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My Top 10 Elements in Dystopia

I thought an excellent topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday freebie would be the top ten elements I like to see in dystopia stories I have read. This can be the nature of the characters, the plot, the society structure, etc., and it can be from specific stories or in general. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Sameness of the society

Though I think several dystopias have adapted this idea, but I like the way it is illustrated in The Giver the best. Not only does everyone follow the same progression through life up until they are selected for their job and start to train for those, but they do not exhibit much independent thought because of this environment. The ability has not been taken away or suppressed by drugs, but they have been encouraged through positive reinforcement all their lives to live a certain way, to not question it, and to not want any more. When Jonas learns of the past and colors and things no one else in his town knows about, it challenges his thoughts on the status quo. It’s easy for everyone to be the same, but is it really a life worth living?

2. Separation within the society


I think The Hunger Games in particular does an excellent job in showcasing a clear divide between the two main groups of people within the society: The elaborate Capitol and the struggling Districts. Not only do they force the Districts to give up children each year for the annual Hunger Games, which serve as a source of entertainment and gambling for the Capitols, but they subject the winners to their ways for the rest for their lives, so even the winners don’t really win. Some, like Finnick Odair, are even forced into prostitution because of their good looks and charming nature. Whatever the Capitol wants, the Capitol gets, and subjects the Districts to.

The Selection also shows a divide with a caste system and monarchy set in place, though I do not find Cass’ world building quite as detailed or effective as Collins’, it does have a lot of potential.

3. The “stand-out” among the society


I think there are several dystopias who have their main character a stand-out. Tris (and others) are Divergents in their society, and cannot be categorized by one faction of their society, which some see as a threat. In The Giver, Jonas stands out because he is the Receiver, he has the ability to receive past memories and see things differently than the rest of his society. In Across the Universe, those who think differently from the norm, like Elder and Harley are considered crazy, when really they are just creative and the others have had their creativity suppressed. It’s an obvious element not just for dystopia, but for any story, but it is an effective one. I believe most all of us have a desire to stand out somewhat, even if it scares us.

4. The “good guys” aren’t as good as they seem

The strongest element of Reached (the conclusion of the Matched trilogy), I thought, was how it was clear that the Resistance, the “good guys” in the story, aren’t as good as they had been romanticized by Cassia and Xander to be. They are willing to sacrifice people and create chaos in the name of their cause; they turn to panic rather than logic or strategy to overthrow the government. Cassia’s world grew more gray in Reached, which I think was a necessity for that series.

It’s also interesting to see in Divergent and Insurgent how among these five factions, one cannot really be labeled “the good guys.” Yes, there are the honest ones, the peaceful ones, the humble ones… But just the same, the factions are not particularly good or particularly bad. It is the individual who is good or bad.

5. A secret rules the society/main character

In either movies or books, I am always fascinated by the notion that everything the main character has believed about their life has been a lie or at least a facade veiling secrets. It happens in Across the Universe, Insurgent, The Giver, Ender’s Game, Cinder, The Maze Runner series, and of course in other stories as well.  It’s funny when you’re on the outside looking in, not understanding why the main character can’t accept that their reality is not actual reality when it seems so obvious to you. Or sometimes, it takes the reader by surprise too. But either way, if I think about it, it would be hard for me to accept too. It’s a “what if” question that certainly makes for a fascinating string of possibilities.

6. Humans as test subjects


The Maze Runner series was not my favorite, but one thing I did find fascinating was what these teens were being put through. First they are forced to live in an environment with a seemingly unsolvable maze (as well as potentially dangerous), and then when they finally escape it, they only face more trials that they forced to go through in the name of science and discovery. Unfortunately, I found the end of the series to be unsatisfying for an explanation as to why all these weird techniques were supposed to help, as well as an unsatisfactory resolution to the characters and their journeys, but the overall concept of using humans as test subjects is certainly fascinating.

7. Revolution


This is also a common theme in dystopia, but I think the way it was built up and ultimately played out in The Hunger Games trilogy is especially fascinating. Katniss plays the rules of the game to a point, but she slowly, and not completely purposefully, starts the destruction of the system from the inside out. She also has a lot of help along the way because even a teenage girl as strong as Katniss can’t take down a whole government herself.

