Book Recommendation – Battle Royale

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

I was already familiar with the concept of Battle Royale, and I was pleasantly surprised at how the author executed the plot.
The plot takes place in a fictional fascist Japan. The government established a military program, the Battle Experiment No. 68. This program randomly selects fifty third-year junior high school students and forces them to kill each other until one student remains.
This year, the selected group of students are from Shiroiwa Junior High School. They are dosed with sleeping gas en route on a “field trip.” When they wake, they are in a classroom on a vacated island. Psychopathic sadist, Kinpatsu Sakamochi, tells the students they have three days until one stands as the victor. Or else, the metal collars around their necks will detonate.
Armed with a bag of random supplies given to them by the government, each student must come to terms and figure out a way to survive.
Battle Royale was first written in Japanese and then translated into English. It had a manga, movie, and theatre adaptation. It was also Takami Koushun’s debut novel after leaving his job as a journalist in 1996.

My Thoughts

Battle Royale focuses on three characters: Nanahara Shuya (last first), Nakagawa Noriko, and Kawada Shogo. But, it also jumps to different perspectives of other students. Thus, our protagonists may not know how some students died, but the reader does.
“By then she was dead. In fact, she may have been dead a while ago. Physically, several seconds ago, mentally, ages ago.”
– Koushun Takami
If you’ve seen a physical copy of the book, a question you may have thought is why is this so thick? Besides knowing how each student died, the author also sheds light on their background–some more than others–and their relationship with their classmates. By the end, you’ll know the class of Shiroiwa High School inside out.
Battle Royale focuses on camaraderie and emphasizes maintaining bonds and trust for one to succeed, an evident theme in Japanese culture. You could argue that is a reason why the author decides to give each student character depth. To learn, relate, and emphasize with the students brings you a little closer to them. And when they are ruthlessly killed, they vanish before you get a chance to familiarize with them.
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Battle Royale and Hunger Games often are compared to each other as their premise is identical. For those unfamiliar with The Hunger Games, here is a brief breakdown. The Capitol of Panem controls twelve districts by selecting tributes, a boy and girl, from each district to compete in The Hunger Games. It’s a nationally televised show. The tributes will fight to the death until one person remains.
Having read both novels, here are my two cents on the differences between the two books. The Hunger Games is glamorous; it carries fantasy elements that appeal to a younger audience. Battle Royale, on the other hand, has a historical background which is explained thoroughly near the end. The Hunger Games also adds a prominent romance; the romance in Battle Royale is very soft-pedalled. If anything, it boils down to cultural differences and its impact on a plot’s execution rather than the plot itself.
If you enjoyed The Hunger Games for its premise, I would recommend Battle Royale. In addition to cultural differences, the deaths in Battle Royale are much more graphic than the Hunger Games. Some will make you cringe a little, even more so when you remember they’re junior high kids. There are also mature themes such as attempted rape.
I’ve reread this book twice and will probably do so again in the future.

Book Recommendation – Vicious

Book Recommendation – Vicious by V.E Schwab

Vicious was my first book by V.E Schwab, and I’m glad I picked it up by chance.
The plot revolves around Victor and Eli, two brilliant college students. They recognized the same ambition and cleverness in each other. In their senior year, Eli’s thesis topic of near-death experiences and supernatural abilities unveils an intriguing hypothesis. Under specific conditions, someone can develop “extraordinary abilities.” Yet, things go wrong when they shift from academia to the field.
Ten years later, Victor has broken out of jail and accompanied by a young girl and another ex-prisoner. Together, they work to find Eli, who developed a twisted mentality. Who will be alive?
Life–the way it really is–is a battle not between Bad and Good, but between Bad and Worse.
–Joseph Brodsky
My Thoughts
A great woven revenge story, Vicious makes the reader question the notion of heroism. There’s no good or bad; only bad or worse. The book jumps from past to present, yet it pushes the plot forward. It gives the reader a better understanding of Victor and Eli’s strained relationship.
Eli was the first to test his theory of the supernatural. Through his experiment, he develops supernatural abilities. Thus, he begins to develop a twisted mentality: God gave him a gift which he will use to eradicate all other supernatural beings like himself. Victor, on the other hand, also develops supernatural abilities through albeit questionable methods.
Tip: The U-Dictionary APP provides informative and entertaining articles to boost your reading comprehension and listening skills.
The relationship between Victor and his comrades contrasts against Eli’s camaraderie with his sidekick, an enigmatic woman. You could argue that the reason why the book ended the way it did was due to these bonds in addition to their own intelligence and abilities.
The book alternates between Victor and Eli’s point of views, though still written in the third person. Through these different viewpoints, you begin rooting for one or the other. Yet, regardless of who you want to succeed, you come to understand the motives behind their actions. Eventually, it boils down to a battle of wits and pride and arguably no longer about values and beliefs.
If you’re looking for a modern-day superhero novel, I strongly recommend Vicious by V.E Schwab. It’s relatable, entertaining, and keeps you hooked page to page. Vicious was Schwab’s first adult novel and is one I will definitely revisit in the future.
(This post is also cross-posted on

5 Movie Recommendations For English Learners – U-Dictionary

Movie Recommendations For English Learners

Learning English doesn’t strictly come from textbooks, quizzes, and worksheets. It can be as simple as watching a movie. And who doesn’t love a good movie? Before we introduce our movie recommendations for English learners, how do movies help with English fluency and grammar?

