirmishes, everyone is in this rebellion together.  Collins does not sugarcoat the after-effects of war either, when the war is over there is not much left of Peeta and Katniss’ personalities from the previous two books: they’ve been used as pawns in a game and as such have a hard time with trust, love, and emotion in general.  All in all, it’s rough seeing characters you care about go through such dramatic and life-altering changes, but it makes the deeper meaning of Collins’ writing ever more understandable and approachable.

3 out of 5 stars

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, Inc (2010)
Hardcover 390 pages