8. Genetic mutation/manipulation

Unfortunately I have not seen too much yet of this yet in the dystopias I have read, and in the ones I have found it in, they have been used in somewhat underwhelming and disappointing ways, but genetic engineering fascinates me. I want to see more!

9. Strong and diverse characters


This, in a nutshell, is what really makes The Hunger Games stand out from other dystopias in my mind. I have never, in any other dystopia series I have read, fallen so in love with so many characters as I have in The Hunger Games. They are so well-rounded, each with such unique personalities, that they just feel so real. Sometimes I think authors get so caught up in their epic story line that they forget to give special treatment for the characters. But plot alone cannot carry a story; we need more epic characters! (Though I will say that The Lunar Chronicles are producing some pretty great characters as well, and I’m looking forward to seeing them develop more and meeting new ones in the last two books!)

10. Post-War

Any story that starts off in the ruins of a previous society marred by war, or even years after war but with lingering aftermath, (Hunger Games, Divergent, Ender’s Game, The Selection, Cinder, etc.) piques my interest. What caused the war often determines how the society is rebuilt afterwards. There is often this notion that society will be better this way than it was before, but many times, as we see, that is not necessarily true.

Books mentioned in this post:

dystopiasWhat about you? What elements interest you in dystopias?

My Top 10 Light & Fun Movies

EDIT: I accidentally scheduled this post for 6 AM CST on May 9 instead of May 10 as I meant it, and it was not completed. Note that this post was edited to completion in the evening of May 9 a little after 6 PM CST. Thanks and my apologies! 

The Top Ten Tuesday topic posed by The Broke and The Bookish was “Top Ten Books When You Need Something Light & Fun.” Well, apparently I don’t do light and fun much in books because when I tried to think of one book that fit into this category, my mind went blank. But when I started thinking about light and fun movies, it was a lot easier! I tend to spend less time reading something light than I do watching light-hearted movies. I love darker movies too (particularly of the Christopher Nolan variety), but here’s a list of 10 movies that are pick-me-ups for me, with very few serious undertones.

Note: I decided to leave out animated movies, because they would have dominated this list too much. I’ll do a Top 10 Animated Movies list sometime. Also, instead of ordering these, I am just clumping them into categories.

The Chick Flicks

chickflicksOK, so there are a few serious undertones in these movies, but they sure do make you feel light after you finish watching them. While You Were Sleeping and Emma are delightfully fun with quirky characters and friendships that turn into romance. Little Women explores the changes of life and growing up, showing both its trials and joys. And of course, Pride and Prejudice is the classic romance that makes many of us enjoy.

Just Fun and Silly

fun&sillyThese movies are not the best movies ever made, but they’re fun and I do enjoy them each in their own way. I remember when I went to the theater with a group of friends to see Napoleon Dynamite while I was in high school, and I had NO idea what I was getting myself into! Afterwards we all looked at each other and asked, “Was there a plot in there?” (According to a scriptwriting book I own, the answer is yes, it’s just cleverly disguised!) But it’s just funny. Daddy Day Care is just silliness, centered on three men who lose their jobs and decide to try to make ends meet by watching kids. Steve Zahn is particularly hilarious as a Trek enthusiast. And The Mighty Ducks… oh how I love these more than a lady in her mid-twenties should. The plots of the second and third are a little ridiculous when you think about them, but that’s OK. Because you love the Ducks, and you just can’t help but root for them.

A Little Magical

alittlemagical2I  love that these stories are set (mostly) in the real world but have just a touch of magic to make them more light and fun. Enchanted is a brilliant parody of every Disney animated princess movie ever, but still sticks close to its formula (complete with several songs) and make us all fall in love with Giselle and root for her and Robert. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is an underrated gem, which features a very uncertain early-twenty being given the task of taking over her boss’ magical toy store. You seriously need to see this one if you haven’t already. August Rush is a beautiful story featuring amazing music that follows a boy looking for parents and looking for music. There’s no real magic involved, but there are definitely some miracles.

