Wednesday, June 24, 2015

1984 by George Orwell and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

 (These are reviews for my 2015 Reading Challenge.)

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! Also, some sensitive content.

Short reviews: I liked 1984's writing, but not the plot. I liked The Hunger Games plot, but not the writing.

Longer reviews:

Title- 1984 by George Orwell.

Summary- The year is 1984 and Winston Smith works in the Ministry of Truth distorting history to make it politically correct. Even though Winston has lived most of his life with Big Brother's tyranny, he hasn't been completely brainwashed with the fanatical patriotism of his comrades. Winston knows that he's living in a fabricated reality, and longs to join the whispered-about rebellion. Then, Winston meets Julia and they begin a steamy relationship. Eventually, they are caught for their rebellious thoughts and actions and tortured until they succumb to Big Brother's brainwashing.

My rating- 4/10 stars.

Plot- I'm sure that 1984 is an incredibly original, powerful, and even prophetic novel... But I just didn't like it. For two reasons:

1. Winston and Julia's way of rebelling against the oppressive government was to have sex whenever they could, wherever they could, because the government had turned sex into a necessity instead of a pleasure.

"Listen. The more men you've had, the more I love you. Do you understand that?"
"Yes, perfectly."
"I hate purity, I hate goodness. I don't want any virtue to exist anywhere I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones."
"Well then, I ought to suit you, dear. I'm corrupt to the bones."
"You like doing this? I don't mean simply me; I mean the thing in itself?"
"I adore it."
That was above all what he wanted to hear. Not merely the love of one person, but the animal instinct, the simple undifferentiated desire: that was the force that would tear the Party to pieces.
Page 126.

Sex is not going to bring down the government. The Party is a very well-run, brainwashing machine. It's going to take a lot more than promiscuity in the Inner Party to destroy it.
In 1984, it seemed like promiscuity and hope were synonyms, which isn't true. Promiscuity is wrong and shouldn't be looked to as a solution to the world's problems. Besides, the proletariats, who make up most of the population, are freer than Party Members in that area and they haven't overthrown the government. Winston even says, at some point, that hope lies with the proles, if they would ever awaken and realize their potential (which sounds suspiciously like the plot of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, which I am reading right now. Maybe I am getting the two confused?).
This segues nicely into my second reason for disliking 1984...

2. Hope. Or, rather, the lack thereof.
The world is horrible in 1984: the government has absolute control over everything, even love. Children are taught to turn in their parents if they see their parents doing something wrong. Displaying the wrong emotion on one's face could get one killed. And Big Brother is always watching through the telescreens, which cannot be turned off.
But there are rumblings of a rebellion, of an underground fighting against Big Brother. There is hope! Winston is determined to find the underground; he even thinks he knows one of its members: O'Brien, who has given Winston one or two secret looks. Sure enough, O'Brien invites Winston and Julia to join the underground. They do, eagerly; but, as they are reading the rebellion's book in bed together, the police come to arrest them. It turns out that the underground is a fabrication of the Party to weasel out members who may not be completely loyal to Big Brother. Winston and Julia are tortured until they both relent and join Big Brother, all thoughts of hope for the future out of their minds forever.
I believe this to be unrealistic because there is always hope; there is always be hope in Jesus Christ. For over 2,000 years, Christianity has survived all over the world despite terrible persecution.
George Orwell wasn't a Christian, but even if one doesn't believe in God, one can still have hope. Humans are very resilient and creative. Someone in the world of 1984 had to have been working on some sort of rebellion against Big Brother. George Orwell obviously didn't decide to follow that person's story and that's fine... But the story he did choose to tell is depressing. I don't like reading depressing stories. If I wanted to be depressed, I would watch the news. Even without watching the news, I hear depressing real world stories all the time. Though I don't read to escape, necessarily, I enjoy hopeful stories where good triumphs over evil. Eventually, that is how this world will turn out, after all. God has already won the battle.

Winston: He's very... gray. He doesn't have much of a personality and seems to be beaten and downtrodden, even though he does have thoughts of rebellion against Big Brother. I think Freud would probably say he has problems with his mother. He certainly has a fascination for women. 

Julia: Julia is a very good liar. She pretends to be a perfect citizen while living promiscuously on the side. Here is her mindset:

Life as [Julia] saw it was quite simple. You wanted a good time; "they," meaning the Party, wanted to stop you having it; you broke the rules as best you could... Any kind of organized revolt against the Party...struck her as stupid. The clever thing was to break the rules and stay alive all the same.
Page 131.

Neither of them are very admirable protagonists. None of the other character's made enough of an impact on me to be mentioned.

Writing- As I've said before, I like George Orwell's writing style. It's simple, and he doesn't include any extra or distracting information.

