Tag Archives: Action

These Violent Delights (Review by Sriya B. ’22 )

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1)These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

TW: gun violence (major), gore (major), transphobia (moderate), racism/xenophobia (minor).
I picked this book up because someone told me it was a Romeo and Juliet retelling, but they didn’t tell me it was a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s crime-run Shanghai about star-crossed ex-lovers putting aside the blood feud between their gangs to prevent a monster from terrorizing their city.

Between the ruthless gangs, the rekindling of first love, and the dramatic ploys of various nationalities trying to gain control of Shanghai, this story delivers on so many fronts.

I can definitely see how this follows Romeo and Juliet, but at the same time, it feels entirely different. It’s the perfect kind of retelling, with the right balance of new and original. Chloe Gong successfully took a beloved classic and retold it with new culture, queer representation, and modern themes surrounding misogyny and racism, while also staying true to the core themes about love, loyalty, and betrayal.

The writing, while slow and long-winded in some areas (I might have lightly skimmed here and there), has beautiful descriptions and quotes you’ll want to write down and remember forever. As someone who has been reading a lot of YA romance lately, coming back into fantasy was a bit of a shock, but the way Chloe Gong navigated the multiple POVs and plot without confusing me was amazing. Of course, this way of ornate telling might not be your cup of tea, but I recommend you give it a try anyway! Oh, and the ending had me running to the library to get the sequel.—Review by Sriya B. ’22

If you like this book, Sriya also recommends The Gilded Wolves and An Ember in the Ashes.

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Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (Review by Varun F. ’24)

Skyward (Skyward, #1)Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson tells the story of Spensa, a young woman who dreams of becoming a pilot in order to follow in the footsteps of her father and protect the world from the Krell, an alien species. The plot follows her journey through pilot training and the trials that she must overcome in order to prove her place as a true pilot.

I really enjoyed this book in part due to Brandon Sanderson’s incredibly written action scenes, which mainly take place between the Krell and the pilots. Creating an interesting and engaging action scene is hard enough as it is, but Brandon Sanderson goes above and beyond by staying true to the voice of Spensa in his narration throughout these scenes. I would even go as far to say that one could solely read this book for the action scenes.

Still, there are some flaws in this book. For one, although Spensa is a deliberately arrogant and overconfident character, many of her decisions and actions throughout the book simply do not make sense. Additionally, I wish there was more commentary on Spensa’s past, which could have been in the form of flashback scenes. That being said, I really enjoyed reading this novel. It was packed with incredible action scenes and great moments of humor. I strongly recommend this book to any action or science fiction fans. —Review by Varun F. ‘24

For those who enjoyed Skyward, Varun also suggests the next books in the series, Starsight and Cytonic.

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (5 Star Review by Ritu B. ’24)

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0)The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a jaw-dropping, lip-eroding (from biting in constant anticipation), breath-snatching tsunami of a novel. After completing it, I guarantee that you will be unable to formulate a coherent sentence for the next few hours.

This stellar prequel addresses questions Hunger Games fans didn’t even know they had, like who really thought up the idea for the Hunger Games, how the eerie “Hanging Tree” came about, and what it’s really like to be a Peacekeeper. But for every question the novel answers, it creates ten more that go unanswered. I think that the reason the book lingered so long in my head is because it left so many roads open with the way it told Snow’s story.

With The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Suzanne Collins proved that she doesn’t need Katniss Everdeen to weave a thrilling narrative—the entire book filters the world through the eyes of none other than eighteen year old Coriolanus Snow. (If you don’t recognize his name, does “creepy dictator with no morals but a heck ton of white roses” ring a bell?) Right from the first chapter, his narcissism and his willingness to do anything to get ahead stood out to me. Collins voices his thoughts incredibly so that we can see his callous calculation of every minute incident and the cogs in his brain revolving to warp it into a tool to augment his reputation.

Not only do we get a better understanding of Snow in the prequel, but we also see an older Panem up close. The initial war between the districts and the Capitol enormously impacted Snow’s childhood and the Capitol in ways we never could have inferred from just seeing the districts’ perspective on Panem’s history. Plus, it’s amazing to think about how the Hunger Games have evolved over time—the crude, primitive ones that occur in this novel (the tributes stay together in one cell of a zoo like animals!) are a far cry from Katniss’s flashy, spectacular games 64 years later. More interesting yet is the surnames of Capitol characters present in this book, including a Plutarch. I don’t want to spoil anything, but a Flickerman plays a role as a weatherman and games commentator!