What are some of your go-to light, fun movies?

My Top 10 Favorite Book Covers

Today’s Broke and Bookish Top Ten Tuesday topic is TTT Rewind: Pick a topic you have missed in the past or want to revisit. Well, I’ve missed a lot, so I had several to choose from. And though there were many great topics, I ultimately went with my Top 10 Favorite Book Covers, which I found appropriate considering my recent post on bad book covers. In order to not have every book in the world be a contender, but to also not limit myself too greatly, the standard I decided to go by was favorite covers of books I have either read OR plan to read. I didn’t want to choose a cover for a book I had zero interest in. Also, I found out that I’m a book cover snob. (I can hear my husband laughing now… he says I’m a snob about everything! :-P) I did include some special edition covers because a lot of times they are made to be especially awesome! Anyhow, here’s my Top 10…

#10: Les Miserables


I know what you’re thinking… it’s a picture from the 2012 movie! I get it! But it’s so haunting and beautiful. It’s a lot better than cartoon Cosette in my opinion. I must confess though, I don’t know if the “movie cover” matches the tone of the book or not since I have not read it yet.

#9: For Darkness Shows the Stars


Another one I have not yet read so admittedly, I do not know how well the cover matches the tone of the book. But I know it’s pretty!

#8: Matched Trilogy

matched trilogy

Part of me doesn’t love the bubble, but the symbolism of each cover is great. The colors also play an important role in the stories, so you can tell how well-thought out these covers were, which I appreciate.

#7: Pride and Prejudice


I didn’t read/don’t own the version with this cover, but I just love the artwork. It’s both fun and classic.

#6: Cinder


This is such a clever cover for a retelling of Cinderella that centers on a Cyborg. Even without knowing the plot, I think one can derive a hint from the cover what the book might be like.

#5: Little Women


As if the cover isn’t pretty enough on first glance, notice the “little women” integrated into the letters!  Love it!

#4: Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

Cute and covered in teapots!

#3: To Kill A Mockingbird


Seriously, how whimsy is this? I also love that it features the characters. So cute!

#2: The Selection and The Elite

Selection and Elite

Sometimes I wonder if the cover of The Selection is what drew me to read it because seriously, I have no interest in the show The Bachelor, so why would I want to read a book with a similar premise? But  if you look at a big, clear picture of it, especially of The Selection, and see all those amazing details on the dress, and in the reflection… well, you can just see it’s just a gorgeous cover, reflecting all the splendor America experiences in the palace.

#1: Fahrenheit 451


This is probably seriously the most creative book cover EVER. Unfortunately, I have not read this classic yet but I have been wanting to for a while. And I’m kind of tempted to buy buy this version of it. Because it’s awesome.

What book covers are your favorite?

My Top 10 Books I (Would) Recommend The Most

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday topic sponsored by The Broke and The Bookish: the top ten books I recommend the most.

Except I don’t feel like I go around recommending books. If I am talking with someone about a topic that reminds me of a good book, I probably will mention it. But otherwise, it’s unlikely to come up. So if asked what my top recommendations for books were, knowing nothing about that person’s specific interests, here’s what I would suggest to them…

(I decided to separate them into two categories, fiction and non-fiction, and picked five in each category, but otherwise they are in no particular order.)


#1. Quitter by Jon Acuff


This book reminded me that deep down, what I’ve always wanted to do when I grew up is write. It reminded me that I had buried that dream for something more practical. This book taught me that I could chase my dream realistically. It taught me that I needed to stick with the day job first as I worked on my dream. But one day… one day… I can finally close that gap. I think this book set me on the correct path. And if that sounds dramatic, the idea of it can be… but really, this book is hilarious because of Jon Acuff’s writing voice.

#2: Start by Jon Acuff


Start doesn’t come out until next month, but as you may recall, I attended Jon Acuff’s Star Night, an event where he shared nuggets of wisdom from this upcoming book, and for attending I received a pre-release copy. Both my husband and I have read through it, and like Quitter, it’s practical, hopeful, and funny. It’s basically the continuation of Quitter. Pre-order this book, and while you wait for it, get and read Quitter. I feel like a Jon Acuff commercial but seriously, these books can change your life for the awesome.

