My Top Ten Books Read In 2016

Welcome to Day Two of my annoying End-Of-Year Lists! Today I’m ranking the thirteen books that I read in 2016 (but it’s still a Top Ten as I didn’t really like the bottom three very much). As always, I rank things according to my own personal taste. For example, number 13 is a far better & more well-written book than 12 or 11 – I just enjoyed 12 & 11 slightly more. I’m also quite proud that I somehow managed to review them all (poorly, though – I suck at book reviews even more than movie reviews) so I’ve included the links to what I said about each.

So now, counting down to my very favorite, these are all the books that I read in 2016:

Three Not-So-Great:

13. Straight White Male by John Niven

12. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

11. The Death Cure by James Dashner

Top Ten Much-Better-Ones:

10. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

9. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

8. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

7. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

6. The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

4. Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

3. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

2. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

1. The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Can I just say that, while I highly recommend at least my top seven, I want to give a special mention to Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts. I’ve now read several of his books after wanting to find out if he was as good as his father (Stephen King). I’ve really enjoyed all his books so far but, finally, 20th Century Ghosts is one that I really loved. As with all short story collections, some stories are much stronger than others. But the best ones are fantastic!

**See you for two more end-of-year lists over the next two days. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a list of My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2016 then will end on Friday with My Top Ten Movies Released In 2016 (going by UK release dates). πŸ™‚

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Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (Book Review)

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Batoru Rowaiaru
Japanese: γƒγƒˆγƒ«γƒ»γƒ­γƒ―γ‚€γ‚’γƒ«

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The story tells of junior high school students who are forced to fight each other to the death in a program run by the authoritarian Japanese government, now known as the Republic of Greater East Asia.

My Thoughts:

I watched the Battle Royale movie as one of my Blind Spot choices this year (review HERE). I really liked it but my one complaint was that it felt a bit more “shallow” than I’d been expecting. So I picked up the (very thick!) book in the hopes that I’d get more of an in-depth look into why these children are being forced to fight to the death and to also get to know the characters and their motivations a bit better. I now have to say that reading the book if you’ve already seen the movie isn’t necessarily needed…

Don’t get me wrong – I liked the book a lot so I don’t feel like I wasted my time on this (very thick!) novel. I did get to know the characters better, especially the main three that are followed (Shuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa & Shogo Kawada). It was also cool to get a good few pages or sometimes even several chapters (mostly on the best friends of our main character) devoted to each and every one of the 42 students in the Battle Royale program.

However, the film is quite faithful to the book & I didn’t learn much more than I did from the movie. And what did get changed for the film actually worked for the better, I think. This was especially true of the changes to the man in charge of the group, Kinpatsu Sakamochi. I was surprised to find, in the novel, that he actually has no prior attachment in any way to these students while there’s an interesting link in the film. Also, the film pushes the girl (Noriko Nakagawa) front and center a bit more while she’s the least-developed of the main characters in the book & it’s very much the boy (Shuya Nanahara) who is the star. The book’s male characters are better developed overall than its females are but, again, I did appreciate getting to know the extra characters in the book as the movie obviously couldn’t devote time to all 42 of them.

All in all, Battle Royale is a thoroughly entertaining (and gory) book & film. It has a message of sorts but I feel it’s sort of lost in the gore. I can now see why Quentin Tarantino loves the film as it feels like violence for the sake of violence. I do now have to admit that The Hunger Games is indeed very close plot-wise in so many ways that it’s understandable why Battle Royale fans called that series a rip-off. The Hunger Games is Battle-Royale-Lite, though – both are considered Young Adult in their country of origin but the violence is far more excessive in this novel. Just a warning – I doubt anyone will be handing this book over to their 13-year-old to read anyway. I feel kind of “bad” for enjoying this one as the violence seems excessive. But I really liked the main characters & getting to know all the other students, the action and pacing worked well, it was a fairly quick read (despite being very thick!), and that whole Lord Of The Flies setup is still an intriguing one. But you really can just watch the movie if you don’t fancy the (really thick!) novel.

My Rating: 4/5

Battle Royale (2000) Blind Spot Review

Battle Royale (2000)
Batoru Rowaiaruis
Japanese: γƒγƒˆγƒ«γƒ»γƒ­γƒ―γ‚€γ‚’γƒ«

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

Based on Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Takeshi Kitano

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary “Battle Royale” act.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank Battle Royale:

7. An Education – 7/10
6. Summer Wars – 7/10
5. True Romance – 7/10
4. THX 1138 – 7.5/10
3. Play Misty For Me – 7.5/10
2. Battle Royale – 8/10
1. Natural Born Killers – 8/10

I put Battle Royale on my Blind Spot list as I really have wanted to see it for years. I put it off mainly because I’m kind of a wuss with violence so I was waiting for a time when the hubby could watch it with me (Thanks for finally watching this with me, dude!). I didn’t have to annoy him by asking him what was happening, though. It was of course violent but not “gross” – I was able to watch all of it. However, I think I’d hyped it up too much in my mind all these years as I’m sad to say that I was a bit disappointed with the movie overall.

Now, calm down Battle Royale lovers! πŸ˜‰ I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy it. I enjoyed it quite a bit & I think it’s one that might go up in my estimation once my initial disappointment has worn off. I’ve not read the book so I don’t know how faithful the movie is but I was surprised to find that it was far more shallow than I’d always imagined it must be. Maybe the book is a bit deeper & more of a social commentary? Has anyone here read the book? I have to say that I’m definitely now interested in checking it out to see how it differs as I did really like the story & characters.

I can see why Quentin Tarantino loves this film – it’s a thoroughly entertaining action movie with loads of violence that seems have no consequence. It’s a Japanese Tarantino movie. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I like his movies and do, first and foremost, want a movie to actually entertain me. Battle Royale certainly did that but it’s also nice when you’re entertained plus get a little something more as well… Anyway, it’s cool that Tarantino cast Chiaki Kuriyama (below) in Kill Bill as Gogo Yubari. One great thing about Battle Royale is that there were some really kick-ass female characters! I always love that.

It’s interesting that my two favorite Blind Spot movies so far are mega violent but I have to say that I thought Natural Born Killers was the better “film” whereas I think I enjoyed Battle Royale more. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that it’s one that will only go up in my estimation if I watch it again or read the book. I think it may just be that the message was more clear in Natural Born Killers than in Battle Royale (whether or not you agree with its use of excessive violence to show us how wrong it is to glorify violence).

I don’t mean for this review to sound so negative as I did really enjoy the film. I guess I’m still sorting through my feelings on it as I type this but I already know I like it even more now than when I watched it a week ago. It’s extremely rare that I re-watch movies nowadays (no time for that) but this is one I do want to re-visit fairly soon. I think one problem may be that Battle Royale has so many characters that it was hard to keep track of them all on the first watch. It’s also hard to fully develop so many characters but this movie did actually do quite a good job with even some of the lesser characters considering how little screen time they got. The main characters were very strong and the movie did well with them – I’d like to read the book for, hopefully, even more insight into everyone involved. I’m glad I put Battle Royale on my Blind Spot list, forcing me to finally watch it all these years later. I wish I’d seen it at the time as it probably would’ve had more impact on me in 2000 than post-Hunger Games (no, I won’t even begin with that comparison but I see now why people moaned about The Hunger Games being so similar). πŸ˜‰

My Rating: 8/10