I’m not going to say that after seeing Snow’s life up close, I think his actions in the Hunger Games trilogy are justified. However, I would argue that the prequel brings a touch of humanity to his character, or at the very least, elicits sympathy for him. The main reason that propels the reader to continue flipping the pages of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the question “How does Snow get from here to where he is in the trilogy?” Perhaps we receive a complete answer as to his mental and emotional frame, but Suzanne Collins does not provide a line-by-line list of the logistics of it. As a result, once I finished reading this book, I had no choice but to watch two hours of book nerds on YouTube discussing their reaction to the novel and popular fan theories out there. I don’t doubt that this prequel will draw in an abundance of fan fiction. (If you do write a Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes fanfiction, please send it to me—I would love to read it!) Lastly, Lionsgate announced last summer that a movie version for this prequel is in the making. I, for one, can’t wait. –Ritu B. ’24

Have you read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes? Let us know what you thought in the comments!

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Allegiant: Book to Movie Review (by Ritu B. ‘24)

“I can’t believe that they have desecrated something so sacred!” I burst out as soon as the Allegiant movie credits flashed onto the screen. My family can attest to that.

Let me back up.

In fourth grade, I finished the sumptuous feast that is the Divergent series, books that were so important to me in my childhood. Having been pleased years ago by the first movie adaption of the series, I had high, high hopes coming into the Allegiant movie…that you can already guess were not fulfilled.

[Warning: Reading ahead will reveal spoilers for the Divergent series]

If you’re familiar with the book and you’ve seen the movie, then you already know my largest grievance. Come on, say it with me out loud, and let’s relieve our agony together: orange!!

In the book, the world outside of Chicago is described as gloomy and dark, but in the movie, we get Kraft’s mac-and-cheese-flavored radioactivity!

I have no problem whatsoever with producers taking creative rights with the storyline—if the movie were the same as the book, no one would want to watch it, right?

Wrong.

Little plot meanderings and trimmings here and there will make a movie more enjoyable to sit through, but when it’s obvious that a three hour film won’t do justice to such a heavy book’s plot, then the movie project must be split into two. (Think Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.) Allegiant undoubtedly fell under this category, and I’m devastated that instead of making two films, the movie cut out half of the book’s plot, half of the characters, and hacked away at Veronica Roth’s masterpiece until it arrived at a sloppy post-apocalyptic world.

Uriah who? Cara who? So many members of the crew that accompanied Tris and Tobias out of Chicago weren’t present at all. Instead, the movie blew 90% of its precious duration on slow camera pans to show off “breath-taking”—but really, irrelevant—technology.

However, I did appreciate a few parts—that is, when I wasn’t being blinded by the orange. In spite of the twisted storyline in the movie, the script stayed true to the main characters’ identities. Tobias was Theo James (sorry but I can’t find any flaws with that.) Evelyn, his dictator mother, maintained her redemptive arc in the end, giving up power to be with her son. Peter, the “bad guy” who hangs out with the “good guys,” was sharp, sarcastic, and self-absorbed. My favorite line of the movie was “[t]hat’s why you pick a guy like me for a job like this,” intended for his boss to hear, which he delivers after shooting Evelyn in the knee when she turns back on their dark plan.

But, ok, I’ve reached my last complaint: Tris didn’t die in her quest to restore goodness in the world. This movie doesn’t deserve the name Allegiant if the ending doesn’t plunge its claws into your chest, wrench your heart out, and render you a sobbing shell of a human being for the next week.

Have you watched Allegiant? Share your thoughts in the comments! — Ritu B. ’24

For those who enjoyed this book, Ritu has recommended The Lunar Chronicles series for you to check out!

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (Review by Anika F. ’21)

The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even though this was the first book I read in 2021, I’m pretty sure that this will be one of my favorites from this year. The Poppy War is a grimdark east-Asian inspired historical fantasy centers around the a young girl named Rin. She is a war orphan from the first Poppy War, raised in a poor, opium-smuggling family that treats her as a servant. Rin’s only escape from a forced marriage is to pass a merit-based exam to enter Sinegard, Nikara’s elite military academy. In a surprising shock of events, Rin places into Sinegard, but finds that the experience is not what she expects: She is isolated as a poor and dark-skinned girl from the south, but as she rises in the academy ranks, she begins to realize that the gods of legend aren’t as fictional as people think. As a war is brewing, will she be able to survive and save her nation?