#3: For Men/Women Only by Shaunti Feldham


When I read For Women Only, I felt like a light bulb came on, and suddenly some of the mysteries of men became clear. I discussed the book with my husband, and found it was accurate. Then he did the same with For Men Only, and it also seemed to be a pretty good picture of the mind of a woman. Both books are filled with surveys and research and provides good information that can definitely help you better understand your spouse or significant other.

#4: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand


I just finished reading this book (review coming soon) and wow… it is such an incredible story. It was difficult to relive everything that Louie, the focus on the story, went through as a POW in Japan during WWII. But it is an incredible journey through the war and after. I don’t want to say too much now, but seriously… read it! It’s amazing.

#5: Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale


This book is very light compared to the story of Unbroken, but the story of Frank Abgagnale’s conning schemes is not exactly a laughing matter. It is fun at times, like the movie that is based on the book, but it also shows the not-so-elegant side of life as a criminal on the run. It’s an enjoyable and interesting read, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of the movie.


#6: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis


I grew up enchanted by the tale of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but for some reason, it took me until near-adulthood to start on the other books in the series, and I only finished them all recently. The stories are truly magical, but they also reflect reality. I think every child needs to be read these stories by their parents, for the sake of both the child and the parent.

#7: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins


I know The Hunger Games isn’t for everyone, but it does seem to be for a lot of people. I heard girls 10 years younger than me talking about it first, and then I had two friends my age recommend them to me, so I finally checked them out. I don’t know what it is about this trilogy that really grabbed me, especially considering how much I did not love 95% of Mockingjay… It seems Suzanne Collins just has a way with her storytelling. I also love so many of the characters, which is essential in my enjoyment of a story. If The Hunger Games has been sitting on your shelf, it’s time for you to finally grab it and open it.

#8: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott


As if you can’t guess from my blog’s namesake, this is, without a doubt, my favorite classic. I am not even sure what about it I love so much… again, it’s probably mostly the characters. And I do especially relate to Jo, who is dramatic and loves to write and gets tired of wearing skirts and wants to run away to Europe. But each March sister has a unique personality that adds to the story of their lives. And of course there is Laurie, who is also wonderful. You just need to read it if you haven’t!

#9: Finding Alice by Melody Carlson


This is a much lesser-known novel than the others on my list, written by Christian author Melody Carlson. However, it is far from preachy. The story is about a young woman who is diagnosed with schizophrenia, and her journey in battling this mental disorder. Without personally knowing anyone with schizophrenia but having studied it some, it seems that Carlson handles it with the best of care. It’s a story of high’s and low’s as Alice struggles through treatments, homelessness, embracing help, therapy, and accepting love. This is one of my absolute favorite stories, and I would definitely recommend it.

#10: The Giver by Lois Lowry


If only I had discovered this story sooner! It is an absolute gem with its simple but impactful tale of a dystpopian society that is completely fooled by their safe and vanilla lifestyle. If you’re not into the dystopia genre, you should definitely still read this one, because it transcends genre and relays an important message without resorting to violence.

So what are some of your top recommends?

My Top 10 Anticipations for Catching Fire

Today, I randomly started thinking about the upcoming Catching Fire movie, and started really anticipating it. I decided to jot down some of the scenes and moments I am looking forward to the most (assuming they all make it in the movie), and was a little surprised by how long the list grew. It made me pretty excited about it all; is it November yet?! (Actually, I don’t want it to be November yet. I need the warmth of spring and summer first).

WARNING: Do not read this if you have not read Catching Fire. Seriously, DON’T.

#10: Katniss and Plutarch Interact


At a social event at the Capitol, Plutarch Heavensbee makes a point to show Katniss his custom-made watch. She doesn’t really seem to get it, but it will hit her later that he was, in fact, giving her a very important hint as to how he designed the arena. Once Katniss and the other tributes understanding the working of the arena, they are able to use this to their benefit to help them escape it. I think Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor in that he always creeps me out, and I am hoping this time I will get the opposite vibe from him as he does his best to relay a message to Katniss that he is on her side.