Good advice, Georgie.

Title- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Summary- Every year, two children from each of the twelve districts is chosen to take part in the Hunger Games—a brutal competition where the children must kill each other until there is only one person left: the winner. This year, Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute to save her little sister from the Hunger Games. What will happen in the arena, especially now that Katniss' plan includes saving the other tribute from her district, Peeta Melark?

My rating-7/10 stars.

Plot- I enjoyed following Katniss around District Twelve as she went about her day-to-day activities, I enjoyed traveling with her to the Capitol, I enjoyed watching her prepare for the Hunger Games, and I enjoyed watching her survive in the arena. The magic of the plotline lies in Suzanne Collins' world. She created a fascinating world and showed us all the different aspects of that world. We get to see several of the district's distinct personalities. We get to see the crookedness of the Capitol. We get to see the preparation the tributes go through before entering the arena. We get to see the tributes fight in the Hunger Games.
This book definitely held my attention and I enjoyed reading it, though, occasionally, it does get a little too gory for my taste.

Katniss is a wonderfully done character (much, much better than Bella Swan from Twilight). Circumstances have made her suspicious and a fighter. Every day, she struggles to stay alive and keep her family alive. The skills she learned in the woods, hunting with her father, help her tremendously in the Hunger Games. She's very smart and able to adapt to whatever is thrown her way. Her ultimate goal stays the same throughout, however: to keep her family safe. But we do see Katniss change over the course of the story. When she returns home after the Hunger Games, she is different than when she went away.

Peeta is good character, too. He's the opposite of Katniss. While Katniss is all about survival, Peeta is more open and trusting. He's a genuinely good guy, which, I suppose, could make him a little boring at times. As a good person, though, people don't expect it when he does something sneaky and epic.

The other characters in The Hunger Games are great, too. Each has his or her own personality which makes him or her endearing to the reader. The first time I read this book, my favorite character was Cinna. This time around, however, I really liked Katniss.

Writing- I didn't enjoy Suzanne Collins' writing style very much, but maybe that's because I'm not a huge fan of first person present tense writing, which is what The Hunger Games is written in. I found her writing a bit simple. Nothing wowed me or stuck out to me.

Final thoughts: If you're looking for a thrilling story (perhaps a summer read?), try reading The Hunger Games!
Unless you have to read 1984 for school, I would skip it.

Live long and prosper!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Voice Recital Videos

The video from my senior recital is taking longer than I thought so, until it is ready to be posted, here is a song from my voice recital featuring moi and my voice teacher:

And here is my solo song from the voice recital... (follow the instructions in the song and you, too, can be popular!)

And, if you're interested, here is the group number, which is pretty entertaining, if I do say so myself (I'm the first soloist):

Yes, Rapunzel IS a boy.

Live long and prosper!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Water Princess, Fire Prince cover reveal

One of the most creative people I know, Kendra E. Ardnek, is releasing her fifth novel later this summer! 


When the Lady Dragon does come,
Hold fast, do not fear, do not run.
Your Water Princess will fight,
Fire Prince will set all to right.
Each shall come from a Fall,
Their union will save you all.

Despite the fact that she's on track for competing in the Olympics, and he's practically raised his younger brothers since they lost their mom in a car accident, Clara Mandras and Andrew Stevenson are pretty much normal teens. They have normal hopes, normal dreams, and they live in a normal world.
All this is torn away from them when they are thrust into another world and declared Water Princess and Fire Prince. With no experience ruling a country, meeting each other for the first time, and being expected to fight the Lady Dragon – an evil sorceress plaguing the world of Rizkaland – Clara and Andrew are underprepared and inexperienced. Unless they learn to work together despite their standing opposition, Rizkaland's hope will be lost.

What is to come will change their lives forever.

Available for kindle preorder:  $2.99 the 19th and 20th ONLY (at which point I’ll put it up to its official price of 3.99)

Author biography:
Kendra E. Ardnek loves fairy tales and twisting them in new and exciting ways.  She's been practicing her skills on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years, "Finish your story, Kendra", is frequently heard at family gatherings.  Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children's tales that also glorify God and his Word. You can read more about her on her blog,

And now, the cover!

Fabulous, don't you think?

I asked Kendra three questions... here are her answers:

 1. Can you elaborate on how you came up with the prophecy and how you use it in the story as a plot device?
The very nature of the story idea when it came to me - a girl who walks out a waterfall to find herself a prophesied hero that would defeat some great evil - necessitated a prophecy. As I plotted out the story, there were various items that I knew I would have to include - like references to the Water Princess and Fire Prince each coming from a "fall," and the "Union will save you all" part. The original prophecy was eight lines and didn't rhyme, and while I liked it, it didn't quite hold up with some changes I'd been making to the plot. (Such as the fact I now wanted a reference to the Water Princess fighting).