Normally, novels tend to excel in one of two categories: character development or plot development. Very few manage to do both well, but The Poppy War does and does so exceptionally. All character storylines are extremely interesting to follow, and the plot is well-paced, complex, and fascinating. Rin is a determined and headstrong protagonist who makes a lot of choices that readers probably will not agree with. However, her confidence and assertiveness compels the reader to support her no matter what gory or twisted option she chooses. Each detail is action-packed and engrossing, and all the battle scenes delivered believable and heartbreaking consequences.

Lastly, this book tackles some difficult themes. It retells the Rape of Nanking, in which Japanese troops attacked China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The impact of war on civilization is heavily discussed along with colorism and colonization. Multiple chapters delve deep into graphic scenes that involve murder, violence, and sexual assault, as well as exploring drug addiction, trauma, and self-harm. So if you do decide to try this book, please read with caution. —Review by Anika F. ’21

For those who enjoyed this book, Anika has recommended The Priory of the Orange Tree for you to check out!

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The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher (Review by Hita T. ’23)

The Twisted OnesThe Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Melissa, known to close family and friends as Mouse, only had one job: clean her late grandmother’s house in North Carolina. Her grandmother was unfortunately a hoarder, but she could clean it up. No problem at all. However, in the process, she discovers her late step-father’s journal, which is filled with seemingly nonsensical rants. Mouse is quick to disregard the rambling, chalking it up to his deteriorating health, but when strange happenings start to occur, it becomes increasingly clear that perhaps his journal held more than just the ramblings of an old man. Driven to figure out what’s going on and spooked by an unplanned night stroll (courtesy of her dog Bongo), Mouse begins to uncover secrets in the woods, and the deeper she digs into it, the more terrifying it becomes…
Kingfisher does a brilliant job of spinning a modern take on the folklore of The White People, as it is horrifying yet entertaining at the same time. The narrative is filled with realistic humor and conversations and during the more action packed scenes, the reaction seems to be just right; there is no exaggeration of fear nor is there apathy towards the events. Even though I’m not the most avid horror reader, I absolutely loved this book and would definitely recommend it. —Review by Hita T. ’23

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The Wandering Inn by Pirateaba (Review by Maggie Y ’24)

The Wandering Inn: Volume 1 (The Wandering Inn, #1)The Wandering Inn: Volume 1 by Pirateaba
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first web novel. It is an interesting concept, and it was still being written and updated as I read. The Wandering Inn is set in a video game-esque world, with classes (ex. [Soldier], [King], [Florist], etc.), skills, and levels. Following the view of Erin Solstice, a girl who comes from ‘our’ universe and is suddenly dropped into this one, the story documents her adventures in this world as an innkeeper. There’s the occasional side chapter following other characters in this world, but the main focus is on Erin. The first volume might admittedly be considered lacking by some, but I found it to have a decent start. However, the author noticeably improves in their writing abilities as the book progresses; battles and other character interactions are well-written, and the world building becomes all the more immersive and detailed.

The Wandering Inn is a beautifully crafted story with plenty of developed history and places. There isn’t a lot of emotional conflict, so I think it might be less appealing for people who solely enjoy those types of books. However, this novel felt almost personally tailored to my interests. I value world building so much in a good story, as well as the idea of a video game world. If you do too, be prepared to read it well into the night. —Review by Maggie Y ‘24

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Devolution by Max Brooks (review by Mrs. Vaughan)

Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch MassacreDevolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A small group of Seattleites populate a new community on the slopes of Mt. Rainier, enjoying both the beauty of their natural surroundings and excellent electronic connectivity. Necessities are delivered regularly by helicopter, which can also ferry them to first class medical attention if needed. Perfect, right? Not so much when Mt. Rainier erupts unleashing disaster and cutting off these pilgrims from their supply chain. Worse yet – the shrinking natural environment has precipitated a conflict between them, and folklore become real: a small but hungry band of Bigfoot.
Fans of Max Brooks’ World War Z may be a bit disappointed in his long-awaited effort – another fictionalized oral history of Armageddon, just a different setting. Still, this sophomore attempt is, like his first, cleverly written. Here the oral histories take backseat to the found journal of resident Kate Holland, creating a more consistent through line than Z. Brooks has done his legwork (again) and weaves in much historic, folkloric, and scientific research about the Yeti, the Sasquatch and less familiar versions of the oversized primate. Characterization is varied, dialogue rings true and the suspense is palpable. True, this is not World War Z, but Brooks’ fans and horror fans won’t want to miss it! — Mrs. Vaughan