“It starts at midnight.” – Plutarch

#9: Cinna


This is so low on my list mostly because it’s going to break my heart into a thousand pieces. Even when I saw the promotional picture for Cinna I immediately thought of his fate in this movie, and how much it is going to hurt. I love how much Cinna cares for Katniss and believes in her and in the revolution, and that he is willing to put his life on the line for it. I know watching him being taken away is going to be so haunting.

“I always channel my emotions into my work. That way I don’t hurt anyone but myself.” – Cinna

#8: Haymitch and Katniss


I looking forward to a few moments between Haymitch and Katniss, but I am particularly anticipating when they get drunk together, and they promise one another that they will do everything they can to bring Peeta out of the games alive. I also look forward to seeing how their relationship continues to grow after the first movie.

“You know, you could live a thousand lives and not deserve him.” – Haymitch

#7: The Quarter Quell

So obviously this is very broad, but I wanted to encompass everything with The Quarter Quell from the announcement of what the rules for the Quarter Quell will be, to the Reaping, to the actual games where Katniss has to learn which tributes to trust. Of course the announcement is a pivotal part of the story because when Katniss learns she is going back in the arena, she immediately goes to run and hide, which we see is a pattern she will continue as the story progresses, especially in Mockingjay. She suffers from PTSD and no one can help her (except Peeta, she’ll come to realize). It will also be interesting to see the new arena and new tributes, of course.

I am going back to the arena. (Katniss)

#6: Katniss’ Mockingjay Dress in Action


The white wedding version of the mockinjay dress looks pretty good, I hope the effects for the black mockingjay dress prove to be better than the terrible CGI flames we got for the last movie.

#5: Katniss’ Confrontation with President Snow


I expect the confrontation between President Snow, where he tells Katniss that he’s on to her, will be quite chilling. He starts the conversation by saying, “I think we’ll make this whole situation a lot simpler by agreeing not to lie to each other,” and ends with “By the way, I know about that kiss.” The whole time he has the stench of roses and Katniss wonders why… if only we could smell it with her. But still, I expect to feel a chill will go down my spine when Donald Sutherland utters…

“Convince me.” – President Snow

#4. Finnick and Katniss


What can be said about Finnick? It all begins when he seductively asks Katniss if she wants a sugar cube, and she has no idea how to respond. I definitely looking forward to this scene and their interaction in the arena.

Katniss: He offered me sugar and wanted to know all my secrets. / Peeta: Ugh. Not really. / Katniss: Really. I’ll tell you more when my skin stops crawling.  

#3: The Staged Moments Between Katniss and Peeta

victory tour

I had quite a list of Katniss/Peeta moments, some of which are completely staged as Katniss has to convince President Snow that she loves Peeta. Some of these moments include: their snow-tumbled kiss (I am sure this will change, especially since Peeta doesn’t have the bum leg in the movies), Peeta’s proposal (may or may not be shown since it was glossed over in the book as well, but I would love to see it!), and my favorite: Peeta announcing to everyone that he and Katniss are already married and that she is pregnant. I literally laughed out loud when I read this part of the book because I knew exactly what Peeta was up to. I really hope this part is kept in so I can see Caesar’s face. And though these moments seem fake to Katniss, she can’t deny there is a little something there…

“Maybe I’d think that too, Caesar, if it weren’t for the baby.” – Peeta

#2: The Sweet, Genuine Moments Between Katniss and Peeta


This list includes: the rooftop scene, how Peeta helps Katniss through her nightmares, and of course the beach scene, where Peeta gives Katniss his locket and she kisses him for real. 

I wish that Peeta were here to hold me, until I remember I’m not supposed to wish that anymore. (Katniss)

#1: Gale tells Katniss About District 12


I’m hoping the movie ends just like the book, in its very haunting way…

“Katniss, there is no District Twelve.” – Gale

The perfect cliffhanger.

And that’s only some of what I’m anticipating! What are you looking forward to in the Catching Fire movie?