I don't remember exactly how the current version came together, but I do remember it was about three years ago, because I had Clara and Andrew hanging out on a NaNo roleplay at the time (basically we were sending our characters to summer camp during the first Camp NaNo). [A note from Abbey: NaNo=National Novel Writing Month, or, NaNoWriMo.]

How do I use it for a plot device? Well, for the most part, it's the springboard for the book. It's how the Klaranders know that their Water Princess and Fire Prince are coming, and that the two will fight the Dragon and get rid of her. It does provide a bit of conflict between Clara and Andrew with the whole "union" line, but for the most part, it's just the springboard for the plot.

2. Why water and fire? Did something specific give you the idea?
The initial idea was a Waterfall Princess (later shortened to Water Princess at my mother's suggestion), and I tossed in a Fire Prince because, to my thirteen-year-old brain, it was the logical love interest for a Water Princess. Nothing specific, unless you count the fact that it came to me in the shower.

3. Tell us the best movie or TV show or visual media that you watched recently.

I'm not really a visual media person. Um ... I was perusing Once Upon a Time clips on YouTube the other day. It's an interesting show, puts some interesting spins on fairy tales.
Once Upon a Time is a wonderful show. :) Thanks for answering my questions, Kendra!

Friday, June 12, 2015

New computer!

Five-and-a-half years ago for Christmas I received my first laptop.
It has served me well these past years.
I can't say that I treated it the same, especially these past few months. We started having problems when I broke off the little thing on the inside of the computer that you plug the power cord into. My dad and I took apart the computer and managed to plug in the cord to the loose plug-in-thingy... and we proceeded to tape the power cord to the computer, ensuring that it wouldn't fall out.

It doesn't help that my computer can't go fifteen minutes without it's power cord before it feigns death.
Then there was the unfortunate incident where I dropped my computer... Twice.
Now it looks something like this:

But, hark! do you see what looms in the background?
My new computer which is, happily, duct-tape free!
It can actually go more than fifteen minutes without it's cord! And it doesn't do this:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Zounds! I've been tagged again!

My lovely friends Bethany and Becca at Clever Bunnies tagged me! Thanks girls!

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site. 

2. Put the Award logo on your blog. 

3. Answer the ten questions sent to you. 

4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer. 

5. Nominate ten blogs.

The questions: 

1.  If you were stranded on an island with a box, what would you want to be in that box?
Can my box be the size of a storage container? If so, I would have lots of food, my computer, lots of notebooks and pencils and pencil sharpeners. And a piano and lots of sheet music. And books, of course.

2. Do you like to go camping, and if so, where do you prefer to sleep? (ie. tent, camper, cabin, under the stars.)
I like tent camping (camping is camping, after all!) but I'm not opposed to sleeping in a cabin, either. Just don't make me sleep under the stars, please! I would be too afraid of animals and creepy crawlies climbing into my sleeping bag with me.

3. What's the craziest thing you've ever cooked/baked?
My dad and I made a 1776 meal for my mom once.

You see before you: chicken pudding, sweet potatoes and apples, green beans, and whipped syllabub. For dessert, we had raspberry flummery. All courtesy of an American Girl Felicity cookbook.

4. What's the last movie you saw in theaters?
Avengers: Age of Ultron.

5. If you could have any animal as a pet, what would you chose?
Probably a bunny! I love bunnies. A Bedlington Terrier would be fun to have, too. Or a snake.


6. Favorite flavor to combine with chocolate? (ie. coffee, raspberry, coconut, caramel...)
Caramel, definitely.

7.  If you were zapped back in time, where would you hope to end up and what one thing would you want with you? 
I hope I would end up around 1900. All my favorite people were alive then... George Gershwin, George M. Cohan, J.R.R. Tolkien, Arthur Conan Doyle, Claude Debussy... And what would I want with me? I'm not sure. Maybe a camera? Or a full wallet so I could afford to go to the theater and the opera and to concerts whenever I wanted.


8. Do you sing along to the radio? 
Of course!

9. Do you have any nicknames? If so, what are they? 
Some people call me Ab or Abs (names my mom hates). My British saxophone teacher used to call my "Ab." It sounded great in an English accent.

10. You are all alone in your house and you hear a strange noise, what do you do next? 
I would either freeze and listen very carefully, my heart beating horrifically. Then, if the noise didn't continue, go back to what I was doing and wait until my heart calmed down; or, I would go investigate. 

I don't think I will tag anyone, or make up questions. If you want to answer the questions that Bethany and Becca asked, go ahead! 

Live long and prosper!