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Scarlet Fields (review by Mr. Cracraft)

Scarlet Fields: The Germans, 1933-45Scarlet Fields: The Germans, 1933-45 by John Lewis Barkley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scarlet Fields is the American doppleganger to the French “The Price of Glory.” It is the simply-told tale of an American farm boy who fought a stutter to be accepted into the Army. He won that battle and was sent to France. He had a rather unique experience as he was assigned scouting duties due to his skills in the woods and countryside. He teamed up with a couple of Native Americans in his company and they all helped keep each other alive through some of the brutal fighting that occurred in the short few months the American Army was in action in France.

He was a modest man and tried to do his best in the war. Ultimately, he did pretty well, receiving the Medal of Honor from Black Jack Pershing, himself (who accidentally pinned it right through the skin under his blouse–this was back before it was a neck-hanger, apparently). Barkley got the award months after it was earned. In the closing days of the war, as both armies heaved and tumbled in no mans land in desperate attempts to force a conclusion to the war, Barkley, sent to scout, found himself right in the line with a company of Germans approaching. He grabbed a deserted German machine gun and climbed into a knocked-out French tank–and these were just little things, not much bigger than an over sized pickup truck– and got to work on the crowd. He gives no estimate of how many he killed that day, and his citation just says “many” but it must have been over a hundred. From his writing, I suspect he was embarrassed and a little ashamed for having sent so many men, even the enemy, to their maker.

He fired that machine gun until it overheated and froze up. Just as he was exiting the tank to make a run for it, he found a can of oil, so broke down the gun, oiled it, poured the rest in the water jacket and went back to work. He was shelled and one explosion flapped the tank tread onto the hull where it hit the protruding machine gun barrel sending the stock crashing into Barkley’s chin, knocking him out. He came to, tightened up the now-loose stock, and went back to work. It didn’t help that he had mustard gas burns on his head from an earlier battle.

Barkley had a hundred adventures before and after his MoH effort and the book is a wonderful read for a snapshot of life during that struggle.

After the war, Barkley returned home, was touted around America a bit, and settled right back in Missouri, where he spent the rest of his life, dying in 1966.Wonderful tale by a humble, honest man, the kind that fought out two wars for freedom before the turn of the century. John Lewis Barkley, you are remembered. I hope you are in the arms of your Valkyrie, and that Jesse and Floyd and Tom and Mike are all there sharing a fire-roasted chicken and a canteen of brandy. -Mr. Cracraft

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Song of Achilles (Review by Hita T. ’23)

The Song of AchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Exiled from his father’s kingdom at a young age, Patroclus, the socially awkward son of Menoitius, finds himself in Phthia, where he meets Achilles, the son of King Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis. Achilles is everything Patroclus is not; he is strong, handsome, the son of a goddess, and the pride of his father. However, in an unlikely twist of fate, their paths intertwine as Achilles befriends Patroclus and forges a bond between them. As they grow into young adults trained in warfare, medicine, and the arts, their friendship grows into something more, deeply displeasing Achilles’ mother Thetis, who despises mortals. To her, Patroclus is nothing but a stain on Achilles’ glory and fame.

Later, when Helen of Sparta, the wife of Meneleus and the most beautiful woman in the world, is kidnapped by Paris, the Greeks are summoned to protect her honor and attack Troy. Achilles follows the Greeks, driven by the idea of glory and being known as the Aristos Achaion, and Patroclus is forced to choose whether to stay behind or follow his best friend into the war. Patroclus tries to protect his friend from the prophecy that predicts Achilles’ death, but little does he know that fate has its own cruel way of claiming who it wants in the end…

Madeline Miller retells Homer’s Iliad in a way that paints the bond between Patroclus and Achilles in a different and more sensitive light. From the moment Achilles’ and Patroclus’ paths intertwine in Phthia, Miller has the reader hanging on each word as she draws one through the ups and downs of the two young mens’ strong friendship and romance.

On a more personal note, I have to say that I absolutely loved this book. I’m not a very emotional reader, but The Song Of Achilles hit me right in the feels. The pace was perfect, the characters were perfect, the plot was perfect — everything was just right. I strongly recommend this book to anyone; the reader does not have to know any mythology to read The Song Of Achilles. -Hita T.

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