Learn English By Watching Movies?

Everyone has different learning styles. However, I think everyone can agree that regardless of what you’re learning, it’s much easier when you’re having fun. So, what better way to learn than by relaxing with your favourite English movie? Learning by watching movies will give train your ear to getting familiar with intonation and conversational English.


It’s important to know when to stress certain syllables in English as it makes for easier understanding. Sometimes the entire meaning of your sentence can change if you stress certain sounds than others. Learning through movies makes it easier to hear these sounds than from a computer-generated audio file.   Some of these audio files also sound robotic which makes conversations sound awkward. Besides, you’ll likely to pay much more attention to characters you love than a random voice.

Conversational English

The goal of many English learners is to learn to speak fluently. Some phrases and idioms you have learned are likely not commonly used in everyday conversation. But then again, it does depend on the person. It’s rare for native English speakers to say “it’s raining cats and dogs” than “it’s raining pretty hard.”  This is not to say that movie dialogue is all-natural sounding. They too can sound strange when applied in real conversations such as “we’ve got company!”

By doing a quick Google search, you can see the complaints on bad movie dialogue. In addition, if you read a lot, you will notice a difference in movie and book dialogue. If you’re wondering which is the correct form to study, the answer varies. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t learn a thing or two on how to speak fluently from movies. We strongly believe it’s a great starting point for learning how to speak English fluently.

Our Movie Recommendations

Now, let’s get to the fun part. Here are five movie recommendations for English learners. Even if you’re simply looking for a good movie for the weekend, we’d still recommend these films.

The Jungle Book

Mowgli (Neel Sethi) was raised by a family of wolves since birth but is forced to leave when Shere Khan, a menacing tiger, senses his presence and issues a warning that he will kill Mowgli if he does not leave. As Mowgli goes on his journey, he meets a no-nonsense panther and a free-spirited bear. He also encounters dangerous predators such a giant python and ape. Mowgli learns valuable life lessons and his journey inevitably leads him to fun and adventure while he discovers and accepts his identity.

movie recommendations the jungle book

The Jungle Book is one of my personal favourites and a strong recommendation to anyone. It’s humorous, exciting, and thrilling to follow Mowgli on his adventure. If you’re a fan of the Disney version, this adaptation will definitely not disappoint. But be careful, the main theme song may get stuck in your head for a few days.

The Maze Runner

Thomas, a teenage boy, wakes up in an ascending lift with no memory of who or where he is. He arrives at the center of a large maze known as The Glade and realizes other youths like him have also been dumped here. Thomas quickly becomes a part of their group and gets promoted to a runner–those who run the maze during the day looking for a way out. With Teresa, the only girl, Thomas works to convince his friends that the only way to escape is through the maze.

movie recommendations maze runner

This film is littered with made-up slang, so those just beginning to learn English should proceed with caution. The Maze Runner is based on the books of the same title by James Dashner. It’s the first movie of an action-packed trilogy. If you’ve read the books and watched the movie, then you should be aware of the differences between the two. The movie is a simplified version of the book and carries out great action scenes. The cast is also brilliant. If you’re a fan of young adult films, this one and its sequels The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure is worth checking out.

The Gift

Married couple Simon and Robyn have relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles after Simon gets a new job. There, he meets his former high school classmate, Gordo. Soon after, Gordo begins dropping by the couple’s home unannounced and delivering unwanted gifts. While Robyn initially doesn’t sense anything wrong, Simon has his doubts.

movie recommendations the gift

Another movie recommendation is this psychological thriller. If you’re a fan of darker themes and open-ended (unsolved) endings, you’ll likely enjoy The Gift. In a nutshell, it’s a revenge story that makes you wonder until the end.

Mean Girls

Cady Heron transfers to a public high school from Africa. She finds herself mingling with the popular girls known as “the plastics” by the school. Cady soon realizes that her group of friends earned this nickname.

movie recommendations mean girls

If you’re into chick flicks, Mean Girls is a western classic. It plays upon different tropes of what you may see in a local high school. While it’s meant to be humorous and exaggerated, it does stress on the theme of being who you are and to be cautious of who you hang out with. Mean Girls is a film that most–if not all–teenage girls can relate to. Coming back to watch this film as an adult, you’ll enjoy a good laugh.


The last of our movie recommendations series for English learners is the Disney film, Up. Carl Fredricksen is a 78-year-old balloon salesman who achieves his lifelong dream of flying to the South American wilderness with thousands of balloons tied to his house. However, when a young boy named Russell comes aboard, things start to get a little crazy.

movie recommendations up

Up is a fun and touching film about the journey of Carl, Russell, and Dug, a golden retriever who can “talk” using the collar around his neck. It’s one of the well-received films by critics and well-loved by fans of different ages.

Your Movie Recommendations?

We’ve recommended our movies. So, what are yours? Do you have any particular favourites that helped you learn English, cope with a hard time, made you laugh uncontrollably, or have taught you something? These aren’t our only movie recommendations either. From thriller to comedy to must-see films with certain actors and actresses, U-Dictionary will be putting out a variety of movie recommendations suitable for everyone.